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Water Pollution and How it Harms the Environment

Global pollution is a problem. Pollution can spread to remote areas where no one lives, despite the fact that urban areas are typically more polluted than the countryside. Air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution are the three main categories of pollution. Some contaminated water has a terrible smell, a muddy appearance, and floating trash. Some contaminated water appears clean, but it contains dangerous substances that you can't see or smell.

Together, developed and developing nations must fight to conserve the environment for present and future generations. Today, we dig deep into the subject of Water Pollution. This article can be an introduction to water pollution for kids as we will read many things such as the causes of water pollution further in the article.

What is Water Pollution?

Water contamination occurs when pollutants pollute water sources and make the water unfit for use in drinking, cooking, cleaning, swimming, and other activities. Chemicals, garbage, bacteria, and parasites are examples of pollutants. Water is eventually damaged by all types of pollution. Lakes and oceans become contaminated by air pollution. Land contamination may contaminate an underground stream, a river, and ultimately the ocean. As a result, trash thrown on an empty lot can eventually contaminate a water source.

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Water Pollution

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The water cycle, called  the hydrological cycle, involves the following steps:

Evaporation- Because of the sun's heat, the water bodies such as oceans, lakes, seas etc., get heated up, and water evaporates in the air, forming water vapours.

Transpiration- Like evaporation, the plants and trees also lose water from them which goes to the atmosphere. This process is called transpiration.

Condensation- As the water evaporates, it starts to become cool because of the cold atmosphere in the air and because of this cooling down of water leads to the formation of clouds.

Precipitation- Because of the high movements of the wings, the clouds start to collide and then fall back to the earth’s surface in the form of rain. Sometimes they also fall back in the form of snow, hail, sleet etc., depending upon the temperature.

Runoff or Infiltration- After precipitation, the water either flows to the water bodies called runoff or is absorbed into the soil, called infiltration.

Causes of Water Pollution

There are many reasons for water pollution. Some of the reasons are directly affected by water pollution and some indirectly. Many factories and industries are dumping contaminated water, chemicals, and heavy metals into major waterways as a result of direct water pollution. 

One more reason for water pollution is the use of modern techniques in farms. Farmers apply nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium in the form of chemical fertilizers, manure, and sludge. It causes farms to discharge large quantities of agrochemicals, organic matter, and saline drainage into water bodies. It indirectly affects water pollution.

Pollutants can be of various types such as organic, inorganic, radioactive etc. Water pollutants are discharged either from one point from pipes, channels etc., which are called point sources or from various other sources. They can be agricultural areas, industries etc., called dispersed sources. 

Some of the major forms of water pollutants are as follows:

Sewage- Domestic sewage from homes contains various forms of pathogens that threaten the human body. Sewage treatment reduces the risk of pathogens, but this risk is not eliminated. 

Domestic sewage majorly contains nitrates and phosphates, and excess of these substances allows the algae to grow on the surface of water bodies. Due to this, the clean water bodies become nutrient-rich water body and then slowly, the oxygen level of water bodies reduces. This is called eutrophication or cultural eutrophication (if this step rapidly takes place by the activities of humans). This leads to the early death of water bodies.

Toxins- The industrial or factory wastes that are not disposed of properly and contain chemicals such as mercury and lead are disposed of in the water bodies making the bodies toxic, radioactive, explosive and cancerous.

Sediments- Sediments are the result of soil erosion that is formed in the water bodies. These sediments imbalances the water bodies ecologically. They also interfere in the reproductive cycle of various aquatic animals living in the water.

Thermal pollution- Water bodies get polluted because of heat, and excess heat reduces the oxygen level of the water bodies. Some of the species of fish cannot live in such water bodies with very low oxygen levels. The disposal of cold waters from the power plants leads to increased thermal pollution in the water bodies.

Petroleum oil pollution- The runoff of oil into the water bodies, either accidentally as happened in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, or intentionally, leads to an increase in water pollution.

As water is an important element of human health, polluted water directly affects the human body. Water pollution causes various diseases like typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, cancer, etc. Water pollution damages the plants and aquatic animals present in the river by reducing the oxygen content from the water. Polluted water washes the essential nutrients which plants need out of the soil and also leaves large amounts of aluminium in the soil, which can be harmful to plants. 

Wastewater and sewage are a by-product of daily life and thus produced by each household through various activities like using soap, toilets, and detergents. Such sewage contains chemicals and bacteria which are harmful to human life and environmental health. Water pollution also leads to an imbalance in our ecosystem. Lastly, it also affects the food chain as the toxins in the water bodies are consumed by aquatic animals like fish, crabs etc., and then humans consume those animals forming turmoil. 

Sometimes our tradition also becomes a cause for water pollution. Some people throw the statues of deities, flowers, pots, and ashes in rivers.

There are various standards to define water quality standards. Water meant for swimming may not be clean enough for drinking, or water meant for bathing may not be good for cooking. Therefore, there are different water standards for defined:

Stream standards- Standards that define streams, lakes, oceans or seas based on their maximum use.

Effluent standards- Define the specific standards for the level of contaminants or effluents allowed during the final discharge of those into the water bodies.

Drinking water standards- Define the level of contamination allowed in water that will be supplied for drinking or cooking in the domestic areas.

Different countries regulate their water quality standards through different acts and amendments.

While many of the solutions for water pollution need to be applied on a broader macro-level for that individual, companies, and communities can have a significant and responsible impact on the water quality. Companies, factories have to dispose of leftover chemicals and containers properly as per the product instructions. Farmers also have to reduce the use of nitrates and phosphates from fertilizers, pesticides, and contamination of groundwater. 

The Swachh Bharat Mission of the government had led to reduced groundwater contamination. Under the Namami Ganga program, the government has initiated several major projects to clean Ganga. Along with all these steps, conservation of water is the very basic and important step towards water conservation and should be followed globally, treatment of sewage before their disposal in the water bodies and using environment-friendly products that do not form toxins when dissolved in water. These are some small steps that have to be taken into consideration by every human being.

As we all know, “Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.” We have to save water. We must keep the water clean. If everyone will follow their responsibility against water to protect it from getting polluted then it will be easy to get clean and healthy drinking water. Clean water is a must for us and our kids' present, future, and healthy environment. 

We cannot just live with contaminated waters filled with toxins and no oxygen. We cannot see our wildlife being destroyed and therefore, immediate steps have to be taken by groups of people to first clean the already contaminated water bodies and then keep a check on all the surrounding water bodies. Small steps by every individual can make a huge difference in controlling water pollution.

Water Pollution Prevention

Conserve Water 

Our first priority should be to conserve water. Water wasting could be a big problem for the entire world, but we are just now becoming aware of it.

Sewage Treatment 

Cleaning up waste materials before disposing of them in waterways reduces pollution on a large scale. By lowering its dangerous elements, this wastewater will be used in other sectors or in agriculture.

Usage of Eco-Friendly Materials

We will reduce the amount of pollution produced by choosing soluble products that do not alter to become pollutants.

Water contamination is the discharge of pollutants into the water body, where they dissolve, are suspended, are deposited on the bottom, and collect to the point where they hinder the aquatic ecosystem's ability to function. Water contamination is brought on by toxic compounds that easily dissolve and combine with it and come from factories, municipalities, and farms.

Healthy ecosystems depend on a complex network of organisms, including animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi, all of which interact with one another either directly or indirectly. In this article, we read about water pollution, its causes and prevention. With this, we have come to the end of our article, in case of any other doubts, feel free to ask in the comments.


