How Does Water Pollution Affect the Environment?

  1. Causes of Water Pollution

    • With environmentalism and green thinking reaching the pinnacle of public appeal in recent years due to global warming, an increasing focus has been put on stopping pollution, especially carbon dioxide emissions. As such, the main battle has been waged against air pollution, while water pollution has not been in the public limelight. This does not mean that the problem is any less important, or any less pervasive however. Water pollution is caused by the release of any type of foreign contaminants into a body of water, or spilled in the watershed of a body of water. Perhaps the most common causes of water pollution are simply dumping of garbage and waste. Physical trash like cans, bottles, can rings, and the like commonly accumulate in bodies of water through littering. Worse still is contamination from bacteria, worms, and viruses present in sewage. Many undeveloped countries dumb sewage straight into rivers, lakes or the ocean. Industry also causes water pollution in the form of chemical runoff and spills, as well as heat, or thermal pollution, caused by allowing unnaturally heated water to enter natural bodies of water. Other toxic metals, salts and acids are dumped into water bodies from industrial processes.

    Immediate effects of Water Pollution

    • Water pollution can have a drastic impact on aquatic life in any body of water, which can result in the complete elimination of certain species. Chemical compounds can be toxic to aquatic life, and heat pollution can create an environment that causes aquatic animals to have difficulty breathing, and maintain the correct level of oxygen to survive. Additionally water tainted by pollution will likely be toxic to land animals that attempt to drink it, meaning pollution reduces the amount of safe drinking water that humans are able to use. As the population of humanity increases, and demand for water goes up, the importance of clean drinkable water will continue to rise, so water pollution is likely to become an increasingly critical issue.

    Other Effects of Water Pollution

    • Apart from shorter term effects on aquatic ecosystems, and the palatability of water, water pollution has several other detrimental impacts. For one, the air contains a certain amount of water vapor which is in a constant cycle of rain and evaporation from bodies of water. The more polluted water becomes, the more likely that harmful pollutants will evaporate into the air along with the water, increasing air pollution and causing rainwater to become acidic. Thermal heating is also a potential long term problem: global warming as it is conceived of today primarily deals with a rise in air temperature which in turn warms waters and melts the ice caps, but water is a much better conductor of heat than air, so heated water runoff raises the temperature of water much faster than hot air can. Additionally, water pollutants can easily find their way into aquatic creatures, which are int turn, eaten by land animals, and somewhere down the line, ingested by humans. So not only does tainted drinking water pose potential heath threats, but so does food which comes from animals that have been affected by water pollution somewhere down the line.

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