Water Pollution | Types, Danges, Ways to Prevent It
Today, a significant part of the world’s water resources is polluted. Every year, humanity produces about 400 billion tons of waste, a significant part of which falls into rivers, seas and oceans. Of course, nature is capable of self-healing, but its limits for its defense mechanisms also exist. Today, water pollution is one of the most serious problems facing humanity. Is it possible to solve this problem and what is needed for this?
What is water pollution?
Water is an excellent solvent. Every day we are convinced of this by adding salt to the soup or throwing refined tea into a glass of tea. This feature has led to the fact that pure H2O practically does not exist in nature; it can only be obtained in the laboratory. This property is largely responsible for the problem of water pollution: harmful chemicals dissolve in it, making it unsuitable for further use. In addition, various wastes may be in suspension. In this case, they are tiny drops or small particles. For example, recently, scientists have discovered microscopic pieces of plastic in marine organisms – they get there from the environment.
Natural water pollution is a significant decrease in the quality of water resources due to the ingress of various chemicals, solid waste or the propagation of microscopic living organisms (bacteria, fungi, algae) into streams, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. The causes of water pollution are related to human activities, although there may be natural processes that adversely affect the hydrosphere.
The main causes of pollution
- Wastewater. Life products, dirt, detergents… In other words, sewage. The lion’s share of this waste is dumped into rivers and seas without adequate purification;
- Farms. Fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and organic waste are washed out and fall into the surface and underground waters;
- Industrial waste. Mercury, copper, fluorine, radioactive particles, and iron in water are the “gifts” of industrial enterprises. In this case, emissions are both deliberate and random (accidents, leaks). The most “harmful” industries include ferrous metallurgy, oil refineries and pulp, and paper plants;
- Oil leaks. Oil products accumulate on the water surface, blocking the access of light and oxygen. In addition to pollution and the unpleasant smell of water, it is fraught with a sea of fish and birds;
- Solid waste. Plastic bottles, bags, gravel, rubble, waste soil. Because of this, water bodies turn into garbage cans;
- Thermal pollution. Draining warm water from nuclear and thermal power plants raises the general temperature of the reservoir. This leads to the accelerated overgrowing of algae and the sea of living creatures;
- Atmospheric pollution. Ash, soot and all kinds of gases. It’s hard to call our air clean. And when combined with oxygen and moisture, nitrogen and sulfur oxides cause acid rain.
This is just one of the classifications of water pollution sources. But we think the meaning is clear. Now let’s look at the result of our “economic activity”.
Consequences of water pollution
Many countries already lack clean drinking water. The tense environmental situation only exacerbates the problem. The effects of pollution can be called dangerous and comprehensive. Here is some of them:
- Reduced species diversity of marine and river flora and fauna;
- Overgrowth and disappearance of water bodies;
- Deterioration of taste, color and smell of water;
- Destruction of the enamel of our teeth due to an excess of fluoride;
- Outbreaks of hepatitis caused by bacteria and Escherichia coli;
- Overloading the body with iron, causing violations of the formation of bone tissue;
- The accumulation of lead, chromium, cadmium, benzopyrene, chlorine in water provokes oncology and nervous disorders;
- Infectious and intestinal diseases: from typhoid and dysentery to cholera;
- Deterioration of hair and skin;
- Phenol and fluorine compounds adversely affect the functioning of the kidneys and liver;
- Infection with parasites;
- Radioactive isotopes and pesticides accumulate in organisms and circulate in food chains, destroying tissues and leading to infertility and genetic mutations.
In general, that’s not any fun. The list of diseases that may arise due to the use of low-quality water is huge. No wonder they say that a person “drinks” 80% of diseases with water.
How can you fix the situation?
What to do with the problem of global water pollution? Is there a way to solve the problem? And how to protect water from pollution today?
Today, several methods are used to combat wastewater pollution:
- physical and chemical;
Mechanical water purification is carried out by sedimentation and subsequent filtration through various sieves, gas and oil traps. It allows catching up to 60-75% of insoluble impurities from domestic wastewater and up to 95% from industrial. And many of them go for secondary use.
The chemical method consists in adding various reagents to the effluents that bind to and precipitate harmful impurities. It allows treating even the most polluted industrial wastewater.
Physico-chemical methods make it possible to remove dissolved inorganic substances and fine impurities from wastewater, as well as destroy organic compounds. These include oxidation, coagulation, sorption, electrolysis, extraction, etc. Such methods of combating wastewater pollution are considered very effective and are becoming more widespread every year.
Biological purification methods use natural processes of self-purification of natural reservoirs. They are most effective against organic pollutants. In particular, bio methods are widely used in the treatment of municipal wastewater, as well as for the neutralization of waste from the oil refining, chemical and pulp and paper industries.
The above methods of pollution control are used in combination. Given the global scale of the problem and the variety of factors that are involved in this process, it is hardly possible to manage it with treatment plants alone. Unfortunately, so far there are no technologies that could cheaply and effectively treat wastewater.
Therefore, much more significant efforts are needed.
To make our rivers, seas and lakes cleaner, we need to seriously reduce the use of oil – one of the main sources of water pollution. Another problem is plastic, which practically does not decompose in nature. We will have to apply fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides much more moderately. The same can be said about the use of household chemicals. Even such a simple step can seriously affect the situation. Moreover, the forthcoming shortage of fresh water will certainly make us spend it more economically. In fact, in order to solve the problem of hydrosphere pollution, people will have to change their thinking and learn how to treat water as a valuable and unique resource. It is really hard, but there is simply no easy way.