FAQs on Water Pollution Essay

1. What are the effects of water pollution?

Water pollution has a great impact on human health. Water pollution kills. It's been recorded that in 2015 nearly 1.8 million people died because of water pollution. People with low income are exposed to contaminated water coming out from the industries. Presence of disease causing pathogens in drinking water are the major cause of illness which includes cholera, giardia, and typhoid. Water pollution not only affects human health but also our environment by causing algal bloom in a lake or marine environment. Water pollution also causes eutrophication which suffocates plants and animals and thus causes dead zones. Chemicals and heavy metals from industrial and municipal wastewater contaminate waterways and harm aquatic life.

2. What are the causes of Water pollution?

Water being a universal solvent is vulnerable to pollution as it dissolves more substances than any other liquid on earth. Therefore, water is easily polluted. Toxic substances from farms, towns, and factories readily dissolve into water and mix with it, resulting in water pollution. Agricultural pollution is one of the major causes of contamination in rivers and streams. The use of excessive fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste from farms and livestock operations lets the rain wash the nutrients and pathogens—such as bacteria and viruses—into our waterways. The other major cause of water pollution is used water,  termed as wastewater which comes from our sinks, showers, toilets and from commercial, industrial, and agricultural activities. It's been reported that the world's 80% wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused. Oil spills and radioactive waste also cause water pollution to a great extent.

3. How to prevent water pollution?

It is important to keep our water bodies clean so we can take the following preventive measures to prevent from water pollution:

Chemicals like bleach, paint, paint thinner, ammonia, and many chemicals are becoming a serious problem. Dumping toxic chemicals down the drain or flushing them down the toilet can cause water pollution. Thus, proper disposal is important. Also, household chemicals need to be recycled.

Avoid buying products that contain persistent and dangerous chemicals. Buying non-toxic cleaners and biodegradable cleaners and pesticides cut down on water pollution.

Prevent from pouring fats or greasy substances down the drain as it might clog the drain resulting in the dumping of waste into yards or basement which can contaminate the local water bodies.

4. What is the role of medical institutions in polluting the water?

Pharmaceutical pollution affects aquatic life and thus there is a need to take preventive measures. Consumers are responsible for winding up pharmaceutical and personal care products in lakes, rivers, and streams. There's a lot of unused and expired medication that can potentially get into the water if not disposed of properly.

5. What are the major kinds of pollution?

The three main types of pollution are air pollution, water pollution or soil pollution. Some artificial pollution is also there, such as noise pollution. Factors leading to such pollution include:

Air Pollution: Industrial emissions, fires, traffic and transportation, burning of chemical waste, etc.

Water Pollution: No proper sewage disposal, pesticides in farms leaking into water bodies, industrial waste dumped into water bodies, etc.

Soil Pollution:  Oil spills, acid rains, irresponsible disposal of trash, chemical waste, etc.

Noise Pollution: Honking of horns, construction activities, loud parties, etc.

Essay on Water Pollution for Students and Children

500+ words essay on water pollution.

Water is the most important resource for survival on a planet. It is the essence of life on our planet – Earth. Yet if you ever see a river or lake around your city, it would be evident to you that we are facing a very serious problem of Water pollution. Let us educate ourselves about water and water pollution . Two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered by water , seventy-six perfect of your body is made up of water.

essay on water pollution

Water and Water Cycle

As you already know water is everywhere and all around.  However, we have a fixed amount of water on earth. It just changes its states and goes through a cyclic order, known as the Water Cycle. The water cycle is a natural process that is continuous in nature. It is the pattern in which the water from oceans, seas, lakes, etc gets evaporated and turns to vapor. After which it goes through the process of condensation, and finally precipitation when it falls back to earth as rain or snow.

What is Water Pollution?

Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (like oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, aquifers, and groundwater) usually caused due to human activities. Water pollution is any change, minor or major in the physical, chemical or biological properties of water that eventually leads to a detrimental consequence of any living organism . Drinking water, called Potable Water, is considered safe enough for human and animal consumption.

Sources of Water Pollution

  • Domestic Waste
  • Industrial effluents
  • Insecticides and pesticides
  • Detergents and Fertilizers

Some of the water pollutions are caused by direct Sources, such as factories, waste management facilities, refineries, etc, that directly releases waste and dangerous by-products into the nearest water source without treating them. Indirect sources include pollutants that infuse in the water bodies via groundwater or soil or via the atmosphere through acidic rain.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Effects of Pollution of Water

The effects of Water Pollution are:

Diseases: In humans, drinking or consuming polluted water in any way has many disastrous effects on our health. It causes typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and various other diseases.

Eradication of Ecosystem: Ecosystem is extremely dynamic and responds to even small changes in the environment. Increasing water pollution can cause an entire ecosystem to collapse if left unchecked.

Eutrophication: Chemicals accumulation and infusion in a water body, encourages the growth of algae. The algae form a layer on top of the pond or lake. Bacteria feed on this algae and this event decreases the amount of oxygen in the water body, severely affecting the aquatic life there

Effects of the food chain: Turmoil in food chain happens when the aquatic animals (fish, prawns, seahorse, etc) consume the toxins and pollutants in the water,  and then the humans consume them.

Prevention of Water Pollution

The best way to prevent large-scale water pollution is to try and reduce its harmful effects. There are numerous small changes we can make to protect ourselves from a future where water is scarce.

Conserve Water: Conserving water should be our first aim. Water wastage is a major problem globally and we are only now waking up to the issue. Simple small changes made domestically will make a huge difference.

Treatment of sewage: Treating waste products before disposing of it in water bodies helps reduce water pollution on a large scale. Agriculture or other industries can reuse this wastewater by reducing its toxic contents.

Use of environment-friendly products: By using soluble products that do not go on to become pollutants, we can reduce the amount of water pollution caused by a household.

Life is ultimately about choices and so is water pollution. We cannot live with sewage-strewn beaches, contaminated rivers , and fish that are poisonous to drink and eat. To avoid these scenarios,  we can work together to keep the environment clean so the water bodies, plants, animals, and people who depend on it remain healthy. We can take individual or teamed action to help reduce water pollution. As an example, by using environmentally friendly detergents, not pouring oil down the drains, reducing the usage of pesticides, and so on. We can take community action too to keep our rivers and seas cleaner. And we can take action as countries and continents to pass laws against water pollution. Working together, we can make water pollution less of a problem—and the world a better place.

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Essay on Water Pollution

Here we have shared the Essay on Water Pollution in detail so you can use it in your exam or assignment of 150, 250, 400, 500, or 1000 words.

You can use this Essay on Water Pollution in any assignment or project whether you are in school (class 10th or 12th), college, or preparing for answer writing in competitive exams. 

Topics covered in this article.

Essay on Water Pollution in 150-250 words

Essay on water pollution in 300-400 words, essay on water pollution in 500-1000 words.

Water pollution is a pressing environmental issue that poses a significant threat to ecosystems and human health. It occurs when harmful substances, such as chemicals, industrial waste, or sewage, contaminate water bodies, including rivers, lakes, oceans, and groundwater sources.

Water pollution has devastating consequences on aquatic life. Toxic pollutants can disrupt the balance of ecosystems, leading to the decline of fish and other marine species. Additionally, contaminated water can spread diseases to animals and humans who depend on these water sources for drinking, irrigation, and recreation.

