Water pollution can take various forms. Discover its main causes and effects, but also technological solutions and how you can contribute to solve it.
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?
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Each solution goes through a strict assessment process performed by independent experts.
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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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to solve water pollution? How can water pollution be prevented? Here’s a list of water pollution solutions:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A label focused on both the environment and profitability.