The most precious resource on our entire planet is our water and it is under greater threat than it ever has been in the past - entirely due to pollution.
Our water is what enables all life on our planet to thrive - every organism is dependent on it and securing it means protecting every lifeform on Earth. However, there are so many different factors that contribute to water pollution, which can make isolating the issue rather challenging.
Water pollution is an environmental dilemma that spans the entire globe and it affects the health of our oceans and our freshwater sources, which puts ecosystems, wildlife, and humans at risk. Water pollution is caused entirely by a variety of human activities such as agriculture and industry.
For decades, we have been polluting our planet’s water. This environmental issue has been building up for a long time and we are beginning to reach a point of no return, as we are pushing our planet’s water sources to their limits. We have already caused irreversible damage to countless aquifers, rivers, lakes, and streams and are now seeing astronomical amounts of pollution building up in our oceans. This has caused catastrophic damage to so many ecosystems on the planet and has led to the extinction of countless species. However, it is important to recognize that water pollution also impacts our own lives. What goes around comes around and given that our planet’s water is such a critical resource for us all, we end up causing harm to people, as well as plants and animals. To help you understand this further, we are going to take a closer look at some facts about water pollution.
After extensively researching water pollution, I have been able to gather enough information to list some facts pertaining to the causes and impacts of this environmental issue. My research has taught me that the best way to solve this crisis is to take preventative measures towards water pollution by making social and lifestyle changes in human life and behavior.
The most important thing to keep in mind in regards to water pollution is that it is entirely caused by human activity. Prior to our development as a species water pollution was non-existent in the way that it is today. With that being said, forms of water pollution caused by environmental events such as volcanic eruptions, storms, and floods are forms of water pollution but these are naturally occurring and are not destructive on the same level that human behavior is.
In recent years, environmental awareness has been on the rise with more people starting to care about the health of the planet and all of its inhabitants, which is why water pollution has been a pressing matter lately. Our society is transitioning from an age of environmental ignorance into an era of sustainable living, which involves making lifestyle changes to better the planet and prevent water pollution. However, in order for us to understand how to prevent water pollution, we must first take a look at what specifically causes it and how it impacts the planet.
Water Pollution Causes
It is evident that water pollution is caused by humans, but this environmental issue is linked to so many different sources of human behavior that make pinpointing just one an impossibility. There are currently more than 2 million tons of waste from humans being dumped into our planet’s water systems every day. As human populations continue to rise and action is not taken, this number is only expected to increase.
This is particularly startling when we consider that so many people on Earth still do not have access to a clean and adequate supply of water - with people dying of thirst on a daily basis. For us to understand how we can allow this to occur, we have to examine the causes of water pollution.
Industrial Water Pollution
There is no human entity that is responsible for water pollution more than the industrial complex. In fact, water pollution only started to become a major issue during the industrial revolution. Prior to this, humans primarily had a natural way of living, which was in balance with the environment for the most part.
At the start of the industrial revolution, we began to adopt new methods of engineering and creating in a way that is simply unsustainable for the health of our planet and our water sources. This amounted to groundbreaking technology and innovation, but at the price of our water’s health. It is estimated that on annual basis the United States alone dumps 1.2 trillion gallons of industrial waste and sewage into its own water systems.
The industrial complex has a reputation of putting profits before everything else - certainly our water. This has resulted in over a century of non-stop pollution from various industries across the entire planet. The problem with this is that industries have positioned themselves to act with impunity, as they can often bypass the law or manipulate the system to work out in their favor. This amounts to about 70% of all industrial waste ending up in our water.
One of the biggest industrial entities that are responsible for this is the oil industry. Oil spills and leaks can amount to water pollution on an astronomical scale. Small leaks that are not tended to immediately build up and create serious problems for ecosystems and water sources. However, large oil spills are blamed for some of the most catastrophic environmental incidents caused by man to date.
Agricultural Water Pollution
The agricultural sector is a major culprit when it comes to our water pollution. For as long as we have been eating food, humans had practiced sustainable ways of farming, eating, and living, but right around the time that the industrial revolution was taking place - new methods of agriculture were introduced.
New technology combined with the use of pesticides has resulted in massive amounts of water pollution on a global level. What happens is that the poisonous pesticides, as well as other materials within agricultural practices, get washed into our environment, which goes into virtually every water source that you can imagine - in particular our surface water sources.
The use of pesticides that results in chemical runoff is particularly a problem for water pollution within the crop growing sector of the agricultural industry. However, the meat industry is also a major contributor to this issue. There is an enormous amount of waste caused by the meat industry - cattle in particular. All of these farms need to have access to a massive amount of water on a daily basis, which is why they often position themselves somewhere that is close to a fresh water source. The waste that these animal farms create tends to seep into the ground and often flow directly into freshwater channels, which results in surface water and groundwater pollution.