Industrial activities, improper waste disposal, agricultural runoff, and urbanization contribute to water pollution. Efforts to reduce water pollution include stricter regulations on waste disposal, the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, and the development of advanced wastewater treatment technologies.

Awareness and individual responsibility are crucial in combating water pollution. Simple actions like properly disposing of waste, conserving water, and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals can make a significant difference. Education and advocacy are essential to raising public awareness about the importance of protecting water resources and implementing sustainable practices.

In conclusion, water pollution is a grave environmental issue that threatens aquatic ecosystems and human well-being. It is a global challenge that requires collective action and responsible behavior. By implementing effective regulations, adopting sustainable practices, and promoting awareness, we can safeguard our water resources and ensure a healthier and more sustainable future for all.

Title: Water Pollution – A Growing Threat to Ecosystems and Human Well-being

Introduction :

Water pollution is a grave environmental issue that arises from the contamination of water bodies by harmful substances. It poses a significant threat to aquatic ecosystems and human health. This essay explores the causes and consequences of water pollution, as well as the measures required to address and prevent it.

Causes of Water Pollution

Water pollution can be attributed to various human activities and natural factors. Industrial discharge, improper waste disposal, agricultural runoff, oil spills, sewage, and chemical pollutants are among the leading causes. Rapid urbanization, population growth, and inadequate infrastructure for waste management contribute to the problem. Additionally, natural phenomena like sedimentation and erosion can exacerbate water pollution.

Consequences of Water Pollution

Water pollution has far-reaching ecological and human health implications. Contaminated water disrupts aquatic ecosystems, leading to the decline of fish and other marine species. It affects biodiversity, disrupts food chains, and damages habitats. Moreover, polluted water sources pose significant health risks to humans. Consuming or coming into contact with contaminated water can lead to waterborne diseases, gastrointestinal issues, skin problems, and even long-term health impacts.

Prevention and Remediation

Addressing water pollution requires a multi-faceted approach. Stricter regulations and enforcement regarding industrial discharge and waste management are essential. Promoting sustainable agricultural practices, such as reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and implementing proper irrigation techniques, can minimize agricultural runoff. Developing and implementing advanced wastewater treatment technologies is crucial to ensure that domestic and industrial effluents are properly treated before being discharged into water bodies.

Individual and Collective Responsibility:

Preventing water pollution is a shared responsibility. Individuals can contribute by practicing responsible waste disposal, conserving water, and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals. Public awareness campaigns and education programs play a vital role in promoting responsible behavior and fostering a culture of environmental stewardship.

Conclusion :

Water pollution is a critical environmental issue that jeopardizes the health of ecosystems and humans. It demands collective action and responsible behavior. By addressing the root causes of water pollution, implementing effective regulations, and promoting individual and collective responsibility, we can safeguard water resources and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Title: Water Pollution – A Looming Crisis Threatening Ecosystems and Human Well-being

Water pollution is a pressing environmental issue that poses a significant threat to ecosystems, biodiversity, and human health. It occurs when harmful substances contaminate water bodies, making them unfit for their intended uses. This essay delves into the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to water pollution, emphasizing the urgent need for collective action to address this global crisis.

Water pollution arises from various sources, both human-induced and natural. Human activities play a significant role in polluting water bodies. Industrial discharge, untreated sewage, agricultural runoff, oil spills, mining activities, and improper waste disposal are among the leading causes. Industrial wastewater often contains heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and organic pollutants, which can have devastating effects on aquatic ecosystems and human health. Agricultural runoff, laden with pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste, contaminates water bodies and contributes to eutrophication, depleting oxygen levels and harming aquatic life.

The consequences of water pollution are far-reaching and encompass ecological, economic, and health impacts. Aquatic ecosystems bear the brunt of pollution, with devastating consequences for biodiversity and food chains. Pollutants disrupt aquatic habitats, decrease water quality, and lead to the decline of fish and other marine species. This ecological imbalance has ripple effects throughout the ecosystem, affecting the entire food web.

Water pollution also has severe implications for human health. Contaminated water sources pose significant risks, as they can transmit waterborne diseases, including cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and hepatitis. Communities that rely on polluted water for drinking, cooking, and bathing are particularly vulnerable. Prolonged exposure to polluted water can lead to various health issues, such as gastrointestinal problems, skin irritations, respiratory illnesses, and even long-term health effects like cancer.

Furthermore, water pollution has economic ramifications. Polluted water bodies reduce the availability of clean water for agriculture, industry, and domestic use. This leads to increased costs for water treatment, agricultural productivity losses, and economic disruptions in sectors that rely heavily on water resources, such as fisheries and tourism.

Solutions and Mitigation Strategies

Addressing water pollution requires comprehensive strategies and collaborative efforts. Governments, industries, communities, and individuals all have a role to play in mitigating pollution and safeguarding water resources.

a. Regulatory Measures

B. wastewater treatment, c. sustainable agriculture, d. waste management, e. education and awareness.

Effective regulations and enforcement mechanisms are essential to control and prevent water pollution. Governments should establish stringent standards for industrial effluents and enforce penalties for non-compliance. Laws should be enacted to ensure proper waste disposal and treatment practices. Additionally, zoning regulations can help prevent pollution by restricting industrial activities near sensitive water bodies.

Investing in advanced wastewater treatment infrastructure is crucial. Industries should implement appropriate treatment technologies to remove pollutants from their effluents before discharge. Municipalities must prioritize the treatment of domestic sewage to prevent contamination of water bodies. Developing countries, in particular, need support and resources to build and upgrade their wastewater treatment facilities.

Adopting sustainable agricultural practices can significantly reduce pollution from agricultural activities. Encouraging the use of organic farming methods, integrated pest management, and precision irrigation can minimize the reliance on harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Proper manure management and implementing buffer zones along water bodies can also mitigate nutrient runoff and protect water quality.

Improper waste disposal is a major contributor to water pollution. Implementing comprehensive waste management systems that include recycling, proper landfill management, and promotion of waste reduction strategies is crucial. Communities should have access to adequate waste collection services, and educational campaigns can raise awareness about the importance of responsible waste disposal.

Public education and awareness programs play a vital role in addressing water pollution. Promoting water conservation practices, encouraging responsible behavior, and highlighting the link between water pollution and human health can empower individuals to take action. Educational campaigns should target schools, communities, and industries to foster a culture of environmental stewardship.

Water pollution is a critical global issue that poses severe threats to ecosystems, biodiversity, and human well-being. It demands collective action and sustainable practices to safeguard water resources. Through stringent regulations, advanced wastewater treatment, sustainable agriculture, proper waste management, and education, we can mitigate water pollution and preserve this vital resource for future generations. By recognizing the urgency of this crisis and working collaboratively, we can ensure a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable water future.

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Essay on Water Pollution: Samples in 200, 500 Words

what is water pollution in essay

  • Updated on  
  • Mar 23, 2024

Essay on water pollution

Essay on Water Pollution: Water pollution occurs when human activities introduce toxic substances into freshwater ecosystems such as lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater, leading to the degradation of water quality. The combination of harmful chemicals with water has a negative impact on these ecosystems. 

Various human actions, particularly those affecting land, water, and underwater surfaces, contribute to this pollution, disrupting the natural supply of clean water and posing a significant danger to all forms of life, including humans.

Table of Contents

  • 1 What is Water Pollution?
  • 2.1 Contaminants 
  • 2.2 Solution 
  • 3.1 Reasons for Water Pollution
  • 3.2 Methods of Water Pollution Management
  • 3.3 Real-Life Encounter

Also Read: Types of Water Pollution

What is Water Pollution?

