Water Pollution Guide

Published by jay on


Water pollution majorly on freshwater sources has been expanding exponentially. Climate change has raised concerns about the environment and precious resources. Water pollution is now affecting drinking water, water for irrigation, lakes, seas, and oceans, leading to mass deaths of sea life.

The oceans have become a dumping site for billions of tons of plastic waste. That alters marine life and can kill them quickly. Chemical leach from the rubbish causes long-term effects on marine life.

As a result of ocean pollution, we are now eating unhealthy seafood. Statistically, 40% of rivers and 46% of lakes in the US are unfit for fishing and swimming. Water contamination and pollution accounts for about 5 million deaths globally annually.

What exactly is water pollution?

Introducing foreign and harmful substances in a water body causes water pollution. A high degree of contaminants in the water makes it unable to support aquatic life and becomes toxic to humans and animals.

Types of water pollution


Chemical water pollution

It mainly results from industrial effluent and sewers flowing in rivers and lakes. These are foreign organic and inorganic substances in water. It is common to find chemical pollutants near mines, large commercial farms, and construction sites. Households also contribute to chemical waste.

Radiological Water Pollution

Radiological water pollution

The primary sources of radioactive pollutants are nuclear and medical waste. Nuclear energy plants are allowed to release controlled amounts of water with radiations in large water bodies. Radiological waste has a direct impact on humans and animals. It brings carcinogens best known to cause cancers.

biological waste

Biological water pollution

Bacteria and viruses are the primary biological water pollutants. All organisms that live inside or near the water get affected. It is common to hear cases of typhoid, cholera, E Coli, and others on the news. Some biological water pollutants occur naturally, but extreme growth makes water toxic e.g., algae blooms which kill fishes and wildlife.

Sources of water pollution

Check out our unique categorization of types of sources that produce water pollution:

  • Point sources – these are easy to identify and remedial. Only the immediate area is affected by the pollution source. 
  • Non-point sources – they are hard to identify since the area affected is wider. The pollution follows the water down the river and sinks to the water table. An example is chemical runoffs and fertilizers from large farms.
  • Trans-boundary sources – familiar where extensive areas of the environment are affected by a pollutant. Common when nuclear waste spills and leaks. Contaminants diffuse across large areas. 

Water pollution exposure and health effects

water pollution

Exposure to polluted water brings short-term and long-term potential health risks that you must be concerned about. 

  • Exposure methods – humans need water daily for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. That exposes them to chemical, biological, and radiological contaminants in the water.
  • Drinking polluted water – drinking unsafe water exposes you to arsenic deposits, chemical run-off, micro-organisms, heavy metals, etc. drinking unsafe water for long can cause complications and even death.
  • Food contamination – both vegetarians and lovers of animal products consume products that have been affected by industrial and agricultural runoff. Studies show that 47% of cows in developed nations are contaminated with lead, arsenic, and cadmium. Vegans get contaminants from pesticides sprayed on grains, fruits, and vegetables. The results are cancers, reproductive disorders, and developmental disorders.
  • Airborne contaminants – some biological water contaminants are airborne like Legionellosis.
  • Direct exposure – contaminants get absorbed directly to your body skin pores and cuts when you swim or bathe in contaminated water. You stand high risks of carcinogen exposure that leads to cancer.

Health effects of water pollution

  1. The spread of water-borne diseases
  2. Gastric diseases resulting from raw waste and livestock runoff
  3. Bacterial infections e.g., botulism, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, etc.
  4. Waterborne viral infections like Hepatitis A and SARS
  5. Fungi infections through open wounds caused by algae desmodesmus armatus
  6. Health disorders from chemical pollution and diseases
  7. Infant mortality from gastric cancer caused by nitrates in water
  8. Lowered IQ in children, thyroid, and reproductive issues from polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) exposure.
  9. Neurological problems from mercury contamination.

How water pollution affects biospheres and ecosystems

It is hard to contain water pollution since all water sources are connected through waterways, rivers, and the evaporation and precipitation cycle.

