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Pollution refers to the introduction of foreign substances to pure contents. The foreign substances are referred to as pollutants. Water pollution therefore refers to the introduction of pollutants into a water body. The pollutants come from various sources including human wastes, domestic wastes, industrial and agricultural by-products and even floods (Woodford, 2012, p. 1).
This paper takes a step by step analysis of the causes, effects, treatment of polluted waters and finally how humans can strive towards prevention of water pollution through minimization of pollutants disposal into water bodies.
Causes of water pollution
Domestic wastes are a major cause of pollution originating mainly from household facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms. This includes waste water from kitchens resulting from washing of utensils and consisting of foodstuff wastes. The waste water carries with it food left-overs which when released into the sewage systems ends up rotting and releasing toxic substances.
Even the most well designed housing units do not have well-built septic tanks for disposal of such wastes (Donald, 2011, p. 72). However, even with the well built septic tanks, clogging of the pipes does occur causing the pipes to burst releasing their content into the environment. Various other kinds of chemicals result from the use of bathrooms which are either constituents of soaps or detergents used in washing.
Human wastes mainly consist of faecal matter disposed off poorly in the environment. This is a major problem in slums and in rural areas especially in the developing world. Most of these areas do not have proper toilets. The wastes are disposed anyhow in the environment and during heavy rains the wastes are washed off into large water bodies.
Further pollution occurs when these wastes decompose releasing toxic products into water bodies especially large amounts of carbon dioxide which may suffocate aquatic animals (Thompson, 2012, p 1). In slums, there is free flow of sewage in open tunnels even when there are no rains. The sewage from various households coalesces and forms big streams which eventually find their way into water bodies.
Many farmers employ the use of fertilizers to boost their production. However, these fertilizers are inorganic chemicals in nature and not all are utilized by the plants.
The components which are not absorbed by the plants end up accumulating in the soil and during heavy rains they are washed off and flown into water bodies as agricultural run-offs (Freedman, 2009, p. 145). Since these components are inorganic in nature, they are not easily biodegradable thus end up accumulating at the base of the water bodies and become toxic to aquatic life.
Industrial by-products form a major cause of water pollution resulting from several unwanted products which are released during production. These are referred to as by products which may be inorganic chemicals, solid wastes or used water. Most industries use water as either reactant or as coolant or both.
This water is again released into water bodies from which it was initially collected (Thompson, 2012, p. 1). In most cases, industries release hot water which had been used as a coolant and may end up killing young aquatic animals.
Floods which occur as run-offs following heavy down pour of rains. When it rains in highland areas, the floods come down stream with large amounts of wastes ranging from the human, domestic and agricultural wastes. When floods occur after a drought where animals lost their lives, they carry with them the decaying remains of the dead animals. This results in the pollution of the receiving water bodies (Aral, 2010, p. 59).
Global warming can be considered as a secondary cause of pollution as it does not directly cause pollution but only contributes to the occurrence of the other pollutants. With global warming, there are increased incidences of flush floods sweeping people, farms and animals while the green house gases which contribute to global warming also contribute to the occurrence of acid rains. The acid rain pollutes water bodies especially the oceans with adverse effects on aquatic life and the users of such waters.
Effects of water pollution
Spread of water borne diseases where some of the contaminants in water pollutants are disease-causing microorganisms. Most common of these are the cholera causing Vibrio cholerae and typhoid fever causing Salmonella typhus (Haughton & Hunter, 2008, p. 212).
These microorganisms spread and multiply in the water bodies and spread these diseases to many users including animals and humans especially those using river water for consumption. These waters are also carried over long distances where these infections continue to be spread.
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Famine may also result from water pollution especially where water pollution causes spread of diseases to both plants and animals causing their deaths (Greis, 2012, p. 21).
In areas where water is polluted with inorganic chemicals which are toxic to plants, there is likelihood of the plants drying up thus less vegetation cover and lack of rains to support agriculture. Crops grown near the water bodies and supplied with water through irrigation are likely not going to produce good harvest and may even fail completely when supplied with polluted water.