When many pollutants such as garbage, chemicals, bacteria, household waste, industrial waste, etc get mixed in the water resources and make the water unfit for cooking, drinking, cleaning, etc. it is known as water pollution. Water pollution damages the quality of water. lakes, water streams, rivers, etc may become polluted and eventually they will pollute the oceans. All this will directly or indirectly affect the lives of us humans and the animals deteriorating our health.

Essay on Water Pollution in 200 Words

Water is plentiful on Earth, present both above and beneath its surface. A variety of water bodies, such as rivers, ponds, seas, and oceans, can be found on the planet’s surface. Despite Earth’s ability to naturally replenish its water, we are gradually depleting and mishandling this abundant resource. 

Although water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and land constitutes the remaining 29%, the rapid expansion of water pollution is impacting both marine life and humans. 


Water pollution stems significantly from city sewage and industrial waste discharge. Indirect sources of water pollution include contaminants that reach water supplies via soil, groundwater systems, and precipitation. 

Chemical pollutants pose a greater challenge in terms of removal compared to visible impurities, which can be filtered out through physical cleaning. The addition of chemicals alters water’s properties, rendering it unsafe and potentially lethal for consumption.


Prioritizing water infrastructure enhancement is vital for sustainable water management, with a focus on water efficiency and conservation. 

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting and reuse serve as effective strategies to curb water pollution. Reclaimed wastewater and collected rainwater alleviate stress on groundwater and other natural water sources. 

Groundwater recharge, which transfers water from surface sources to groundwater, is a well-known approach to mitigate water scarcity. These measures collectively contribute to safeguarding the planet’s water resources for present and future generations.

Here is a list of Major Landforms of the Earth !

Essay on Water Pollution in 500 Words

The term “water pollution” is employed when human or natural factors lead to contamination of bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, and oceans. Responsible management is now imperative to address this significant environmental concern. The primary sources of water contamination are human-related activities like urbanization, industrialization, deforestation, improper waste disposal, and the establishment of landfills.

Reasons for Water Pollution

The availability of freshwater on our planet is limited, and pollution only increases this scarcity. Every year, a substantial amount of fresh water is lost due to industrial and various other types of pollution. Pollutants encompass visible waste items of varying sizes as well as intangible, hazardous, and lethal compounds.

Numerous factories are situated in proximity to water bodies, utilizing freshwater to transport their waste. This industrial waste carries inherent toxicity, jeopardizing the well-being of both plant and animal life. Individuals living close to polluted water sources frequently suffer from skin problems, respiratory ailments, and occasionally even life-threatening health conditions.

Water contamination is also intensified by urban waste and sewage, adding to the problem. Each household generates considerable waste annually, including plastic, chemicals, wood, and other materials. Inadequate waste disposal methods result in this refusal to infiltrate aquatic ecosystems like rivers, lakes, and streams, leading to pollution.

Methods of Water Pollution Management

Raising awareness about the causes and consequences of water pollution is crucial in significantly reducing its prevalence. Encouraging community or organizational clean-up initiatives on a weekly or monthly basis plays a pivotal role. 

To eradicate water contamination completely, stringent legislation needs to be formulated and diligently enforced. Rigorous oversight would promote accountability, potentially deterring individuals and groups from polluting. Each individual should recognize the impact of their daily actions and take steps to contribute to a better world for generations to come.

Real-Life Encounter

My affection for my town has always been heightened by its abundant lakes, rivers, and forests. During one of my walks alongside the river that flowed through my village, I was struck by the unusual hues swirling within the water. The once-familiar crystal-clear blue had been replaced by a murky brown shade, accompanied by a potent, unpleasant odour. Intrigued, I decided to investigate further, descending to the riverbank for a closer look at the source of the peculiar colours and smells. Upon closer inspection, I observed peculiar foam bubbles floating on the water’s surface.

Suddenly, a commotion behind me caught my attention, and I turned to witness a group of people hastening toward the river. Their frantic shouts and vigorous gestures conveyed their panic, prompting me to realize that a grave situation was unfolding. As the group reached the river, they were confronted with the distressing sight of numerous lifeless fish floating on the water’s surface. 

Following a comprehensive investigation, it was revealed that a local factory had been releasing toxic chemicals into the river, resulting in extensive pollution and the devastation of the ecosystem. This investigation left me stunned and disheartened, acknowledging the significant effort required to restore the river to its own form.

Related Reads:-     

A. Water pollution refers to the contamination of water bodies, such as rivers, lakes, oceans, and groundwater, due to the introduction of harmful substances. These substances can include chemicals, industrial waste, sewage, and pollutants that adversely affect the quality of water, making it unsafe for human consumption and harmful to aquatic life.

A. The primary sources of water pollution include city sewage and industrial waste discharge. Chemical contaminants from factories and agricultural runoff, as well as oil spills and plastic waste, contribute significantly to water pollution. Runoff from paved surfaces and improper waste disposal also play a role in introducing pollutants into water bodies.

A. Water pollution has far-reaching consequences. It poses a threat to aquatic ecosystems by harming marine life, disrupting food chains, and damaging habitats. Additionally, contaminated water can lead to the spread of waterborne diseases among humans. Toxic chemicals in polluted water can cause serious health issues, affecting the skin, and respiratory systems, and even leading to long-term illnesses. 

This brings us to the end of our blog on Essay on Water Pollution. Hope you find this information useful. For more information on such informative topics for your school, visit our  essay writing  and follow  Leverage Edu

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Aditi Gupta

A bachelors in Journalism and Mass Communication graduate, I am an enthusiastic writer. I love to write about impactful content which can help others. I love to binge watch and listen to music during my free time.

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Pollution in the Yellow River, Mongolia

Discharge from a Chinese fertilizer factory winds its way toward the Yellow River. Like many of the world's rivers, pollution remains an ongoing problem.

Water pollution is a rising global crisis. Here’s what you need to know.

The world's freshwater sources receive contaminants from a wide range of sectors, threatening human and wildlife health.

From big pieces of garbage to invisible chemicals, a wide range of pollutants ends up in our planet's lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater, and eventually the oceans. Water pollution—along with drought, inefficiency, and an exploding population—has contributed to a freshwater crisis , threatening the sources we rely on for drinking water and other critical needs.

Research has revealed that one pollutant in particular is more common in our tap water than anyone had previously thought: PFAS, short for poly and perfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS is used to make everyday items resistant to moisture, heat, and stains; some of these chemicals have such long half-lives that they are known as "the forever chemical."

Safeguarding water supplies is important because even though nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. And just one percent of freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in remote glaciers and snowfields.

Water pollution causes

Water pollution can come from a variety of sources. Pollution can enter water directly, through both legal and illegal discharges from factories, for example, or imperfect water treatment plants. Spills and leaks from oil pipelines or hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations can degrade water supplies. Wind, storms, and littering—especially of plastic waste —can also send debris into waterways.

Thanks largely to decades of regulation and legal action against big polluters, the main cause of U.S. water quality problems is now " nonpoint source pollution ," when pollutants are carried across or through the ground by rain or melted snow. Such runoff can contain fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides from farms and homes; oil and toxic chemicals from roads and industry; sediment; bacteria from livestock; pet waste; and other pollutants .

Finally, drinking water pollution can happen via the pipes themselves if the water is not properly treated, as happened in the case of lead contamination in Flint, Michigan , and other towns. Another drinking water contaminant, arsenic , can come from naturally occurring deposits but also from industrial waste.

