Water Pollution. Causes, Impact and Prevention

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2022

15 Pages, Grade: A



Rajni Garg

Department of Chemistry, GCET, India

Abstract: One issue that contributes to the poisoning of water sources is the simplicity with which toxic substances from cities, towns, and factories may dissolve and combine with water. Injurious substances, most frequently chemicals or microbes, can pollute a stream, river, lake, ocean, aquifer, or other body of water. As a result, both humans and the ecosystem are harmed by the declining quality of the water. It is presently illegal for industrial and agricultural enterprises to dump pollutants into bodies of water like lakes, streams, and rivers due to the rules in place in many countries. Treatment facilities ensure that the water we drink is free of any dangerous toxins in the interim. This paper is primarily focused on the creation of a wide range of novel anti-pollution and environmental remediation techniques along with introducing the issue of water pollution.

1. Introduction

The effects of pollution are especially hard on the environment's water supply. Due to the fact that it is capable of dissolving more materials than any other liquid on the planet, water is often referred to as a "universal solvent." In addition to this, it is also the reason why water can become polluted so quickly. The ease with which poisonous compounds from cities, towns, and factories may dissolve and mix with water is one aspect that leads to the contamination of water supplies. A stream, river, lake, ocean, aquifer, or other body of water can become contaminated with harmful substances, the most common of which are chemicals or microorganisms. This causes the water's quality to decline, and as a result, it becomes harmful to both people and the environment. This is what's known as "pollution of the water." There is a wide variety of pollution that makes its way into the waterways of our planet, including the lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater, and ultimately the oceans. There are many different types of pollutants, ranging from visible chemicals to large pieces of trash. Water pollution, drought, inefficiency, and an ever-increasing population have all contributed to a freshwater crisis, which has put the sources on which we rely for drinking water and meeting other essential requirements in jeopardy 1. This crisis has put our ability to meet essential requirements in jeopardy as well. This crisis has put a strain on our ability to meet essential requirements. The widespread issue of polluted water is having a negative impact on our health and is directly responsible for this situation 2. More people are killed due to contaminated water each year than are killed in all wars and other forms of violent conflict combined. In the meantime, our sources of potable water that are available are limited: We have access to a relatively insignificant amount of the world's freshwater resources (less than one percent) 3. If nothing is done to fix the issues, they are only going to get worse by the year 2050, when it is anticipated that the global demand for freshwater will be one-third higher than it is right now 4.

Recent research has shown that one particular pollutant is present in our drinking water at a significantly higher level than was previously believed: "Poly and perfluoroalkyl substances" is what "PFAS" stands for in its abbreviated form 5. Some of these chemicals are referred to as "forever chemicals" because their half-lives are so much longer than the others. The production of everyday items that are resistant to moisture, heat, and stains often involves the use of PFAS as an ingredient 6.

Even though water makes up nearly 70 percent of the earth's surface, only about 2 percent and a half of a percent of that water is considered to be fresh water 7. This highlights how important it is to maintain the integrity of our water supplies. In addition, the majority of the world's freshwater is locked away in inaccessible glaciers and snowfields, meaning that only 1% of the world's freshwater is readily available 8.

2. Categories of pollutants

When rain falls to the ground and seeps deep into the earth, groundwater is formed. Groundwater fills the cracks, crevices, and porous spaces of an aquifer (basically an underground reservoir of water). Although it is not easily accessible, groundwater is one of the natural resources that is considered to be of the utmost significance 9. Groundwater that has been pumped to the surface of the earth provides drinking water to just under forty percent of the world's population. It is the only source of drinkable water for some people who live in more rural areas, making it their only option 10. It is possible for contaminants such as pesticides, fertilisers, and waste that has leached from landfills and septic systems to make their way into an aquifer, thereby contaminating the groundwater and making it unfit for consumption by humans 11. Contaminants in groundwater can be difficult, if not impossible, to remove completely, and doing so can be very expensive. Once an aquifer has been tainted with contamination, it is possible that it will be unusable for many decades, if not for thousands of years. Because groundwater can seep into streams, lakes, and oceans, it has the potential to carry contamination a significant distance from the original point of pollution 12.

