Term Paper: Water Pollution

Pages: 6 (2012 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues  ·  Buy This Paper

Water pollution remains one of the major environmental concerns we face today. Given its effects, there exists an urgent need for all the concerned stakeholders to explore various ways in which the issue of water pollution can be addressed once and for all. In this text, I discuss not only the causes of water pollution but also the different types of water pollution. Further, amongst other things, I also highlight the environmental effects of water pollution and the various strategies that could be embraced in an attempt to bring down instances of water pollution.

Water Pollution: A Concise Definition

Before offering a concise definition of water pollution, it would be prudent to first define the terms pure water, polluted water, and water pollutant. According to Goel (2006), given the presence of various minerals as well as gases in water, no water can be regarded pure in absolute terms. According to the author, pure water - for practical purposes, "is considered to be that which has low dissolved and suspended solids and obnoxious gases as well as low in biological life" (Goel, 2006). Water of such high quality in the opinion of Goel is largely required for drinking purposes. It is important to note that in some instances, the composition of water could render it inappropriate for drinking and other common utilization. As Goel (2006) notes, when the composition or quality of water changes significantly thus making such water unsuitable for common usage, such water is seen as being polluted. A water pollutant according to the author is "a physical, chemical or biological factor causing aesthetic or detrimental effects on aquatic life and on those who consume the water" (Goel, 2006). With the three definitions above, it would now be appropriate to define water pollution. In basic terms, water pollution is the change in the status of water from a pure state to a polluted state as a consequence of the actions of water pollutants. Miller and Spoolman (2008) define the same as "any chemical, biological, or physical change in water quality that harms living organisms or makes water unsuitable for desired uses."

Causes of Water Pollution

Water pollution has a wide range of causes. In this section, I address the most common causes. To begin with, one cause of water pollution is sewage and wastewater. Wastewater often results from agricultural practices, industrial processes, as well as domestic undertakings. Occasionally, this wastewater finds its way into lakes and rivers thus causing pollution. Wastewater that contains some specific waste components such as urine and feces is referred to as sewage. If untreated, it could carry harmful germs which could be a health threat to populations. Yet another prominent cause of water pollution is industrial waste. In many developing countries, the biggest water pollutants are industrial facilities which routinely direct their industrial waste to oceans, lakes, and rivers. These facilities according to McKinney, Schoch, and Yonavjak (2007) include food processing industries, logging and mining factories, manufacturing entities, etc. As I will indicate elsewhere in this text, the failure by the government of the day in most developing countries to enforce existing regulations on proper waste management often complicates the situation further by encouraging the unregulated dumping of industrial waste into water bodies. In some instances, proper waste management rules and regulations are nonexistent.

Next, we have radioactive waste. It is important to note that by dint of their operations, some scientific, medical, as well as industrial facilities routinely make use of radioactive material. Radio active wastes coming from nuclear power station as McKinney, Schoch, and Yonavjak (2007) point out pollute water via the "discharge of mildly radioactive wastewater and groundwater pollution by buried radioactive waste." Oil could also be viewed as yet another prominent cause of water pollution. It should be noted that on an almost routine basis, oceans and other water bodies face pollution from oil run-offs as well as spills. This is more so the case given that oceans are routinely used as shipping avenues for oil. As I will highlight later on in this text, oil spills have catastrophic consequences to marine life.

Global warming is also another unique cause of water pollution. According to Miller and Spoolman (2008), global warming causes climate change which in turn does have an impact on water pollution. In the opinion of the authors, as the world gets warmer, precipitation patters change. Where there are intense downpours, harmful chemicals amongst other waste materials end up being flushed into waterways. On the other hand, river flows that help in the dilution of waste could reduce as a result of prolonged draughts (Miller and Spoolman, 2008).

It is important to note that the list of causes I offer above is in no way conclusive. This is to say that a variety of many other unique causes of water pollution do exist. Other equally important causes of water pollution in this case include but they are not limited to eutrophication and atmospheric disposition.

Types of Water Pollution

Essentially, water pollution can be classified into two broad categories. These according to Miller and Spoolman (2008) are point sources and non-point sources. Point sources in the words of the authors "discharge pollutants at specific locations through drain pipes, ditches, or sewer lines into bodies of water" (Miller and Spoolman, 2008). The examples the authors give in this case include underground mines, sewage treatment installations, factories, etc. When it comes to non-point sources, the authors term the same as being "scattered and diffuse and cannot be traced to any single site of discharge" (Miller and Spoolman, 2008). Examples cited by the authors in this case include but they are not limited to sediments as well as chemical runoffs from cropland. According to Miller and Spoolman (2008), unlike is the case with point pollutants, it is often not easy to identify and control discharges from non-point sources. This is more so the case given that such sources are often spread over expansive geographical areas. For instance, fertilizer chemicals from a number of farms could be collected by water runoff and transported to rivers and other water bodies thus leading to water pollution. Point sources, in contrast, are location specific.

Water Pollution and its Effects

Water pollution has quite a number of effects. In this section, I will only state the major or main effects of water pollution. To begin with, oil pollution as I have earlier on indicated in this text could be detrimental to marine life. One of the key characteristics of oil is that it does not dissolve in water. For this reason, when there is a spillage of the same, a thick sludge that ends up suffocating fish is formed in the water. The said thick sludge also effectively blocks sunlight from reaching the depths of the ocean and other water bodies thus leading to the destruction of aquatic plants that happen to be photosynthetic. Further, the flight of marine birds is affected once their feathers catch the spilled oil. It is also equally important to note that when agricultural runoff and fertilizers find their way into water bodies, they enhance or encourage algae growth which then leads to oxygen depletion (Moigne, Subramanian, Xie, and Giltner, 1994). Most indigenous organisms in the locality affected cannot be able to survive in such low oxygen levels. The end result in this case is the destabilization of the natural ecological balance.

Untreated sewage water has the ability of carrying harmful bacteria and viruses. This according to Girard (2009) is more so the case when such water is contaminated with faces from individuals who happen to be infected with disease causing organisms. This effectively puts the health of those who take water contaminated with sewage at risk. Diseases that could be transmitted via this route include but they are not limited to dysentery and cholera. To underscore the seriousness of the problem, the author points out that in developing countries, the United Nations estimates that "as many as 10 million people, half of them children, die each year from drinking pathogen-contaminated water" (Girard, 2009). Human beings who drink water contaminated with some chemicals such as mercury could also have their health adversely affected. This is particularly the case given that mercury has been shown to affect nervous system development. Water pollution could also lead to deforestation (via acid rain).

Proposed Solutions to the Problem of Water Pollution

Before presenting the proposed solutions to the water pollution problem, it would be prudent to take into consideration the context of the problem. Instances of water pollution have increased dramatically in recent times as a result of not only increased populations but also enhanced industrialization. As Goel (2006) points out, for as long as there is life on earth, water pollution will always be inevitable. However, in the opinion of the author, when such pollution is as a result of the routine activities of small populations, water pollution would largely be negligible and hence harmless. It therefore follows that as the population keeps on increasing,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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