  • Ecological damage – aquatic and land animals consume contaminated water. Contaminants are passed from prey to predator, and pollutants accumulate at each stage of the predator. Death of a species in one food chain stage collapses the entire endangered species.
  • Eutrophication, dead zones, and algae bloom – eutrophication, which is excess nutrients in the water, kill fishes creating dead zones. Low oxygen rates in large water bodies kill marine life, while excess nitrates from hypoxia, which encourages overgrowth of algae. The algae sink to the bottom to use the remainder oxygen to decompose. 
  • Disruption of the food chain – accumulation of toxins in predators with longer lifespans kills them, creating disturbances in the food chain for aquatic and land animals. Persistent agricultural, pharmaceutical, chemical waste can create reproduction complications hence an imbalance in the food chain when one species dies.
  • Water pollution and habitat loss – excess fertilizers create algae blooms leading to dead zones. Contaminants destroy habitat for aquatic life. Dryland animals are forced to migrate for better water sources.
  • Water pollution and death of animal life – reduced habitats, direct and indirect poisoning, and change in reproductive cycles kills wildlife. Over 100 million ocean mammals are killed by debris waste dumped in the ocean yearly. Oil spills harm aquatic life, birds, and even dry land animals.

Water pollution control and prevention

rain forest

  • Advocating in your community

Establish community initiatives to prevent an increase in large-scale chemical use in agriculture. Question representatives in all levels of the government on their regulations to improving the quality of water.

  • Wise land-use policies

Embrace modern and well-thought soil conservation methods that aim at preventing soil erosion and curb surface runoff into water bodies nearby. Plant trees and vegetation near waterways to prevent soil erosion and run-off with pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides.

  • Appropriate pasture management

Allow dense growth of foliage on pastures to prevent soil erosion as it could carry livestock runoff. 

  • Restore wetlands

The last century experienced intense destruction of the natural barrier formed between the land and the main ocean. They prevent runoff into the oceans. It also creates an ideal habitat for birds, reptiles, and small fish.

  • Small-scale actions with big impact

Reduce water pollution by adjusting your waste disposal habits. This applies to plastic mostly as they are extremely difficult to decompose.

  • Reduce, recycle and reuse

Reduce – you can reduce plastic usage by:

  1. Use reusable containers to pack lunch
  2. Skip frozen meals
  3. Purchase food in bulk in a reusable container
  4. Use stainless steel razor blades instead of plastic disposable razors
  5. Use reusable coffee mugs
  6. Choose products packaged in cardboard rather than plastic

Reuse – follow tips from your favorite DIY advocates

  1. Use detergent bottles to make toys for kids
  2. Use plastic soda bottles to make an indoor herb garden
  3. Reuse grocery plastic bags as waste bags
  4. Reuse plastic bags for packing in future
  • Recycle – you can start a local reliable waste center to receive plastic items for recycling. Others are electronics waste, batteries, etc.
  • Safe disposal of hazardous waste

Figure out the most reliable technique of disposing of your toxic household chemicals. Find policies for disposing of paints, motor oil, pharmaceuticals, and other complicated types of waste.

  • Proper management of automotive waste

Mechanics must dispose of oils and car parts safely, or else they will contaminate the environment and groundwater. It also applies to car batteries and tires. You can remove oil spills from driveways by sprinkling baking soda over them.

  • Beach and waterway cleanup

cleaning the environment

Gather your team or participate among volunteers who team up to collect trash on lakes, rivers, and beaches.

  • Eat organically grown sustainable food

Choosing to eat organic food empowers organic farmers to continue producing safer food for everyone without using chemicals.

  • Control urban runoff from your property

Urban areas are mostly covered with concrete. That means runoff does not seep down. The runoff contains motor oils, fertilizers, and other chemicals, pet waste, junk waste, and garbage dumps. Do not let all that waste to be directed to your property because it will come with potential contaminants that will affect you directly or indirectly.

It is our responsibility

trash pollution

Safer water sources are decreasing on every sunrise. The need for safe water for cooking, drinking, and cleaning is inevitable. We face risks of consuming debris, chemicals, and algae in our daily water supply. Over the past 2 centuries, almost all clean water sources are now contaminated to unsafe levels.

Some initiatives have been highlighted in this article, and they provide a better insight on how to deal with water contamination depending on the problem you are experiencing. The ideas shared here are helpful in the effort to restore the good old days of clean water.