Solutions to water pollution

How to improve water quality?

Water pollution can take various forms. Discover its main causes and effects, but also technological solutions and how you can contribute to solve it.

Turtle swimming by a plastic bag
Water icon
Today we can!

Water pollution is one the main environmental issues that we are facing, as more than 70% of the Earth’s surface is water-covered.

What causes water pollution? What are its effects? And what are the possible solutions to prevent water pollution?

01. Solutions

Water pollution solutions

The Solar Impulse Label is granted to innovative solutions to water pollution that meet high standards of sustainability and profitability.

Each solution goes through a strict assessment process performed by independent experts.

Photo by Rafael Tkremmel on Pixabay
Water pollution

02. Definition

What is water pollution?

Water pollution can be defined as the contamination of a stream, river, lake, ocean or any other stretch of water, depleting water quality and making it toxic for the environment and humans.

There are two types of water pollution:

  • 1. Organic pollution due to microorganisms - bacteria and viruses - present in the water, generated by excrement, animal and vegetable waste
  • 2. Chemical pollution generated by the nitrates and phosphates of pesticides, human and animal drugs, household products, heavy metals, acids and hydrocarbons used in industries

03. Causes

Water pollution causes

What are the sources of water pollution? Unsurprisingly, human activity is primarily responsible for water pollution, even if natural phenomenon - such as landslides and floods - can also contribute to degrade the water quality.

Photo by Erlend Ekseth on Unsplash
Water distribution pipe

Sewage and wastewater

Inadequate sewage collection and treatment are sources of water pollution. According to the United Nations, more than 80% of the worldwide wastewater goes back in the environment without being treated or reused.

Photo by markusspiske on Pixabay

Urbanization and deforestation

Even though it does not have a direct impact on water quality, urbanization and deforestation have a lot of indirect effects. For instance, cutting down trees and concreting over large areas generates an acceleration of flows which does not give enough time for water to infiltrate and be purified by the ground.

Photo by Ehrecke on Pixabay
Tractor ploughing


Agriculture has an impact on water pollution due to the use of chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or insecticides running off in the water, as well as livestock excrement, manure and methane (greenhouse effect). Regarding aquaculture, pollution is directly in the water, as excess food and fertilizers are causing dystrophication.

Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Pexels
Factories’ smokestacks by the sea


Industries produce a lot of waste containing toxic chemicals and pollutants. A huge amount of the industrial waste is drained in the fresh water which then flows into canals, rivers and eventually in the sea. Another source of water pollution is the burning of fossil fuels, causing air pollution like acid rain which then flows to streams, lakes, and other stretches of water.

Photo by CC0 on Canva
Shard of glass on the beach

Marine dumping

Everyday, garbage such as plastic, paper, aluminum, food, glass, or rubber are deposited into the sea. These items take weeks to hundreds of years to decompose, and thus they are a major cause for water pollution.

Photo by NeuPaddy on Pixabay
Toxic waste barrel

Radioactive waste

Generated - among others - by power plants and uranium mining, radioactive waste can linger in the environment for thousands of years. When these substances are released accidentally or disposed improperly, they threaten groundwater, surface water, as well as marine resources.

Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels
Bird’s eye view of water body

04. Effects

Water pollution effects

On the environment

Water pollution truly harms biodiversity and aquatic ecosystems. The toxic chemicals can change the color of water and increase the amount of minerals - also known as eutrophication - which has a bad impact on life in water. Thermal pollution, defined by a rise in the temperature of water bodies, contributes to global warming and causes serious hazard to water organisms.

On human health

Water pollution has very negative effects on public health. A lot of diseases result from drinking or being in contact with contaminated water, such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, dysentery or skin infections. In zones where there is no available drinking water, the main risk is dehydration obviously.

05. Prevention

Water pollution prevention

How to solve water pollution? How can water pollution be prevented? Here’s a list of water pollution solutions:

Wastewater treatment icon

1. Wastewater treatment

Wastewater treatment consists of removing pollutants from wastewater through a physical, chemical or biological process. The more efficient these processes are, the cleaner the water becomes.

Green agriculture icon

2. Green agriculture

Globally, agriculture accounts for 70% of water resources, so it is essential to have climate-friendly crops, efficient irrigation that reduces the need for water and energy-efficient food production. Green agriculture is also crucial to limit the chemicals that enter the water.

Rain gutter icon

3. Stormwater management

Stormwater management is the effort to reduce runoff of rainwater or melted snow into streets, lawns and other sites and the improvement of water quality” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is important to avoid pollutants from contaminating the water and helps to use water more efficiently.

Factory icon

4. Air pollution prevention

Air pollution has a direct impact on water contamination as 25% of human induced CO2 emissions are absorbed by oceans. This pollution causes a rapid acidification of our oceans, and threatens marine life and corals. Preventing air pollution is the best way to prevent this from happening.

Recycling bin icon

5. Plastic waste reduction

80% of plastic in our oceans is from land sources. In order to reduce the amount of plastic entering our ocean, we need to both reduce our use of plastic globally, and to improve plastic waste management.

Water tap icon

6. Water conservation

Without water conservation, we won’t go very far. It is central in making sure the world has better access to clean water. It means being aware that water is a scarce resource, taking care of it accordingly, and managing it responsibly.

Solar Impulse plane - vertical forest

A challenge, #1000 Solutionsto change the world

Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label

A label focused on both the environment and profitability.

For the first time a label proves the economic profitability of solutions that protect the environment. The Solar Impulse Foundation is selecting 1,000 solutions that protect the environment in a profitable way and awarding them the Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions Label.

Collaborating with independent experts and with renowned institutions, the World Alliance proposes to evaluate its members solutions free of charge. The Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label will offer a competitive edge to innovators and a guarantee of quality to solution seekers.

Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label

A label focused on both the environment and profitability.