Water is a most important commodity in human life and it is actually used in almost every aspect of human life besides the fact that it supports the entire ecosystem. It is used in drinking, cooking, washing and on top of that, it is important in industries where it is used for various purposes.
Unfortunately, not all the users of water are responsible to ensure that proper disposal or treatment of the used water is done before the water is returned to the water bodies. Due to the multiple uses of water, there is a possibility that contaminated water may find its way into the ecosystem and therefore causes harmful results to both human beings and animals in the society.
It is in this plight that many people and organizations have endeavored to study in detail the various effects that water pollution may have to the society and how the causes of this pollution can be controlled.
Sources of Water Pollution
It is difficult for one to discuss the effects of water pollution without understanding what water pollution is and the causes of water pollution (Calow 258). Water pollution may be defined as the contamination of water bodies with substances that do not allow the water to be safe for human use or makes the water unable to support the living organisms that depend on water for their survival (Hill 110).
There are several causes of water pollution ranging from the day to day activities that human beings carry out to large scale industrial operations.
These causes can also be divided into two groups those which are direct causes and the indirect causes which can be linked to water pollution through a chain of activities. Water pollution causes can also be sub divided into point source and non point source group depending on whether the source of the pollution is from a single and relatively easy to identify source or from a multiple interrelated sources.
Water pollutants can decrease the quantity of oxygen in the water body or even change the water composition of the water (Merchant 319). To begin with, presence of pathogens in water can cause the water quality to drastically reduce to the extent of being unable to support the marine life. Pathogens are known to be harmful to human being especially if the water that contains them is used for drinking.
Though there are other causes of pathogens that are present in water, the ineffective sewerage system is one of the major causes of this. Untreated or semi treated sewerage system mostly finds its way into water bodies thus, contaminating the water (Hill 113). The problem of sewerage system is more pronounced in the third world countries however, it is also present in developed countries where the sewerage pipes might have leakages.
Manufacturing industries usually use water for cleaning and cooling purposes among other uses. Unfortunately, in many cases the process of water treatment before disposing it off to water bodies by these firms is not that efficient and water that contains harmful chemical substances finds its way into the water bodies.
Some of the chemical substances that are found in this water include oxygen demanding organic toxins like fats and grease besides the hydrocarbons from petroleum, industrial solvents, lubricants and other fuel by products which are highly used in industries and even in motor vehicles (Chiras 314). Substances used by people for their day to day activities such as the detergents, cosmetics and even water disinfectants produce by products which contribute to water pollution.
There are also some inorganic substances that are emitted by human activities into water bodies consequently causing water pollution. Chemical waste products from industries, farming and other activities where chemicals are highly used form the bulky of this cause (Sengar 145). On top of that, surface run off can also collect the chemicals that are not properly disposed from various parts and take them to rivers and other water bodies where these chemicals are deposited causing a change in water PH among other effects.
The change in the physical properties of water is also pollution since it interferes with how water can be used and the marine life. The increase and decrease of water temperature causes interference in the composition of water sometimes eliminating essential components (Chiras 521). Industries always tend to be located close to large water bodies and they use water as a coolant and dispose this water back into the water bodies thus, leading to high temperature variations.
The emission to the atmosphere from industries, motor vehicles and even from domestic use also cause water pollution by combining with rain water hence, forming acidic rain which falls back to the ground causing harmful effects to both plant and animals especially the marine organisms (Jensen and Steven 88). On the same note, the chemical compounds that mix with rain water are also harmful to human being and have been known to cause various disease and even deaths.
Effects of Pollution
Pollution has far reaching effects both in the developed world where control measure have been highly effective and in the developing world where little has been done to curb the effects of pollution. It is paramount to note that, water pollution still is the cause of very many deaths in the world either directly or indirectly despite the efforts being made towards reducing the effects of pollution (Miller and Scott 91).
Firstly, marine life comes under great threat of survival the moment water is polluted because then it means their ecological unit is affected. Once water is polluted marine animals are unable to get food from the water or they take poisonous food substances which causes death to marine animals.
Additionally, the inorganic deposits that find their way into water bodies sometimes float on the surface of water hindering free flow of oxygen thus, reducing the survival chances of marine organisms (Calow 334). On the same note, the oxygen demanding substances that are released into water bodies by factories or homesteads reduce the amount of oxygen in water therefore, causing death of marine organisms.
Chemicals that are present in polluted can cause various effects to human beings. If contaminated water is used for bath taking, the chemicals present can enter in the body of a person through the open pores and cause serious health implications. On top of that, drinking of contaminated water or using it for cooking or any other domestic purposes exposes one to the danger of consuming the dangerous chemicals which besides causing heath implication can also cause death (Copeland 219).
There have been cases where people have been reported to have suffered from various diseases including cancer, mental health problems, birth defects and central nervous systems and these conditions have been related to water pollution. Additionally, water pollution hardens water making it ineffective in washing thus, causing the community to increase their spending since they have to buy water softeners or they use a lot of soap than they could have used if the water was soft (Sengar 145).
Another serious effect of water pollution is that it causes poisonous substances to enter into the ecosystem. Poisonous substances in water are consumed by the minute sea organisms which are then consumed by fish. This process sometimes causes death of fish and other sea animals (Miller and Scott 105).
If these animals are lucky to escape death, sometimes they are not lucky to escape the fisherman’s bait and thus, find their ways into people’s table as sea food. Poisonous sea food causes various health problems to human beings including death. In this light, water pollution causes great disruption of the ecosystem distorting the natural ecological balance and leading to a series of problems.
In conjunction with that, water contamination results in the presence of chemical compounds that sometimes the body system is unable to deal with. Nitrates from fertilizers when consumed by infants, aging and pregnant women are known to cause adverse health effects. Infants’ body is unable to detoxify these chemical compounds and end up suffering from blue baby syndrome where their blood is unable to efficiently carry oxygen around the body thus causing death (Merchant 237).
On the same point, chemicals present in hard water can be deposited in the water pipes and after a long period of time they end up blocking and causing corrosion of these pipes hence interfering with the normal water supply. Furthermore, water that passes through corrode water pipes contains toxic substances which are harmful to human beings and other animals.
Polluted water also allows toxic plants to thrive in them which in the end cause effects to human beings and sea animals. The toxins produced by the algae that thrive in polluted water are poisonous substances that poison marine organisms thus, interfering with the marine ecosystem (Copeland 233).
These algae also can cause illness to human being in the long run if people end up consuming the poisoned sea food or if the water that is infested by the poisonous algae is used for domestic purposes. It is also important to point out that these algae sometimes end up blocking the gills of fish in the water thus, interfering with the oxygen transport in these animals sometimes causing death.
On the same note, at death these algae are deposited to the bottom of water bodies where during decomposition oxygen from the water is used up thus, rendering the water inhabitable (Jensen and Steven 291). In the long run though some organisms are able to change their point of occupancy to higher levels where they can get oxygen, small and micro organisms which are not able to move suffer the consequences and lose their lives.
Due to the pollution of water that causes death and diseases of various marine animals, the ecological system of rivers and oceans have been affected greatly. When certain animals and plants die, other animals miss food and they are also unable to survive. Due to the imbalance that results from the disturbance of the natural way of dependency among living things in the water, the water bodies become unable to support to the full the diversity of living things by decreasing the factors of their survival (Calow 439).
It has also been reported that rain water has long run effects on the vegetation since the water contains toxic substances which when accumulate over a long period of time cause vegetation to dry up and these has led to high rate of deforestation in the world. Since forests support wildlife destruction of forests means that wildlife is jeopardized and this can lead to extinction of several animals.
On top of that, there are many human water borne diseases that are even more pronounced when the quality of water is questionable. These diseases have been known to cause a lot of deaths in the world especially in the developing countries where water treating system is not up to standard (Merchant 110).
Though in the developed countries like the US success has been recorded in the efforts of reducing water borne diseases, cases are still reported of people who suffer from the same diseases. These diseases not only cause economical constraints to the citizens who have to dig dip into their pockets to secure medication but also to the state which has to provide health care to the people.
Furthermore, there is evidence that certain chemicals that are present in contaminated water do disrupt the functioning of animal hormones therefore, altering the normal way of live of these animals. The hormonal disruptions that occur due to consumption of these chemicals can cause reduced immune response in animals, abnormal mating and parent behavior besides causing inability to breed in these animals therefore threatening the continuity of certain animal species (Chiras 114).
These chemicals are mostly contained in sewerage waste products that end up in water bodies as it has been the case in southern California coast where there has been an upspring of intersex fish. Human beings are also not spared from the effects of these hormone-disrupting chemicals and the result has been decreased fertility, reduced immune function and increase in some type of chronic diseases.
On top of that, mercury which is another major cause of water pollution has dire effects on the live of animals. Research has shown that mercury can cause brain damage in young children, learning deficits and delayed or incomplete brain development as well as brain damage while adults exhibit problems of the central nervous system, heart complications and even death due to consumption of mercury.
Nevertheless, still more needs to be done in understanding the exact effects of water pollution to the environment and animals for that matter. It is also important to note that, the effects of petroleum pollution are not yet recorded with certainty and therefore scientific research is essential to enhance understanding of these effects.
Control of Pollution
Water pollution and any other kind of pollution for that matter can easily be controlled and even eliminated with the right efforts and mechanisms. Pollution control comes with some kind of social and economical costs but helps to prevent what could otherwise be a long term disaster. By being responsible and trying to minimize the activities that cause pollution or properly dispose any waste material that is toxic or that can cause harm to human beings and the environment.
The most contributing factor to water pollution is the sewerage system which can easily be taken care of through proper treatment of the sewer before allowing the same into water bodies. While most of the cities in the US have put in place good sewerage treatment procedures only 90% of the pollutants can be eliminated which means that m ore still is yet to be done (Miller and Scott 310).
Despite the advanced treatment process through the secondary treatment and the subsystems that treat nutrients and pathogens, there are no mechanisms of eliminating the toxic substances that are found in the sewerage system.
On the same note, the industrial waste should also be treated correctly to avoid chemical substances getting into the water system. The industries can put in place treatment measures that can help in the reduction of toxic substances before emptying the waste water into the council treatment centers.
At the same time is should be a requirement that all industries that produce huge quantities of waste products to have their own complete treatment systems that take care of all the chemical substances which are available in their waste water (Hill 115). Additionally, industries that use a lot of water for cooling services can make their own dams where they can be channeling the hot water for cooling before they release the water to rivers and seas.
Use of chemicals in farming has gained a lot of emphasis in US due to the good returns that are associated with the use of fertilizers and agro-chemicals. In this respect, erosion washes chemicals from the surface to water bodies forming the greatest danger of pollution.
Therefore, proper agricultural practices should be used to control erosion which is the major cause of surface run off. Crop mulching, crop rotation, afforestation mixed cropping and agro forestry as well as installation of riparian buffers will go a long way in preventing soil erosion (Copeland 227). On the same note, the management of the amount of nutrients that are applied in farms is important in ensuring that excess nitrogen and phosphorus are controlled.
Furthermore, safety of our lives begins with our efforts to ensure that our environment is clean and that whatever we take is not dangerous to our health. Therefore, right from the homesteads people should exercise due care in ensuring that all waste material are properly disposed (Jensen and Steven 165).
People should try as much as possible to ensure that what they use in the houses are non-toxic and they are also disposed properly in away that this substances will not get their way into the sewerage system.
On top of that, those substances and commodities that are non-degradable should not be disposed in a manner that they will end up in the sewerage system because they will hinder the treatment of the sewer. Self restraint should be exercised by people to reduce or completely eliminate the littering of water bodies, while at the same time people should be encouraged to use products that do not pose a threat to the environment.
Water is a very important resource that is used in every sector of the economy besides supporting life of every living thing. Unfortunately, this important resource is prone to very many kinds of pollution which makes it a threat to the very lives that it is supposed to protect.
Furthermore, water pollution has far reaching effects that end up touching almost every aspect of the ecosystem. It is therefore, paramount that efforts are made towards reducing water pollution because it is possible to eliminate water pollution hence boosting health of the whole society.
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