Water is the scarcest natural resource in the world and sought by all living and nonliving things, and natural processes. People cannot live without water as it is a vital component in our lives. Pollution of water sources is the leading cause of reduced available water for use by humans and animals. Water pollution is mostly caused by human being activities, which include mining, factory waste disposal, sewage disposal, as well as deliberate polluting water to cause specific harm to people who use it. This paper will delve into water pollution and the scarcity of drinking water and what causes pollution. Moreover, it will look at deliberate ways done to pollute water and health effect caused. Finally, the paper will discuss methods of advocating for safe and clean water.
Water pollution is a global problem that affects all classes of people in the world. Contaminated water is very costly to clean or even to remove pollutants. According to the UN, over 80% of global wastewater goes untreated; the untreated water contains all kinds of contaminants ranging from human waste, factory toxic effluent (2019). Contaminated water poses a health risk to both terrestrial and water organisms. However, humans are the most affected when it comes to water scarcity since most of our life revolves around water. Causes of water pollution have been increasing day by day, from traditional mining and factory effluents to modern emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals, plastic pollution, and agricultural chemical washed into water bodies. Moreover, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, almost half of new water bodies are contaminated and unfit to go fishing and drinking (UN,2019).
Categories of Water Pollution
Water stored undergrounds serve as the future backup when people fish surface freshwater; hence, it is essential natural resources to be preserved. In America, nearly 40% of citizens rely on groundwater for drinking ( NRDC,2018). Groundwater pollution happens when pollutants from pesticides and fertilizers, as well as waste from landfills, infiltrate into aquifers, making it unsafe for drinking (NRDC, 2018). Polluted aquifers may be unusable for decades or forever since get rid of pollutants is very difficult and costly.
70% of the earth is covered by water from oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. About 60% of Americans rely on freshwater in their homes, but as signs of that are hazardous (NRDC, 2018). Pollutants from farm chemicals and fertilizers are the leading causes of freshwater pollution. Besides, sewerage and industrial waste discharge causes water pollution by disposing toxics that can impact health negatively.
Oceans are also increasingly being polluted by various contaminants that originate from the land, which includes chemicals, nutrients, and heavy metals from farms, industries, and sewerage systems. Furthermore, common contaminants like plastic are finding their way to oceans as well as oil spills and leaks. Oceans are also consistently absorbing human-induced carbon pollution, whereby it is estimated they consume significant human carbon emissions.
Point and Nonpoint Source
A point source is when contamination originates from a single source either by wastewater discharged legally or illegally by my factories, oil refinery, leaking sewers, or chemical and oil spills (NRDC, 2018). The nonpoint source is when the pollutants diffuse its water bodies either from farms, runway water wind-blown debris. A nonpoint source is the primary cause of unsafe water in the US. However, EPA has never identified any culprit responsible for this type of pollution since it is challenging to regulate.
Types of Water Pollution
In the world, farming is the leading water polluter and degradation through fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste. Moreover, US agriculture contributes to the pollution of freshwater ecosystems such as rivers and wetlands as well as groundwater.
Sewerage and Wastewater
Wastewater from homes, industries, commercial and agricultural activities, as well as rain runoffs, which carry debris all end up in rivers and lakes. According to NRDC, over 80% of wastewater ends up untreated, and in developed nations, it maybe 95 % (2018). However, in America, national sewage systems release over 850 billion gallons of water, where only 34 billion gallons are cleaned by recycling facilities daily, hence reducing the number of pollutants like pathogens, phosphorus, nitrogen, and heavy metals such as lead( NRDC, 2018). Therefore, it is important to set measures that regulate sewerage and wastewaters systems to avoid directing them to water bodies.
Oil does not only pollute seas where it is typically reported, but also it finds its way in freshwater bodies from drips millions of cars and carried to by rain runoffs and stormwaters. Moreover, effluents from factories find their ways into the water.
Radioactive materials generated from mining sites, factories, nuclear plants, military weapon test bases as well as hospitals and learning institutions. Radioactive materials do not decay and can persist for thousands of years in the environment, making its disposal a challenge.