The oceans, lakes, and rivers that make up the rest of the blue areas on a map of the world are considered to be part of the surface water system. Surface water accounts for approximately 70% of the total water volume on Earth 13. More than sixty percent of the water that is delivered to homes around the world comes from freshwater sources on the surface of the land. This indicates that the ocean is not the source of the vast majority of the water that makes up this body. Having said that, a sizeable portion of that water supply is currently in jeopardy 14. More than one third of our lakes and nearly half of our rivers and streams are polluted to the point where they cannot be used for swimming, fishing, or drinking, according to the most recent national water quality surveys conducted by the World Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 15. The presence of nitrates and phosphates is the root cause of the most prevalent form of pollution that can be found in these freshwater sources; this type of pollution is known as nutrient pollution. These nutrients are essential for the development of both plants and animals; however, due to the runoff of agricultural waste and fertiliser, they have become a major contributor to environmental pollution 16. Toxins are also added to the environment through the discharge of municipal and industrial waste. This contributes a significant amount. In addition to this, there is the random garbage that both businesses and individuals throw directly into waterways 17.

Eighty percent of ocean pollution, also known as marine pollution, is caused by activities that take place on land, regardless of whether or not these activities take place in close proximity to the coast or in the interior of the country 18. Pollutants such as chemicals, nutrients, and heavy metals are transported by streams and rivers from farms, factories, and cities to our bays and estuaries, where they continue their journey to the open ocean. In the meantime, debris from the ocean, particularly plastic, is being brought ashore by the wind or washed ashore and deposited in storm drains and sewer systems 19. In addition, the contamination of our oceans can occur as a result of both large and small oil spills and leaks, and our oceans also continually take in the carbon pollution that is present in the atmosphere. At least one-quarter of all carbon emissions caused by human activity is taken up by the ocean 20.

Single point of origin

The contamination that comes from a single origin is referred to as "point source pollution," and it is described using this term. Water, also known as effluent, that is discharged legally or illegally by a manufacturer, oil refinery, or wastewater treatment facility, for example, is an example 21. Other examples include contamination from leaking septic systems, spills of chemical and oil, and illegal dumping. Two additional contributors to pollution are things like illegal dumping and chemical spills 22. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in charge of regulating point sources of pollution. One way in which they do this is by placing restrictions on the kinds of substances that can be discharged directly from a facility into a body of water. Even though pollution from a point source comes from one specific location, it can still have a widespread effect on waterways and the ocean as a whole 23.

Diffused origin

The contamination that comes from diffuse sources is also known as pollution that comes from nonpoint sources. The runoff from farms and storm drains, as well as debris from land that has been blown into waterways, are both examples of this type of pollution 24. Nonpoint source pollution is the most significant contributor to water contamination in the oceans of the world; however, it is notoriously difficult to control because there is no one specific agent to blame for the problem 25.


It ought to go without saying that a map line can't be used to stop the spread of water pollution, but just in case: The introduction of polluted water from one nation's water systems into the water systems of another nation is the root cause of the phenomenon known as transboundary pollution 26. It is possible for water to become contaminated either abruptly, as in the case of an oil spill, or gradually, as the result of the discharge of contaminated water from factories, farms, or municipalities 27. A natural disaster, such as an oil spill, is one example of the former.

