Water Pollution Essay, Research Paper
We tend to think of water in terms of a particular purpose: is the quality of the water good enough for the use we want to make of it? Water is fit for our own use but may be unfit for another?s. We may, for instance, trust the quality of lake water enough to swim in it, but not enough to drink it. Along the same lines, drinking water can be used for irrigation, but water used for irrigation may not meet drinking water standards. It is the quality of the water, which determines its uses.
The sources of water pollution
There are many causes for water pollution but two general categories exist: direct and indirect contaminant sources.
Direct sources include sewage outfalls from factories, refineries, waste treatment plants etc. that emit fluids of varying quality directly into urban water supplies. In the United States and other countries, these practices are regulated, although this doesn’t mean that pollutants can’t be found in these waters.
Indirect sources include contaminants that enter the water supply from soils/groundwater systems and from the atmosphere by means of rainwater. Soils and ground waters contain the remains of human agricultural practices (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) and improperly disposed of industrial wastes. Atmospheric contaminants are also resulting from human practices (such as gaseous emissions from automobiles, factories and even bakeries.
Contaminants can be broadly classified into organic, inorganic, radioactive and acid/base. Examples from each class and their potential sources are too numerous to discuss in great detail in this paper.
The effects of water pollution
The effects of water pollution are varied. They include poisonous drinking water, poisonous food animals (due to these organisms having bioaccumulated toxins from the environment over their life spans), unbalanced river and lake ecosystems that can no longer support full biological diversity, deforestation from acid rain, and many other effects. These effects are, of course, specific to the various contaminants.
Example of Water Pollution
The oil spill near the town of Usinsk in Northern Russia (Komi republic) is one of the most serious environmental disasters of the decade. The pipeline just south of the Arctic Circle had been leaking since February 1994 but the oil was contained within a dike built for this purpose. On October 1st, the dike collapsed because of cold and snow. Following the collapse, around 102,000 tones of oil began to pour onto the Siberian tundra. The spill reached the Kolva River, a tributary of the Pechora River, which falls into the Barents Sea. Life within the rivers as well as the fragile environment of the Artic have been endangered by this oil spill. Experts estimate the spill to be eight times greater than the Exxon Valdez oil spill. This example is only one kind of pollution that we as humans cause to the environment.
What are the ways we can take to decrease the problems?
Science provides many practical solutions to minimizing the present level at which pollutants are introduced into the environment and for cleaning up past problems. All of these solutions come with some cost both societal and monetary. In our everyday lives, a great deal can be done to minimize pollution if we take care to recycle materials whose production creates pollution and if we act responsibly with household chemicals and their disposal. Additionally, there are choices we make each day that also can affect the quantity of pollutants our actions will introduce into the environment. Heavily packaged foods, for instance, contain boxes, cartons, bottles etc. made with polluting dyes, many of which are released from groundwater at municipal landfills. Whether we choose to drive to the corner store rather than walk or ride a bicycle will determine how much we personally contribute to acid and hydrocarbon emissions to the atmosphere (and ultimately to global fresh water supplies).
Effects on the Wildlife
Most toxic chemicals are discharged directly into our waterways as waste, but many also enter the water after everyday use in the home, agriculture and industry. They constantly change the chemical composition of our waters. One-way is seepage: the chemicals soak through the earth into the groundwater from waste disposal sites and agricultural lands, for example. Another way is runoff: the chemicals are washed into bodies of water from the land where they were used or spilled, or from the air into which they were emitted.
The chemicals can cause problems with the taste, odor and color in water. Fish and wildlife can experience reduced fertility, generic deformities, immune system damage, increased incidence of tumors, and death.
Many of the chemicals that enter the water are, even in minute amounts, toxic to human, plant and animal life. Pesticides, PCBs, and PCPs (polychlorinated phenols) are typical examples. Pesticides are used in agriculture, forestry and homes. PCBs although no longer used in new installations, are still found as insulators in older electrical transformers, and PCPs can be found in wood preservatives. The very qualities, which make them desirable for use ? toxicity and persistence, for instance ? make them so harmful to the environment.
In the end, there are many choices on the personal and societal level that we must make that affect the amount of pollution our town or country will be forced to live with. Our standard of living and very way of life is based upon practices that are naturally more drastic than those of our distant ancestors, although they too polluted their environment to some extent. Without taking a step backward in terms of our standards of living, the answer seems to lie in a combination of many small changes in our daily practices and paying more for goods and services, so that manufacturers of various materials and drivers of automobiles (for instance) will have cleaner devices with which to carry out their actions.
I have learned a lot about water pollution and how we can change the effects just through little things that we do in our everyday lives, from writing this paper. I think people need to be educated earlier and in more depth so that they realize the significance of taking care of the water in the their environment.
1. Geology & Geophysics Dept.’s Ask-An-Earth-Scientist ? web page at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. http://www.gdrc.org/water/water-pollution.html
2. Russia Oil Spill, http://www.american.edu/td/komi.htm
3. Water Resources, http://www.dnr.state.mo.us/dgls/wrp/wrphp.htm
4. Causes and Effects of Water Pollutionhttp: //biology.wsc.mass.edu/biology/students/cyberspace/1998/degrenier.htm
5. Water pollution-Canada, http://www.ec.gc.ca/water/en/manage/poll/elegacy.htm