Water Resources Essay, Research Paper
Water is singly the most important element to the world as a whole. It is the lifeblood of the environment, essential to the survival of all living things whether it is a plant, an animal or humans (Environment Canada, 1996). It is a powerful resource that we cannot afford to live without, so we must do everything possible to maintain its quality and the life inside it for today and the future. It creates, sustains and has the ability to take life. However, we as humans have lost respect for the basic element to our existence. We dump sewage, chemicals and garbage into our own water and, exploit the fish and animals living in the waters almost or to the point of extinction. We pollute and ravage the oceans without any regard for what the outcome to our ecosystem could and will be if it continues. As humans, we are primarily composed of water. Our blood, which is our means of transporting food and waste, and also regulates our temperature, is made up of 83 percent water. It is an unquestionable fact that we need water, just like everything else that exists on this planet. Water s harmless and pure nature creates and sustains life but when exploited for commercial uses it becomes damaged by pollution and the ecosystems inside it are hurt, effecting all life on the planet.
The water resources of the world are a raw material, just like minerals and gas, which industries want to use to make money, but in the process it is industries that are exploiting and polluting our waters, damaging them for all future generations. Through industry we, as humans, are killing the oceans by over-fishing, destroying coral reefs and polluting them with sewage and garbage. Although businesses do have the right to the use of the oceans and waters of the world to profit from just the same as any other business, it is the negative manner in which they use our waters that results in the destruction of habitats and species in and around the water and the large amounts of pollution plaguing the world s waters. These massive amounts of destruction, which are occurring, are all having an extremely detrimental effect on our world s ecosystem. The destruction of the world s waters will ultimately lead to the destruction of the planet because without the very source for life, life cannot sustain itself.
Our water resources are of such a great importance because water itself is responsible for so many things in life that it would be absolutely impossible to continue on without it. Firstly, water is such a unique substance because it is the only substance that occurs at ordinary temperatures in all three states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas). As a solid it is found as glaciers and ice caps, on water surfaces in winter, as snow, hail, and frost, and as clouds formed of ice crystals. It occurs in the liquid state as rain clouds formed of water droplets, and on vegetation as dew. Water also covers three-quarters of the surface of the earth in the form of swamps, lakes, rivers, and oceans. As a gas, or water vapor, it occurs as fog, steam, and clouds. Other reasons why water is of such importance to us is because of its use as the universal solvent. Water is referred to as the universal solvent because of its ability to form a hydration shell around other molecules. By forming this shell around molecules other than water it prevents the other molecules from associating molecules of the same kind therefore rapidly dissolving the substance. Water also has the ability to ionize because its covalent bonds can break quickly and, to organize non-polar molecules by forming hydrogen bonds with other water molecules causing the non-polar molecules to crowd together and associate with each other.
Secondly, another reason why water is of such importance because it is responsible for transporting, combining, and chemically breaking down substances such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins and, salts. Blood in animals, and sap in plants also largely consists of water, and transports food, and remove waste material around the body or plant. Water also plays a key role in the breakdown of molecules such as proteins and carbohydrates. This process is called hydrolysis and goes on continually in living cells.
Finally, water is of such importance because of its large involved in the earth s mechanics. The water cycle is a series of movements of water above, on, and below the surface of the earth. (Microsoft Encarta, 2000) The water cycle consists of four stages that are storage, evaporation, precipitation, and runoff. In these stages, the water of the world is more or less recycled. The storage stage is simply the storage of fresh water in the groundwater reservoirs, glaciers and, the polar ice caps. These sources are all composed of fresh water, or drinkable water. However, these sources are not in abundance, in fact they only are responsible for 3 percent of the worlds water. The other 97 percent of the worlds water is housed in our oceans and seas that is too salty to drink. In the evaporation stage water is changed from its liquid or solid state to a gas and taken into the atmosphere. This is vital to the survival of the earth because if the water that is falling on the earth in precipitation was not replenished the atmosphere would eventually dry out. The rate that water is evaporated is controlled by temperature, sunlight intensity, wind speed, plant cover, ground moisture and, humidity. In this evaporation stage some of the salt water from the oceans is utilized because when it evaporates it become relatively salt free and can be put onto the earth as fresh water in the precipitation stage. The precipitation stage occurs when water vapor in the atmosphere condenses into clouds and falls to the earth. Precipitation can take a variety of forms, including rain, snow, ice pellets, and hail. Finally, the runoff stage is where water that was fallen on the earth from the precipitation stage runs off of the ground and into lakes, rivers, oceans or any other mass of water. The water cycle is also responsible for the movement of elements and, nutrients around the earth just like in animals and, plants.