The agricultural sector is not only the largest consumer of freshwater resources (farming and livestock production consume approximately 70% of the world's surface water supplies), but it is also one of the primary contributors to water pollution in the world's oceans and freshwater bodies 28. This is due to the fact that agriculture uses a significant amount of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, both of which are known to be carcinogenic. Agriculture is the primary factor responsible for the deterioration of water quality in each and every region of the world. The pollution that is caused by agriculture is the primary cause of contamination in rivers and streams all over the world 29. Agricultural pollution is also the second-largest cause of contamination in wetlands and the third-largest cause of contamination in lakes. In addition to this, it is a significant contributor to the contamination of groundwater as well as estuaries 30. Fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste from farms and livestock operations are washed into our waterways with every rainfall, along with nutrients and pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. These contaminants come from the runoff of the rain 31. Examples of pathogens include bacterial and viral infections. Nutrient pollution, which can be caused by an excessive amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in water or air, is the most significant risk factor for the quality of water all over the world 32. As a direct result of nutrient pollution, algal blooms are toxic soups of blue-green algae that can be hazardous to the health of both humans and other forms of wildlife 33.

Wastewater is used water. It is created not only by the use of our bathtubs, sinks, and showers (also known as sewage), but also by the operations of commercial, industrial, and agricultural institutions 34. Showers, sinks, and showers are the most common sources of its production (think metals, solvents, and toxic sludge). In addition, this phrase refers to stormwater runoff, which takes place when precipitation carries pollutants such as trash, road salts, oil, grease, and chemicals from impermeable surfaces into our rivers 35. These contaminants include: In regions where there is a significant amount of impervious surface, this may provide an issue.

More than eighty percent of the world's wastewater, as reported by the United Nations, is discharged directly into the natural environment without first being treated or recycled. In some of the poorest nations in the world, this number can be as high as 95% of the population 36. Every single day, wastewater treatment plants throughout the world treat around 34 billion gallons worth of sewage and other types of waste water. These facilities reduce the amount of pollutants that are present in the sewage, such as pathogens, phosphorus, and nitrogen, as well as the amount of heavy metals and toxic chemicals that are present in the industrial waste, before releasing the treated waters back into the waterways 37. This is done before the facilities release the treated waters back into the waterways. When this occurs, there are no problems with the operation of any of the systems. On the other hand, according to estimates provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the ageing and easily overwhelmed sewage treatment systems located throughout the United States are responsible for the discharge of more than 850 billion gallons of untreated wastewater each and every year 38.

The most of the oil pollution that happens in our seas is caused by consumers, who are accountable for the great majority of it. This consists of the oil and gasoline that leaks out of millions of automobiles every single day 39. Large spills are frequently the focus of greater attention; yet, they are not the major driver of the problem. In addition, land-based sources such as industries, farms, and towns are responsible for approximately half of the estimated one million tonnes of oil that is discharged into marine habitats every single year. This number is derived from estimates 40. This suggests that tanker spills are a relatively little component of the larger problem. The normal operations of the maritime industry, which include discharges that are both legal and illegal, are responsible for roughly one-third of the oil that can be found in the oceans of the world. This figure includes both accidental and intentional oil spills. It is believed that tanker ships are responsible for the release of around 10% of all oil that may be discovered in the ocean 41. On the ocean floor, cracks may be found, and these fissures allow oil to naturally escape from beneath the seafloor. Fractures can also be seen on the seabed. Seeps are the common name for these fractures.

Any form of pollution that emits radiation at a rate that is higher than that which is produced by nature on its own is referred to as radioactive waste. Mining for uranium, running nuclear power plants, the manufacturing and testing of weapons for the military, and the use of radioactive materials in academic institutions and medical facilities for research and treatment are all examples of activities that contribute to its production 42. The correct disposal of radioactive waste can be a challenging task due to the fact that it can remain in the environment for thousands or even millions of years after it has been released. Take for example the defunct nuclear weapons production facility that was located in Hanford, Washington 43. It is anticipated that getting rid of radioactive waste containing 56 million gallons will take until 2060, cost more than one hundred billion dollars, and require that much time. The quality of groundwater, surface water, and marine resources is put in jeopardy whenever contaminants are not properly disposed of or are accidentally released into the environment 44.

