Water Pollution: Causes, Effects, and Prevention
What would you say the most valuable thing on earth is? Many people would quickly answer that something with monetary value, like oil or gold, would be the most valuable thing on earth. However, humans are able to live, and have lived, without utilizing these things for many years. There is a thing that every living being, creature, and plant on earth could not survive without. It is one of our most basic needs, and yet we take it for granted so often. You probably encounter it once or more every day, perhaps without a single thought of its value. Some humans go so far as to unwittingly, or even sometimes knowingly, contaminate our sources of this precious necessity, often doing unfixable damage to our already limited supply. The most important thing to us, or at least, what should be the most important thing to us, is water.
All life on earth depends on water- meaning that without water, there is no life. Although our planet is covered with this liquid, only a small percentage of it is actually drinkable. According to USGS.gov, only 1% of earth’s water is usable by humans, 99% of that water being ground water, and only 1% coming from lakes and rivers. The 99% of earth’s water that we cannot use is either saline, or ocean water, or frozen in ice caps and glaciers. Since we have such a small portion of usable water, you would think that our priority would be to keep our water as safe as possible. However, this does not seem to be the case for all people. Every day, our only source of water, a source we would die without, is being contaminated. This contamination is often done without complete realization, but sadly it is also done with full knowledge of its consequences. This contamination, better known as pollution, is defined as, according to water-technology.net, the addition of foreign substances (pollutants) to a water source that have a harmful effect on living organisms. Obviously, polluting our only source of water will only result in problems for us, as it already has. Before we can even think of solving our pollution issues, we must first understand what causes water pollution and the effects it has on our environment and our lives.
First, we will start at the beginning of the process of water pollution- the causes of it. Pollution can come from two types of sources, point sources and non-point sources. A point source of pollution is a single, identifiable source of pollution which is localized. Examples of point sources are drain pipes, ditches, and sewer lines. Non-point source pollution, in contrast with a point source, comes from many diffuse sources, such as runoff from urban areas, fields, or live stock lots. Leading causes of water pollution are agriculture (which produces fertilizers and pesticides and eroded sediments) and industry and mining (which produce a number of toxic chemicals and substances).
Along with different causes of water pollution, there are different types of pollution itself. The first type, which affects the human population the most, is fresh water pollution. Areas with a regular flow of water, like rivers, are usually fairly well diluted, and pollution can be gotten rid of relatively fast, however, rivers near populated areas are often heavily polluted since they are contaminated regularly. Freshwater lakes have less flow than rivers, and are therefore harder to dilute. Other causes of pollution in freshwater lakes are human-introduced plants, which drain oxygen from the water, grow, and block out sunlight. This lack of oxygen and sunlight in lakes can cause the death of some aquatic species. The last type of freshwater pollution is the pollution of ground water. Since ground water has little to no flow, it makes it extremely hard to get rid of pollutants. Even biodegradable waste would take hundreds of years to clean. Since we don’t know much about ground water, it is hard to understand the extent of ground water...
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