So many of our urban living environments are equipped with adequate sewage systems but even these fail to properly treat water at times, which results in a lot of our urban and human waste going directly into water sources - contributing to pollution on a massive scale. Roughly 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation.
This kind of pollution is a problem everywhere (including the United States), but it is especially an issue in the developing world. Countries that lack the infrastructure or the education to treat their waste properly are polluting their local water channels so far past the point of unsustainability. This ends up jeopardizing their own freshwater sources and then it eventually flows into the ocean.
Water Pollution Impact
When we assess the impacts of water pollution, it is hard to find a living organism on the planet that is not affected by this issue.
The reason for this is that every living thing on Earth needs water for its survival, which is why we can see the damaging effects of water pollution reaching far and wide. Ultimately, water pollution sabotages ecosystems, wildlife, and human life by tainting our freshwater sources, as well as our oceans.
Ocean Pollution Impact
In our oceans, there is a large cluster of garbage that is the size of Texas - known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is an accumulation of man-made trash that has built up in the decades that humans have been mismanaging their waste.
Ocean pollution is a grim notion, as there are now more than 5.2 trillion pieces of plastic waste floating in our planet’s largest water system. This trash has a very destructive impact on the health of our ocean’s ecosystems and its species. There are roughly 100 million ocean species that die each year from ocean pollution.
Freshwater Pollution Impact
A common misunderstanding that people have with our planet’s water is how much of it we actually have. People tend to think that because our planet is primarily made of water that it is an abundant resource.
The truth is it’s not. And it’s actually incredibly scarce - with only 3% of our planet’s total water being freshwater. However, the majority of this is locked away in the polar ice caps, which means that we can only truly rely on our surface water and groundwater sources for drinking water. This number is roughly just 1% of the planet’s total water.
With that being said, we are causing an enormous amount of water pollution to our limited freshwater sources. Whether it is the industrial complex, agriculture, or human waste - a lot of it tends to go into our planet’s lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater aquifers.
Freshwater pollution not only limits how much vital drinking water we have available to us, but it also sabotages the livelihoods of countless plant and animal species, as well as their habitats.
Human Life Impact
Water pollution impacts human life in so many ways. In developed nations, water pollution is something that primarily affects ecosystems and wildlife, but in developing nations, it directly puts humans at risk.
On an annual basis, water pollution is responsible for as much as 1.8 million human deaths. This is the price that humanity pays for its own lack of environmental consciousness. However, water pollution directly affects the quality of life of so many more people than this.
Given that so many people are dependent on freshwater for survival across the globe, they often have to resort to whatever options they have available to them for their survival. In many situations, this results in people needing to rely on contaminated water as their only source of drinking water. This amounts to countless people falling ill and suffering from diseases and other various illnesses, which are all due to water pollution caused by humans.
Water Pollution Solutions
Our planet’s water pollution issues are not going to be easy to solve. This is an environmental problem that is incredibly complex, tied to a lot of social and economic issues and is also going to take the participation of every nation and individual on the planet.
However, with the growing trend of environmental awareness and sustainable living gaining more momentum across the globe, there is a lot to be hopeful for. In order for us to prevent water pollution from occurring, we are going to need to commit to a series of societal lifestyle changes.
The biggest contribution to water pollution comes from large-scale industries across the globe.
Holding these large institutions and organizations responsible is going to be the most important thing that we can do to prevent water pollution from occurring. This is going to require change on an individual level, but most importantly it is going to require government-backed legislation.
Corporations and industries think that they are above the law and their actions are amounting to so many issues around the globe - with water pollution being a critical aspect of this. Governments and politicians need to unite on a planetary scale to hold these organizations accountable so that water sources can be secured for generations to come.
Although it is easy to assume that the actions of one individual do not matter, when an entire planet thinks like this it amounts to a considerable amount of ignorance, which results in environmental issues like water pollution transpiring.
We need to make a series of lifestyle changes within our lives on an individual level to prevent water pollution from taking place. One of the biggest things that we can do is practice better waste management such as reflecting on the 5 Rs:
In addition, we can boycott institutions, industries, and corporations that are contributing to water pollution by avoiding certain products, eating environmentally sound foods, and adopting sustainable living in our daily lives.
The truth is that a lot of people do not understand just how serious of an issue water pollution is.
Establishing legitimate education programs in the public school sector is going to be a very important aspect of delivering this message to society.
This is important to do all over the world (including developed nations) but it is vital that we initiate education systems that encourage proper waste management and water treatment in developing nations.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker