Water constitutes more than 70 percent of the surface of the earth, making it alone the most abundant resource on the earth. As a result of the fact that very few human activities can take place without the use of water, water is also one of the most important features of the earth that support life. From the preparation of food to industrial processing, and from washing to building infrastructure, water plays a key role in human activities. Most people assume that with these statistics, suitable water should be easy to find. Well, the truth is that that notion is flawed. Even as more than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water, only about 2.5% of that water is freshwater. The rest of that is saltwater, unsuitable for many processes requiring the use of water. Now, this meagre source of water is being challenged by an even greater foe; Pollution! All around us we see evidence of the pollution of our sources of water and many people oblivious to the effects their actions are having. Let us see some of these and consider how water pollution is impacting on the environment.
Sources of Water Pollution
First of all what are the sources of water pollution? The following are the major culprits in water pollution.
- Domestic waste: Domestic waste usually sewage is one of the major sources of pollution to water bodies in close proximity to humans. It contains a large amount of different dissolved and suspended pollutants. The majority of these being food and vegetable wastes. Domestic waste bears a high risk of containing disease-causing bacteria.
- Industrial effluents: These industrial waste products refer to the by-products of industrial processes carried out by man and are disposed into water bodies. The usually contain a high amount of organic and inorganic material most of which can prove to be detrimental to the health of organisms dependent on such sources of water.
- Pesticides and insecticides: They play a crucial role in agricultural processes. They are usually applied in large quantities to farmlands and can run off in the event of a flow of water. This contaminated water is eventually introduced to large water bodies. These too contain large amounts of harmful chemicals.
- Detergents and Fertilizers: These are other chemicals that are used up in large amounts for a lot of processes. And the end of these processes, these chemicals are disposed of into water bodies.
Effects of Water Pollution
- Diseases: For humans, the intake of contaminated water or food prepared using such water can lead to hazardous diseases. Some of these include typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and many others. Each of which has claimed countless lives.
- Destruction of ecosystems: Ecosystems are dynamic and ever adjusting. A slight change like water pollution, for example, can cause an ecosystem to collapse. An example of this effect is Eutrophication. This is a case where aquatic plants rapidly grow in size and number as a result of the introduction of fertilizer into water bodies as a pollutant. This will endanger the ecosystem as the increase of these aquatic plants(algae) will cause plant-eating bacteria to feed more and this will cause a decrease of the oxygen in that habitat, threatening the life of the other aquatic life.
- The effect on the food chain: Even when polluted water isn’t directly consumed by humans, aquatic life growing in such environment ingest these toxins and pollutants and then these animals are consumed by humans leading to a transfer of these harmful substances.
With all these consequences of water pollution, immediate action should be taken to protect our sources of this natural resource.