Case Study: Flint Lead Water Crisis
Flint city case is an environmental injustice coupled with bad decision making made by Governor Sydney's appointee to switch cities drinking water from the Detroit system to Flint River in 2014. Flint River, for over a century the it has served as an official waste disposal site for treated and untreated wastewater from local factories (Ranganathan,2016). Moreover, raw city sewerage has been directed to the river as well as agricultural and urban runoff flows.
Failure to treat the river flint dirty water coupled with old lead pipes started to affect the local people immediately. Despite numerous complaints to the officials, there was no action made, and in return, officials said the water is safe to clean. Most of the lead found in the drinking water was from old pipes and untreated water, which has been reported to be corrosive. After the complains persisted, a study was conducted that revealed lead levels were high than the federal action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb): they were 17 pbb( NRDC, 2018). Although EPA insists there is no healthy amount of lead in water, the government has placed action levels to be at 15 pbb (NRDC, 2018). Flint city children tested to have elevated levels of lead in their blood, which, according to doctors, is suicidal. Moreover, severe pneumonia was also reported after this incidence, and it is the third highest outbreak to be recorded in the US and also detection of fecal coliform bacteria in the water.
Flint residents went to court and to force the federal, city, and the state to address their complaints. Residents were joined by other groups; petitioned Environmental Protection Agency (EPC) to launch an immediate emergency federal response to the disaster, but the EPC did not act. After several court battles, the residents won after a federal judge ruled in their favor where the door to door delivery of bottled water was initiated. Moreover, the city was ordered to replace old lead pipes with new ones and comprehensive water testing as well as installing faucet filters.
In addition, the Michigan state formed a commission to investigate if any laws were violated and also propose charges if found possible. The report of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission was to listen to various racial injustices directed to African Americans, which included assisting locals with vital information about lead contamination (MCRC, 2019). It also helped to organize town halls where local aired their complaints as well as problems related to lead poisoning and dealing with crisis comprehensively.
From this case study, it is evident that water pollution is the leading cause of the shortage of drinking water hence causing water crisis. Flint city residents were forced to drink contaminated water from the river as a result of the wrong decision made by the authority. Flint River, which has been used as a disposal site, turned corrosive over time hence making the water unsafe. Moreover, lead in water is very dangerous because its readiness to melt and flexible can impair the brain development of a fetus.
Water is an essential resource that needs to be kept safe. Water polluting can lead to a water crisis since it reduces water available for use. The scarcity of drinking water in the world is significantly caused by water pollution. Pollutants can be from farms, factories, or from mining sites which diffuse or released into the water by either accident or deliberate. From the flint case study, it is essential to keep drinking safe as polluting it can cause dangerous and adverse health effects. This case study has clearly shown that water pollution can cause a wide range of problems ranging from health to lack of no clean water for both humans and animals. Flint residents will continue to feel the impact of lead in the water for several generations. Cleaning polluted water or dealing with adverse effects is a very costly process in terms of money and time. Moreover, water pollution affects the general wellbeing of the society as it affects the workforce's health and the environment they live in. however, pollution can be caused by other natural factors such earthquakes in oceans which releases ashes that contain dangerous chemicals. Moreover, water crisis can be caused by global warming through increased droughts or precipitations. Drought reduces the amount of water available for use resulting to water straining. Increase in precipitations can lead to floods which carries debris and other contaminants to fresh water bodies.
MCRC. (2019). Retrieved 26 November 2019, from https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdcr/Flint_Water_Update_620973_7.pdf
NRDC. (2018). Water Pollution: Everything You Need to Know. Retrieved 26 November 2019, from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/water-pollution-everything-you-need-know
Ranganathan, M. (2016). Thinking with Flint: Racial Liberalism and the Roots of an American Water Tragedy. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 27(3), 17-33. doi: 10.1080/10455752.2016.1206583
UN. (2019). Tackling global water pollution. Retrieved 26 November 2019, from https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/water/what-we-do/tackling-global-water-pollution
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