3. Impacts of water pollution

There are many different kinds of actions that can lead to polluting the water. It is possible for pollution to enter the water supply directly in a number of ways, including when factories discharge waste, which may or may not be legal, and when water treatment plants fail to operate as intended 45. Accidents that involve oil pipelines or hydraulic fracturing operations, also known as "fracking," can have a negative impact on the quality of the water. Debris can be carried into waterways by a variety of factors, including wind, storms, littering, and particularly the improper disposal of plastic waste 46.

Nonpoint source pollution, which occurs when pollutants are carried across or through the ground by rain or melting snow, has surpassed "point source pollution" as the leading cause of issues with the quality of the water throughout the world. This is due to the fact that nonpoint source pollution takes place when contaminants are transported over or through the ground by precipitation or melting snow 47. The prolonged campaign of regulatory and judicial action launched against big polluters over the course of several decades is primarily responsible for this result. This kind of runoff has the potential to be contaminated with a wide variety of pollutants, such as fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides that come from farms and homes; oil and toxic chemicals that come from roads and industries; sediment; bacteria that come from livestock; waste from pets; and so on 48.

Pollution of drinking water can happen in the pipes themselves if the water is not adequately treated, as was the case with the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, and in other places. This was also the situation with the lead pollution in the various other places 49. Arsenic is another another type of contamination that has the potential to be present in drinking water. It may be found in its natural condition, as well as in the waste products of a variety of different industrial operations. Moreover, it can be found in its natural state 50.

Polluted water can either directly bring on illness or function as a toxin in the body. It is possible for pathogens such as bacteria and parasites to be introduced into drinking water supplies through sewage that has not been adequately treated, which can lead to digestive issues such as cholera and diarrhoea. Acute toxicity, which can result in death, or chronic toxicity, which can lead to neurological issues or cancers, can be caused by hazardous chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides that are used in industries, farms, homes, and golf courses 50. Both types of toxicity can be caused by the use of these substances. When we drink water or use it to prepare food, we allow a lot of the contaminants that are found in the water to enter our bodies. The digestive system is the portal through which toxins are absorbed by the body 51. They are then capable of migrating to other organs in the body, where they can cause a wide variety of diseases. When chemicals come into contact with the skin, it can irritate the skin. This can also happen when doing activities such as washing clothes in polluted water or swimming in water that has been polluted. It is possible for potentially hazardous chemicals to have an effect on the organisms and plants that make their homes in water systems 52. These organisms can sometimes make it through their lives with the chemicals still present in their systems, only to be consumed by humans, who then run the risk of becoming mildly ill or developing more severe toxic symptoms. Sometimes, the organisms will die if the chemicals are found in their bodies because it is fatal for them to be exposed to them. It is possible that the plants and animals will perish or be unable to reproduce normally as a result of this 53. Water pollution can have a negative impact on human health, lead to the poisoning of wildlife, and cause long-term damage to ecosystems. When runoff from agricultural and industrial activities floods waterways with excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, the excess nutrients frequently fuel algae blooms, which then create dead zones, also known as low-oxygen areas, in which fish and other aquatic life are unable to thrive 54.

It is possible for algal blooms to have a detrimental effect, not only on human health, but also on the economy. These blooms are known to cause rashes and other skin conditions, and their unpleasant appearance as well as their odour have the potential to lower tourism revenue at popular lake destinations. Nitrate levels in water that are excessively high as a consequence of nutrient pollution can be especially hazardous to the health of young children 55. This is due to the fact that it hinders the ability of the infant to transport oxygen to the tissues of the body, which can lead to a condition known as "blue baby syndrome." An estimated three-eighths of the water bodies in the European Union are impacted by agricultural pollution, as stated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 56.


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Water Pollution. Causes, Impact and Prevention
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water, pollution, environment, causes, solution
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Dr. Rajni Garg (Author), 2022, Water Pollution. Causes, Impact and Prevention, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1309155


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