Decline of the fishing industry may as well result which mainly depends on fish from major water bodies such as lakes which might be under the threat of pollution. If these water bodies get polluted, they will not be able to support aquatic life which includes that of fish. This would spell doom to the fishing industry (Woodford, 2012, p. 1). The major causes of fish death in their natural habitats has been found to be chemicals released from industries and hot water released by the same industries.
Deterioration of major water bodies occur as chemical wastes and organic pollutants accumulate in the water bodies and they continue decaying and the nutrient levels in lakes rise thus supporting a larger number and variety of vegetation. Algal blooms are likely to come up and cover the major water bodies.
This may mean a death penalty to lakes as growth of vegetation colonizes the waters. The blooms end up suffocating life out of the aquatic animals which eventually become extinct while the waters dry out. This is also evident in Lake Victoria in East Africa where the weed, water hyacinth has colonized large chunks of the lake and covered it completely (Thompson, 2012, p. 1).
It is threatening other forms of life in the lake and even the usual fishing activities have been hampered. The lake is under threat of extinction should the spread of the weed be neglected. However, certain species of fish seem to have benefitted from the weeds invasion of the lake as their population has been reported to be on the rise following consumption of the weed as a food source.
As water sources become depleted due to pollution, more and more people lack adequate water for domestic and commercial use. They end up spending a lot of their resources in obtaining water since water is life. In addition to lack of water for domestic use, polluted water will spread diseases thus more resources will be invested in managing those ailments.
Lastly, the industries which rely heavily on the large water bodies for water will have to spend more on tapping water due to pollution of the existing sources (Freedman, 2009, p. 149). This inflated cost will ultimately be transferred to the consumers. All these effects of water pollution will result in people spending more thus raising the cost of living. This has been experienced in Kenya especially in the Lake Victoria region.
Prevention of water pollution
Since water is life, it is important that it is safeguarded from potential sources of pollutants. This basically will involve getting ways of preventing the pollutants from getting into the water bodies (Imbriaco, 2011, p. 1). All potential pollutants should be treated before they are released into the environment. The strategies which can help ensure this include, but not limited to;
Governments should take the lead in protecting water resources. It is therefore important that governments come up with legislations that will ensure the protection of the environment.
Such legislations would include laws on sanitation in residential areas that ensure people have proper toilets and proper disposal facilities. Implementation of laws on waste treatment by industries before being released into the environment, guidelines on use of fertilizers for agricultural purposes and laws on general environmental conservation should also be put in place (Imbriaco, 2011, p. 1).
Another way of preventing water pollution is the introduction of organic farming where organic manure is used in place of the common inorganic fertilizers. Farmers should be encouraged to embrace this kind of farming which ensures that the manure used is biodegradable and do not end up accumulating in the water bodies once they are washed off by floods (Donald, 2011, p. 84).
Since agricultural wastes are used as source of manure, the raw wastes released into the environment will be few and sometimes none. In addition to cutting operation costs for the farmer, it also helps conserve the environment.
Proper waste management should also be practised where wastes produced from both domestic use and industrial used are disposed appropriately. For domestic waste, household users should dig up compost pits to dispose off their wastes. The organic wastes are allowed to decompose while the inorganic ones are burnt inside the pits (Aral, 2010, p. 52).
On the same note, industries should set up treatment plants for their wastes where the potentially harmful wastes are treated before being released into the environment. Areas without proper sanitation like the slums and rural areas should improve and come up with latrines for proper human waste management.
Treatment of waste water
There are plants which can be built to clean up the already polluted waters. These are composed of wells for decomposition of the organic wastes after which the water is filtered to rid it of the particulate matter then finally treated with chlorine before being released back into the water system (Haughton & Hunter 2008, p. 216). This should be made a requirement for all industries releasing waste water.
Water is a very important part of life and therefore it must be protected as a resource. It is clear that human beings are virtually solely responsible for all almost all sources of pollution (Greis, 2012, p. 21). It is therefore important that each individual takes up responsibility to protect water as a natural resource. The government also needs to ensure legislations are in place and that they are complied with at all times.
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