Freshwater pollution effects

the dry riverbed of the Colorado River

Water pollution can result in human health problems, poisoned wildlife, and long-term ecosystem damage. When agricultural and industrial runoff floods waterways with excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, these nutrients often fuel algae blooms that then create dead zones , or low-oxygen areas where fish and other aquatic life can no longer thrive.

Algae blooms can create health and economic effects for humans, causing rashes and other ailments, while eroding tourism revenue for popular lake destinations thanks to their unpleasant looks and odors. High levels of nitrates in water from nutrient pollution can also be particularly harmful to infants , interfering with their ability to deliver oxygen to tissues and potentially causing " blue baby syndrome ." The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 38 percent of the European Union's water bodies are under pressure from agricultural pollution.

Globally, unsanitary water supplies also exact a health toll in the form of disease. At least 2 billion people drink water from sources contaminated by feces, according to the World Health Organization , and that water may transmit dangerous diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

Freshwater pollution solutions

In many countries, regulations have restricted industry and agricultural operations from pouring pollutants into lakes, streams, and rivers, while treatment plants make our drinking water safe to consume. Researchers are working on a variety of other ways to prevent and clean up pollution. National Geographic grantee Africa Flores , for example, has created an artificial intelligence algorithm to better predict when algae blooms will happen. A number of scientists are looking at ways to reduce and cleanup plastic pollution .

There have been setbacks, however. Regulation of pollutants is subject to changing political winds, as has been the case in the United States with the loosening of environmental protections that prevented landowners from polluting the country’s waterways.

Anyone can help protect watersheds by disposing of motor oil, paints, and other toxic products properly , keeping them off pavement and out of the drain. Be careful about what you flush or pour down the sink, as it may find its way into the water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends using phosphate-free detergents and washing your car at a commercial car wash, which is required to properly dispose of wastewater. Green roofs and rain gardens can be another way for people in built environments to help restore some of the natural filtering that forests and plants usually provide.

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Photo of polluted stormwater draining into a creek from an overflow

Water pollution: an introduction

by Chris Woodford . Last updated: October 1, 2023.

O ver two thirds of Earth's surface is covered by water ; less than a third is taken up by land. As Earth's population continues to grow, people are putting ever-increasing pressure on the planet's water resources. In a sense, our oceans, rivers , and other inland waters are being "squeezed" by human activities—not so they take up less room, but so their quality is reduced. Poorer water quality means water pollution .

We know that pollution is a human problem because it is a relatively recent development in the planet's history: before the 19th century Industrial Revolution, people lived more in harmony with their immediate environment. As industrialization has spread around the globe, so the problem of pollution has spread with it. When Earth's population was much smaller, no one believed pollution would ever present a serious problem. It was once popularly believed that the oceans were far too big to pollute. Today, with around 7 billion people on the planet, it has become apparent that there are limits. Pollution is one of the signs that humans have exceeded those limits.

Photo: Stormwater pollution entering a river from a drain. Photo by Peter C Van Metre courtesy of US Geological Survey .

What is water pollution?

Water pollution can be defined in many ways. Usually, it means one or more substances have built up in water to such an extent that they cause problems for animals or people. Oceans, lakes, rivers, and other inland waters can naturally clean up a certain amount of pollution by dispersing it harmlessly. If you poured a cup of black ink into a river, the ink would quickly disappear into the river's much larger volume of clean water. The ink would still be there in the river, but in such a low concentration that you would not be able to see it. At such low levels, the chemicals in the ink probably would not present any real problem. However, if you poured gallons of ink into a river every few seconds through a pipe, the river would quickly turn black. The chemicals in the ink could very quickly have an effect on the quality of the water. This, in turn, could affect the health of all the plants, animals, and humans whose lives depend on the river.

Photo: Pollution means adding substances to the environment that don't belong there—like the air pollution from this smokestack. Pollution is not always as obvious as this, however.

Thus, water pollution is all about quantities : how much of a polluting substance is released and how big a volume of water it is released into. A small quantity of a toxic chemical may have little impact if it is spilled into the ocean from a ship. But the same amount of the same chemical can have a much bigger impact pumped into a lake or river, where there is less clean water to disperse it.

"The introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the marine environment (including estuaries) resulting in such deleterious effects as harm to living resources, hazards to human health, hindrance to marine activities, including fishing, impairment of quality for use of sea water and reduction of amenities." [1]

What are the main types of water pollution?

When we think of Earth's water resources, we think of huge oceans, lakes, and rivers. Water resources like these are called surface waters . The most obvious type of water pollution affects surface waters. For example, a spill from an oil tanker creates an oil slick that can affect a vast area of the ocean.

Photo of detergent pollution in a creek

Photo: Detergent pollution entering a river—an example of surface water pollution. Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo Library.

Not all of Earth's water sits on its surface, however. A great deal of water is held in underground rock structures known as aquifers, which we cannot see and seldom think about. Water stored underground in aquifers is known as groundwater . Aquifers feed our rivers and supply much of our drinking water. They too can become polluted, for example, when weed killers used in people's gardens drain into the ground. Groundwater pollution is much less obvious than surface-water pollution, but is no less of a problem. In 1996, a study in Iowa in the United States found that over half the state's groundwater wells were contaminated with weed killers. You might think things would have improved since then, but, two decades on, all that's really changed is the name of the chemicals we're using. Today, numerous scientific studies are still finding weed killers in groundwater in worrying quantities: a 2012 study discovered glyphosate in 41 percent of 140 groundwater samples from Catalonia, Spain; scientific opinion differs on whether this is safe or not. [2]

Surface waters and groundwater are the two types of water resources that pollution affects. There are also two different ways in which pollution can occur. If pollution comes from a single location, such as a discharge pipe attached to a factory, it is known as point-source pollution . Other examples of point source pollution include an oil spill from a tanker, a discharge from a smoke stack (factory chimney), or someone pouring oil from their car down a drain. A great deal of water pollution happens not from one single source but from many different scattered sources. This is called nonpoint-source pollution .

When point-source pollution enters the environment, the place most affected is usually the area immediately around the source. For example, when a tanker accident occurs, the oil slick is concentrated around the tanker itself and, in the right ocean conditions, the pollution disperses the further away from the tanker you go. This is less likely to happen with nonpoint source pollution which, by definition, enters the environment from many different places at once.

Sometimes pollution that enters the environment in one place has an effect hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This is known as transboundary pollution . One example is the way radioactive waste travels through the oceans from nuclear reprocessing plants in England and France to nearby countries such as Ireland and Norway.

How do we know when water is polluted?

Some forms of water pollution are very obvious: everyone has seen TV news footage of oil slicks filmed from helicopters flying overhead. Water pollution is usually less obvious and much harder to detect than this. But how can we measure water pollution when we cannot see it? How do we even know it's there?

There are two main ways of measuring the quality of water. One is to take samples of the water and measure the concentrations of different chemicals that it contains. If the chemicals are dangerous or the concentrations are too great, we can regard the water as polluted. Measurements like this are known as chemical indicators of water quality. Another way to measure water quality involves examining the fish, insects, and other invertebrates that the water will support. If many different types of creatures can live in a river, the quality is likely to be very good; if the river supports no fish life at all, the quality is obviously much poorer. Measurements like this are called biological indicators of water quality.

What are the causes of water pollution?

