Water pollution is an important issue effecting man parts of the world, some places a lot more often than others. Polluted water can cause a variety of health and environmental problems, starting from stomach pains and upsets to as much as even death and destruction of natural eco-systems. Polluted water is any water source that is contaminated with hazardous materials or agents, water pollution can arise in large natural water bodies such as lakes, rivers and even the sea, groundwater aquifers and reservoirs, in small water environments, in general or domestic water supply systems etc.
In general, most water pollution globally is due to some sort of human activity, it can be a direct polluting activity or something indirect that eventually reaches the water. Water pollution can be in drinking water, treated wastewater that is used again for a specific purpose or disposed if back to nature, industrial wastewater that penetrates water supply, toxic materials entering the water etc.
How to identify water pollution
In public potable water supply systems, the water company or governmental supplier will detect the pollution and notify residents. In developing countries one must test the water before drinking it and the same is recommended for any water source that there is a doubt regarding its safety. In severe cases of water pollution it’s clear from the start that there’s a problem, the water will smell bad, they will be cloudy or murky or greasy, the taste will be bad and/or it will have particles in it.
The best and most common ways to test water pollution levels is either sending samples to a lab to scan for chemicals, biological, non-biological and other contaminants or using chemical indicators that tell in an easy and fast way if the water contains certain contaminants. If we are talking about a water source in the wild, we can examine the wildlife and plants around it to look for any sign of water pollution.
Drinking water pollution
This is by far the most dangerous type of water pollution. Drinking polluted water poses serious health risks and it is also the quickest way for someone to be contaminated if consuming polluted water. In many parts of the world high levels of water pollution prevent access to safe water and cause numerous death or illness cases annually.
Origins of water pollution
Water pollution can be a point source pollution where the contamination came from one clear place or source or it can be a non-point source pollution where the contamination source is unknown or from multiple places/sources. The overall origins of most cases of water pollution are:
- Untreated wastewater or improperly treated wastewater.
- Biological contaminants in the water source or supply system.
- Industrial waste and wastewater.
- Deliberate water pollution by chemical, physical or biological agents.
Common types of water contaminants
- Pathogens: Bacteria, viruses, micro-organisms, viruses, parasite worms and more.
- Chemicals and others: These can be organic or inorganic contaminants
Organic chemicals: detergents, food processing waste, disinfection chemicals, herbicides, pesticide, insecticide, petroleum products, plant debris, and industrial solvents; Inorganic: Acidity forming pollutants, Ammonia, Chemical products and waste, fertilizers and heavy metals.
- Large contaminants that cause water pollution, such as plastic, glass, paper, hygiene products etc.