• 6 Effects of Water Pollution

Water/Wastewater

6 Effects of Water Pollution

Apr 16 2022

In recent years, water pollution is an issue that has come to increasingly dominate global headlines. From unsanitary facilities in the third world to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the ocean to the contamination of drinking supplies in the USA, water pollution is a grave problem the world over. But how do water pollution effects manifest themselves in tangible terms? Here’s a closer look at how contaminated water affects human, animals, plants and the wider environment.

Depletion of drinking water supplies

As the resource upon which we depend for our survival, it would be logical to prioritise the safety and sanitation of our drinking water supplies above all else. That’s especially true given that the Earth’s population continues to grow at an alarming rate, meaning ever greater stores of water will be required in the future. Unfortunately, contamination of our lakes, reservoirs and other waterways means that there is a decreasing amount of drinking water for us to draw on.

Disease

If drinking water supplies cannot meet the demand, people will be forced to consume unsafe sources of drinking water. This is especially true in impoverished parts of the world such as Africa, Asia and Latin America; in total, the UN estimates that around 1 in 3 people do not have access to this most basic human right and resource. This means that waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid are prevalent in such locations, causing an untold number of premature deaths.

Eutrophication

Agricultural products such as fertilisers and pesticides contain elevated levels of ammonia and phosphate, which can boost crop yields. However, these nutrients can find their way into streams, lakes and other water channels through run-off, thus unbalancing the delicate aquatic ecosystems. This sparks a process called eutrophication, whereby certain organisms (such as algae) can proliferate and consume more than their fair share of oxygen and sunlight, depriving others of these important resources in the process.

Food chain disruption

When eutrophication causes certain species to dwindle or die out, that can have a knock-on effect on the predators which feed upon them, thus causing shockwaves further up the food chain. Meanwhile, consumption and absorption of polluted water by marine and aquatic organisms is capable of causing damage to their internal organs. When they are later consumed by larger species, the food chain can become compromised and contaminated, eventually affecting the human race indirectly.

Agriculture

Did you know that farming uses as much as 70% of the Earth’s water? If that water becomes contaminated, there are fewer reserves available to cultivate crops and sustain livestock, thus contributing to reduced yields and poorer quality crops. Meanwhile, the plants and animals which are reared using tainted water are not fit for human consumption, again indirectly contributing to a negative impact on human health.

Economic impacts

The effects of water pollution are not just related to human and environmental health, either. Contaminated water supplies must go through a rigorous treatment process before they can become potable or suitable for irrigation, washing or swimming in. This entails a financial price tag that is prohibitive on human progress. Meanwhile, another economic impact engendered by water pollution is the loss of revenue experienced by the tourism industry in certain parts of the world.

For those interested in learning more about the topic of water pollution, the upcoming Water, Wastewater and Environmental Monitoring (WWEM) exhibition promises to be a great source of information. Scheduled to take place in Telford in the UK on the 12th and 13th October 2022, the exhibition will cover the subject from all angles.


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International Environmental Technology 32.3 - May/June 2022

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