Most water pollution doesn't begin in the water itself. Take the oceans: around 80 percent of ocean pollution enters our seas from the land. [16] Virtually any human activity can have an effect on the quality of our water environment. When farmers fertilize the fields, the chemicals they use are gradually washed by rain into the groundwater or surface waters nearby. Sometimes the causes of water pollution are quite surprising. Chemicals released by smokestacks (chimneys) can enter the atmosphere and then fall back to earth as rain, entering seas, rivers, and lakes and causing water pollution. That's called atmospheric deposition . Water pollution has many different causes and this is one of the reasons why it is such a difficult problem to solve.

With billions of people on the planet, disposing of sewage waste is a major problem. According to 2017 figures from the World Health Organization, some 2 billion people (about a quarter of the world's population) don't have access to safe drinking water or the most basic sanitation, 3.4 billion (60 people of the population) lack "safely managed" sanitation (unshared, with waste properly treated). Although there have been great improvements in securing access to clean water, relatively little, genuine progress has been made on improving global sanitation in the last decade. [20] Sewage disposal affects people's immediate environments and leads to water-related illnesses such as diarrhea that kills 525,000 children under five each year. [3] (Back in 2002, the World Health Organization estimated that water-related diseases could kill as many as 135 million people by 2020; in 2019, the WHO was still estimating the annual death toll from poor water and sanitation at over 800,000 people a year.) In developed countries, most people have flush toilets that take sewage waste quickly and hygienically away from their homes.

Yet the problem of sewage disposal does not end there. When you flush the toilet, the waste has to go somewhere and, even after it leaves the sewage treatment works, there is still waste to dispose of. Sometimes sewage waste is pumped untreated into the sea. Until the early 1990s, around 5 million tons of sewage was dumped by barge from New York City each year. [4] According to 2002 figures from the UK government's Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the sewers of Britain collect around 11 billion liters of waste water every day; there are still 31,000 sewage overflow pipes through which, in certain circumstances, such as heavy storms, raw sewage is pumped untreated into the sea. [5] The New River that crosses the border from Mexico into California once carried with it 20–25 million gallons (76–95 million liters) of raw sewage each day; a new waste water plant on the US-Mexico border, completed in 2007, substantially solved that problem. [6] Unfortunately, even in some of the richest nations, the practice of dumping sewage into the sea continues. In early 2012, it was reported that the tiny island of Guernsey (between Britain and France) has decided to continue dumping 16,000 tons of raw sewage into the sea each day.

In theory, sewage is a completely natural substance that should be broken down harmlessly in the environment: 90 percent of sewage is water. [7] In practice, sewage contains all kinds of other chemicals, from the pharmaceutical drugs people take to the paper , plastic , and other wastes they flush down their toilets. When people are sick with viruses, the sewage they produce carries those viruses into the environment. It is possible to catch illnesses such as hepatitis, typhoid, and cholera from river and sea water.

Photo: Nutrients make crops grow, but cause pollution when they seep into rivers and other watercourses. Photo courtesy of US Department of Agriculture (Flickr) .

Suitably treated and used in moderate quantities, sewage can be a fertilizer: it returns important nutrients to the environment, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which plants and animals need for growth. The trouble is, sewage is often released in much greater quantities than the natural environment can cope with. Chemical fertilizers used by farmers also add nutrients to the soil, which drain into rivers and seas and add to the fertilizing effect of the sewage. Together, sewage and fertilizers can cause a massive increase in the growth of algae or plankton that overwhelms huge areas of oceans, lakes, or rivers. This is known as a harmful algal bloom (also known as an HAB or red tide, because it can turn the water red). It is harmful because it removes oxygen from the water that kills other forms of life, leading to what is known as a dead zone . The Gulf of Mexico has one of the world's most spectacular dead zones. Each summer, according to studies by the NOAA , it typically grows to an area of around 5500–6500 square miles (14,000–16,800 square kilometers), which is about the same size as the state of Connecticut. [21]

Waste water

A few statistics illustrate the scale of the problem that waste water (chemicals washed down drains and discharged from factories) can cause. Around half of all ocean pollution is caused by sewage and waste water. Each year, the world generates perhaps 5–10 billion tons of industrial waste, much of which is pumped untreated into rivers, oceans, and other waterways. [8] In the United States alone, around 400,000 factories take clean water from rivers, and many pump polluted waters back in their place. However, there have been major improvements in waste water treatment recently. Since 1970, in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has invested about $70 billion in improving water treatment plants that, as of 2021, serve around 90 percent of the US population (compared to just 69 percent in 1972). However, another $271 billion is still needed to update and upgrade the system. [15]

Factories are point sources of water pollution, but quite a lot of water is polluted by ordinary people from nonpoint sources; this is how ordinary water becomes waste water in the first place. Virtually everyone pours chemicals of one sort or another down their drains or toilets. Even detergents used in washing machines and dishwashers eventually end up in our rivers and oceans. So do the pesticides we use on our gardens. A lot of toxic pollution also enters waste water from highway runoff . Highways are typically covered with a cocktail of toxic chemicals—everything from spilled fuel and brake fluids to bits of worn tires (themselves made from chemical additives) and exhaust emissions. When it rains, these chemicals wash into drains and rivers. It is not unusual for heavy summer rainstorms to wash toxic chemicals into rivers in such concentrations that they kill large numbers of fish overnight. It has been estimated that, in one year, the highway runoff from a single large city leaks as much oil into our water environment as a typical tanker spill. Some highway runoff runs away into drains; others can pollute groundwater or accumulate in the land next to a road, making it increasingly toxic as the years go by.

Chemical waste

Detergents are relatively mild substances. At the opposite end of the spectrum are highly toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) . They were once widely used to manufacture electronic circuit boards , but their harmful effects have now been recognized and their use is highly restricted in many countries. Nevertheless, an estimated half million tons of PCBs were discharged into the environment during the 20th century. [9] In a classic example of transboundary pollution, traces of PCBs have even been found in birds and fish in the Arctic. They were carried there through the oceans, thousands of miles from where they originally entered the environment. Although PCBs are widely banned, their effects will be felt for many decades because they last a long time in the environment without breaking down.

Another kind of toxic pollution comes from heavy metals , such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. Lead was once commonly used in gasoline (petrol), though its use is now restricted in some countries. Mercury and cadmium are still used in batteries (though some brands now use other metals instead). Until recently, a highly toxic chemical called tributyltin (TBT) was used in paints to protect boats from the ravaging effects of the oceans. Ironically, however, TBT was gradually recognized as a pollutant: boats painted with it were doing as much damage to the oceans as the oceans were doing to the boats.

The best known example of heavy metal pollution in the oceans took place in 1938 when a Japanese factory discharged a significant amount of mercury metal into Minamata Bay, contaminating the fish stocks there. It took a decade for the problem to come to light. By that time, many local people had eaten the fish and around 2000 were poisoned. Hundreds of people were left dead or disabled. [10]

Radioactive waste

People view radioactive waste with great alarm—and for good reason. At high enough concentrations it can kill; in lower concentrations it can cause cancers and other illnesses. The biggest sources of radioactive pollution in Europe are two factories that reprocess waste fuel from nuclear power plants : Sellafield on the north-west coast of Britain and Cap La Hague on the north coast of France. Both discharge radioactive waste water into the sea, which ocean currents then carry around the world. Countries such as Norway, which lie downstream from Britain, receive significant doses of radioactive pollution from Sellafield. [19] The Norwegian government has repeatedly complained that Sellafield has increased radiation levels along its coast by 6–10 times. Both the Irish and Norwegian governments continue to press for the plant's closure. [11]

Oil pollution

Photo: Oil-tanker spills are the most spectacular forms of pollution and the ones that catch public attention, but only a fraction of all water pollution happens this way. Photo by Lamar Gore courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service Photo Library and US National Archive .