The pollution of our fresh water resources is an environmental disaster that will affect humans greatly. Inside the boundaries of Canada, we hold approximately 9 percent of the world s renewable freshwater supply and 20 percent of the world s total freshwater resources, including waters captured in glaciers and the polar ice caps (Environment Canada, 1996), and possess more lakes and inland waters than any other country in the world (Microsoft Encarta, 2000), meaning that we, as a nation, are being targeted to sell our water to the rest of the world. The scary thing about this is that under the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada s resources, including water, can be bought by U.S. companies to be sold to the rest of the world. Our water, in Canada, however will not be of any use to anyone in the world though if it continues to be polluted.
Water pollution is the contamination of our rivers, lakes, oceans and groundwater through industrial and private activities. The most common forms of water pollution are the dumping of toxic chemicals, radioactive waste and petroleum products by large factories and oil spills, the dumping of sewage and human and animal wastes back into our water and the excess of fertilizers by commercial and private farmers and citizens. Also dumping of such things as garbage and debris into water is another form of water pollution that simply degrades the aesthetic appeal of water. Water pollution is such a large problem because most of the chemicals that are in things like sewage and fertilizers cannot be easily broken down by nature if they can be broken down at all. For, example some industrial wastes like sewage and fertilizers can be more easily broken down by nature because these compounds can be broken down by chemical reactions or by natural bacteria into simple, non-polluting substances such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen. However, other problems arise from the creation of these substances like eutrophication.
Eutrophication is the progressive over fertilization of water, in which festering masses of algae bloom, choking rivers and lakes. When chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorus (the main components of fertilizer and human waste when broken down) are introduced in increased amounts by dumping, they have a cascading effect on the ecosystem that lives underwater. Phytoplankton multiply explosively with the increased amount of fertilizer and waste turning the water from a crystal clear (little phytoplankton = clear water) to shades of green, brown and red (many phytoplankton = colour change because of colours of plankton). (Nixon, 1998)
On the other hand, many chemicals such as some pesticides (e.g. DDT, dieldrin), leachate components from landfill sites (municipal, industrial), petroleum and petroleum products, PCBs, dioxins, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), radioactive materials such as strontium-90, cesium-137, radium-226, and uranium, and metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium break down very slowly (over decades) or do not break down at all. (Environmental Canada, 1996) These substances all effect the taste, odour and colour of our foods and are all unhealthy to be ingested. The cleanliness of our water is not a responsibility that only the federal and provincial governments should bare, but should be the responsibility of all Canadians. By not throwing garbage into the water and dumping chemicals and hazardous substances down our drains and toilets we can do our part as consciousness Canadians. As for large industries that still feel like our rivers, lakes and oceans are their own personal dumping grounds we can only hope that they will realize what effects they are having on our ecosystem.
One industry that is having an extremely negative effect on our oceans, but it is not doing it through pollution, is the commercial fishing industries around the world. Commercial fishing is done simply with the intention of providing fresh fish for consumers to eat and most commercial fishing companies provide fish in a safe and efficient manner, however some companies are still using drift nets to catch fish. Drift nets have one end that floats on the surface of the water and another that has weights, that sinks. The nets are then towed around a school of fish by a small net boat while one end of the net remains fastened to the main vessel. The bottom of the net is then closed, and the net is tightened by the boat. This process endangers the life of thousands of marine animals other than the fish that are trying to be caught. Every year thousands of marine animals such as dolphins and whales are caught in these nets with no hope to escape. Sadly, the animals die in the nets because, like humans, dolphins and whales are mammals and are required to breathe air to stay alive. The net blankets the surface of the water making it impossible for the animals to get above water to breathe; in other words they drown. The frightening part of this however is that, the fishing companies knew this was going on and did nothing about it for sometime. Finally, to end the massacres the U.S. Congress imposed a ban on the importation of fish caught with such nets (Microsoft Encarta, 2000) to show fishing companies that such acts of violence and disrespect would not be tolerated. As a result of the mass amount of over fishing around the world 82 species and subspecies of fish may face the threat of extinction in the near future (CNN, 2000). Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federal of Fishermen states: We ve just simply put too many boats out there, too much pressure on stocks [of fish] that we had no idea of how much fishing they could sustain, illustrating that even the fishing industries themselves are coming to realize that over fishing is also a threat to their business.
Another major disaster that is very negatively affecting the oceans of the world is the destruction of the world s coral reefs. Scientists are saying that more than a quarter of the world s coral reefs have been destroyed by pollution and that the remaining reefs may be dead in 20 years if the pollution continues (mcbi.org). These reefs, that have been alive and thriving in the oceans for up to 2.5 million years, are an underwater ecosystem that we cannot afford to live without. These reefs are homes to hundreds of different sea animals and plants and also the destruction of the reefs would not only be a major blow to the environment but also the livelihood of half a billion people who rely on the reefs for food and income.
The reefs being such a large source of food and tourism need to stay alive in order to help sustain the life that revolves around them. It is estimated that the reefs bring in about $400 billion a year in fishing and tourism, but it is the fishing and tourism that are part of the problem. These industries exploit and ignore the reefs by allowing their ships to sail over the reefs, breaking and killing the coral and allowing uneducated people to explore the reefs. Simply, just touching a coral reef can kill it. Education of the severe, catastrophic effects that we, as humans, are directly having on the reefs need to be known to all people.
The education of all the people of the world is a vital step in helping the pollution and destruction of our waters stop. It is absolutely necessary for people to be informed of what effects we are having on our water. A common attitude towards water has always been that there is so much of it that we don t need to worry. Yes, that is true but not only is the water itself important to the world but the life that it houses. Underwater is a strange, and beautiful world that is just waiting to be explored. Whether fear or ambivalence be the reason for such direct disregard for the safety of water, we need to learn and be open to the uniqueness of water and the only way that this is going to happen is by education and exploration. Fortunately, governments and large industries have started to take on the task of educating the public on what is happening to our waters and the ecosystems inside of them and the issues that we face in regard to water. It is both the responsibility of the government and the various industries that directly affect our waters, and the responsibility of the general population to teach and, be taught about the importance of water. An example of how this is occurring right here in Canada are the efforts by the Fisheries and Oceans Canada department to, protect and conserve marine and freshwater habitat, establish fishery management plans, develop conservation and protection policies and implement programs to provide for the sustainable use of Canada s marine resources (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2000). Efforts like these need to be seriously put forth if there is any hope for the survival of not only our oceans but all life on earth.
Water is a beautiful thing that needs to be respected. It is not simply something we can turn a blind eye to. It offers home to millions of outstanding and breathtaking animals and plants that will eventually be destroyed if more action to control the pollution is not taken. As stated before, we need water, it is absolutely essential to the existence of any and all life on the planet. It is what is in a glass, a sink, and a river. A refreshing drink, a cleansing wash, an invigorating swim, a home for plants, insects, fish, birds and mammals. All this depends on the quality of water. Water is the lifeblood of the earth. (Environmental Canada, 1996)