When we think of ocean pollution, huge black oil slicks often spring to mind, yet these spectacular accidents represent only a tiny fraction of all the pollution entering our oceans. Even considering oil by itself, tanker spills are not as significant as they might seem: only 12 percent of the oil that enters the oceans comes from tanker accidents; over 70 percent of oil pollution at sea comes from routine shipping and from the oil people pour down drains on land. [12] However, what makes tanker spills so destructive is the sheer quantity of oil they release at once — in other words, the concentration of oil they produce in one very localized part of the marine environment. The biggest oil spill in recent years (and the biggest ever spill in US waters) occurred when the tanker Exxon Valdez broke up in Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989. Around 12 million gallons (44 million liters) of oil were released into the pristine wilderness—enough to fill your living room 800 times over! Estimates of the marine animals killed in the spill vary from approximately 1000 sea otters and 34,000 birds to as many as 2800 sea otters and 250,000 sea birds. Several billion salmon and herring eggs are also believed to have been destroyed. [13]

If you've ever taken part in a community beach clean, you'll know that plastic is far and away the most common substance that washes up with the waves. There are three reasons for this: plastic is one of the most common materials, used for making virtually every kind of manufactured object from clothing to automobile parts; plastic is light and floats easily so it can travel enormous distances across the oceans; most plastics are not biodegradable (they do not break down naturally in the environment), which means that things like plastic bottle tops can survive in the marine environment for a long time. (A plastic bottle can survive an estimated 450 years in the ocean and plastic fishing line can last up to 600 years.)

While plastics are not toxic in quite the same way as poisonous chemicals, they nevertheless present a major hazard to seabirds, fish, and other marine creatures. For example, plastic fishing lines and other debris can strangle or choke fish. (This is sometimes called ghost fishing .) About half of all the world's seabird species are known to have eaten plastic residues. In one study of 450 shearwaters in the North Pacific, over 80 percent of the birds were found to contain plastic residues in their stomachs. In the early 1990s, marine scientist Tim Benton collected debris from a 2km (1.5 mile) length of beach in the remote Pitcairn islands in the South Pacific. His study recorded approximately a thousand pieces of garbage including 268 pieces of plastic, 71 plastic bottles, and two dolls heads. [14]

Alien species

Most people's idea of water pollution involves things like sewage, toxic metals, or oil slicks, but pollution can be biological as well as chemical. In some parts of the world, alien species are a major problem. Alien species (sometimes known as invasive species ) are animals or plants from one region that have been introduced into a different ecosystem where they do not belong. Outside their normal environment, they have no natural predators, so they rapidly run wild, crowding out the usual animals or plants that thrive there. Common examples of alien species include zebra mussels in the Great Lakes of the USA, which were carried there from Europe by ballast water (waste water flushed from ships ). The Mediterranean Sea has been invaded by a kind of alien algae called Caulerpa taxifolia . In the Black Sea, an alien jellyfish called Mnemiopsis leidyi reduced fish stocks by 90 percent after arriving in ballast water. In San Francisco Bay, Asian clams called Potamocorbula amurensis, also introduced by ballast water, have dramatically altered the ecosystem. In 1999, Cornell University's David Pimentel estimated that alien invaders like this cost the US economy $123 billion a year; in 2014, the European Commission put the cost to Europe at €12 billion a year and "growing all the time. [18]

Other forms of pollution

These are the most common forms of pollution—but by no means the only ones. Heat or thermal pollution from factories and power plants also causes problems in rivers. By raising the temperature, it reduces the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water, thus also reducing the level of aquatic life that the river can support. Another type of pollution involves the disruption of sediments (fine-grained powders) that flow from rivers into the sea. Dams built for hydroelectric power or water reservoirs can reduce the sediment flow. This reduces the formation of beaches, increases coastal erosion (the natural destruction of cliffs by the sea), and reduces the flow of nutrients from rivers into seas (potentially reducing coastal fish stocks). Increased sediments can also present a problem. During construction work, soil, rock, and other fine powders sometimes enters nearby rivers in large quantities, causing it to become turbid (muddy or silted). The extra sediment can block the gills of fish, effectively suffocating them. Construction firms often now take precautions to prevent this kind of pollution from happening.

What are the effects of water pollution?

Some people believe pollution is an inescapable result of human activity: they argue that if we want to have factories, cities, ships, cars, oil, and coastal resorts, some degree of pollution is almost certain to result. In other words, pollution is a necessary evil that people must put up with if they want to make progress. Fortunately, not everyone agrees with this view. One reason people have woken up to the problem of pollution is that it brings costs of its own that undermine any economic benefits that come about by polluting.

Take oil spills, for example. They can happen if tankers are too poorly built to survive accidents at sea. But the economic benefit of compromising on tanker quality brings an economic cost when an oil spill occurs. The oil can wash up on nearby beaches, devastate the ecosystem, and severely affect tourism. The main problem is that the people who bear the cost of the spill (typically a small coastal community) are not the people who caused the problem in the first place (the people who operate the tanker). Yet, arguably, everyone who puts gasoline (petrol) into their car—or uses almost any kind of petroleum-fueled transport—contributes to the problem in some way. So oil spills are a problem for everyone, not just people who live by the coast and tanker operates.

Sewage is another good example of how pollution can affect us all. Sewage discharged into coastal waters can wash up on beaches and cause a health hazard. People who bathe or surf in the water can fall ill if they swallow polluted water—yet sewage can have other harmful effects too: it can poison shellfish (such as cockles and mussels) that grow near the shore. People who eat poisoned shellfish risk suffering from an acute—and sometimes fatal—illness called paralytic shellfish poisoning. Shellfish is no longer caught along many shores because it is simply too polluted with sewage or toxic chemical wastes that have discharged from the land nearby.

Pollution matters because it harms the environment on which people depend. The environment is not something distant and separate from our lives. It's not a pretty shoreline hundreds of miles from our homes or a wilderness landscape that we see only on TV. The environment is everything that surrounds us that gives us life and health. Destroying the environment ultimately reduces the quality of our own lives—and that, most selfishly, is why pollution should matter to all of us.

How can we stop water pollution?

There is no easy way to solve water pollution; if there were, it wouldn't be so much of a problem. Broadly speaking, there are three different things that can help to tackle the problem—education, laws, and economics—and they work together as a team.

Making people aware of the problem is the first step to solving it. In the early 1990s, when surfers in Britain grew tired of catching illnesses from water polluted with sewage, they formed a group called Surfers Against Sewage to force governments and water companies to clean up their act. People who've grown tired of walking the world's polluted beaches often band together to organize community beach-cleaning sessions. Anglers who no longer catch so many fish have campaigned for tougher penalties against factories that pour pollution into our rivers. Greater public awareness can make a positive difference.

One of the biggest problems with water pollution is its transboundary nature. Many rivers cross countries, while seas span whole continents. Pollution discharged by factories in one country with poor environmental standards can cause problems in neighboring nations, even when they have tougher laws and higher standards. Environmental laws can make it tougher for people to pollute, but to be really effective they have to operate across national and international borders. This is why we have international laws governing the oceans, such as the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (signed by over 120 nations), the 1972 London (Dumping) Convention , the 1978 MARPOL International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships , and the 1998 OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic . The European Union has water-protection laws (known as directives) that apply to all of its member states. They include the 1976 Bathing Water Directive (updated 2006), which seeks to ensure the quality of the waters that people use for recreation. Most countries also have their own water pollution laws. In the United States, for example, there is the 1972 Clean Water Act and the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act .

Most environmental experts agree that the best way to tackle pollution is through something called the polluter pays principle . This means that whoever causes pollution should have to pay to clean it up, one way or another. Polluter pays can operate in all kinds of ways. It could mean that tanker owners should have to take out insurance that covers the cost of oil spill cleanups, for example. It could also mean that shoppers should have to pay for their plastic grocery bags, as is now common in Ireland, to encourage recycling and minimize waste. Or it could mean that factories that use rivers must have their water inlet pipes downstream of their effluent outflow pipes, so if they cause pollution they themselves are the first people to suffer. Ultimately, the polluter pays principle is designed to deter people from polluting by making it less expensive for them to behave in an environmentally responsible way.

Our clean future

Life is ultimately about choices—and so is pollution. We can live with sewage-strewn beaches, dead rivers, and fish that are too poisonous to eat. Or we can work together to keep the environment clean so the plants, animals, and people who depend on it remain healthy. We can take individual action to help reduce water pollution, for example, by using environmentally friendly detergents , not pouring oil down drains, reducing pesticides, and so on. We can take community action too, by helping out on beach cleans or litter picks to keep our rivers and seas that little bit cleaner. And we can take action as countries and continents to pass laws that will make pollution harder and the world less polluted. Working together, we can make pollution less of a problem—and the world a better place.

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Text copyright © Chris Woodford 2006, 2022. All rights reserved. Full copyright notice and terms of use .

This article was originally written for the UK Rivers Network and first published on their website in April 2006. It is revised and updated every year.

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Water Pollution: Causes, Effects and Possible Solutions Expository Essay

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Causes and effects of water pollution, possible solutions for water pollution.

Water pollution is any form of activity that may lead to contamination or addition of pollutants into water body. It is an important issue to the world to put into consideration because human beings need clean water. Other living creatures need good water as well.

Therefore, water is a very important requirement in the daily activities of people, and it is a very useful resource in industries, hospitals, schools and even in food manufacturing companies. This is why clean water is required in all the places to make sure the people and all the living creatures in the planet live a good and healthy life.

Water pollution cases have been increasing in the contemporary world, despite all the efforts to reduce it. Despite all these efforts, the question remains as to what steps the world should take to end this problem of water pollution.

Harmful and toxic pollutants cause most cases of water pollution. The pollutants may cause the water to change both its physical or chemical nature by causing mixed reactions with its contents. One of the major pollutants is waste chemicals from manufacturing industries or factories.

Most of these institutions are careless with this matter of water pollution. This is actually a very serious matter because most of the people concerned know the effects of this activity but they end up ignoring it. Moreover, these wastes contain very harmful and toxic chemicals that may cause health problems to human beings and other living creatures in the water body.

Another major pollutant is sewage. Sewage dumped to various water bodies such as rivers, lakes or sea is a direct harm to the nearby occupants, given that it is there main source of water. This will mean that these people will lack clean water and will have one option of drinking the dirty water. The toxic contents of the sewage may also harm or kill aquatic animals present in that particular water body. Indeed, this is a government concern, though it seems that it is being neglected all the time.

Oil spillage to water bodies is another cause of water pollution, as it leads to more harmful effects to the living creatures and human beings around. Oil spillage will definitely affect the health of aquatic organisms, as well as other living things dependent on the water body being polluted. Garbage and other toxic substances are also the other causes of water pollution. All these directly affect human health and the natural environment in the surrounding areas. It is therefore up to the government to put more efforts to reduce these problems.

One of the best solutions to water pollution is the enactment and implementation of rules against those industries and institutions that carelessly dump waste chemicals, garbage, and other toxic pollutants to the water bodies without considering human life and the natural habitat around. The government would need to be very strict on this matter.

People should also avoid dumping litter, household waste, or garbage to water bodies. Individuals should also avoid throwing dirty and harmful substances to their water lines that drain to sewage. Individual farmers must try to use the right amount of fertilizer when applying chemicals, as excess amount of fertilizer may drain to the nearby water body.

Water pollution issues are currently increasing in the world because of neglect of the governments and ignorance of the people. Water pollution issue should not only be issue to the government, but also all the people in the society. Therefore, people should join hands together with the government to reduce this world’s major problem. Nevertheless, water is a very important resource in the world, and it should therefore be kept clean and safe.

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IvyPanda. (2018, October 31). Water Pollution: Causes, Effects and Possible Solutions.

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IvyPanda . "Water Pollution: Causes, Effects and Possible Solutions." October 31, 2018.

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What is water pollution?

What are the causes of water pollution, categories of water pollution, what are the effects of water pollution, what can you do to prevent water pollution.

Water pollution occurs when harmful substances—often chemicals or microorganisms—contaminate a stream, river, lake, ocean, aquifer, or other body of water, degrading water quality and rendering it toxic to humans or the environment.

This widespread problem of water pollution is jeopardizing our health. Unsafe water kills more people each year than war and all other forms of violence combined. Meanwhile, our drinkable water sources are finite: Less than 1 percent of the earth’s freshwater is actually accessible to us. Without action, the challenges will only increase by 2050, when global demand for freshwater is expected to be one-third greater than it is now.

Water is uniquely vulnerable to pollution. Known as a “universal solvent,” water is able to dissolve more substances than any other liquid on earth. It’s the reason we have Kool-Aid and brilliant blue waterfalls. It’s also why water is so easily polluted. Toxic substances from farms, towns, and factories readily dissolve into and mix with it, causing water pollution.

Here are some of the major sources of water pollution worldwide:


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Toxic green algae in Copco Reservoir, northern California

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Not only is the agricultural sector the biggest consumer of global freshwater resources, with farming and livestock production using about 70 percent of the earth’s surface water supplies , but it’s also a serious water polluter. Around the world, agriculture is the leading cause of water degradation. In the United States, agricultural pollution is the top source of contamination in rivers and streams, the second-biggest source in wetlands, and the third main source in lakes. It’s also a major contributor of contamination to estuaries and groundwater. Every time it rains, fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste from farms and livestock operations wash nutrients and pathogens—such bacteria and viruses—into our waterways. Nutrient pollution , caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in water or air, is the number-one threat to water quality worldwide and can cause algal blooms , a toxic soup of blue-green algae that can be harmful to people and wildlife.

Sewage and wastewater

Used water is wastewater. It comes from our sinks, showers, and toilets (think sewage) and from commercial, industrial, and agricultural activities (think metals, solvents, and toxic sludge). The term also includes stormwater runoff , which occurs when rainfall carries road salts, oil, grease, chemicals, and debris from impermeable surfaces into our waterways

More than 80 percent of the world’s wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused, according to the United Nations; in some least-developed countries, the figure tops 95 percent. In the United States, wastewater treatment facilities process about 34 billion gallons of wastewater per day . These facilities reduce the amount of pollutants such as pathogens, phosphorus, and nitrogen in sewage, as well as heavy metals and toxic chemicals in industrial waste, before discharging the treated waters back into waterways. That’s when all goes well. But according to EPA estimates, our nation’s aging and easily overwhelmed sewage treatment systems also release more than 850 billion gallons of untreated wastewater each year.

Oil pollution

Big spills may dominate headlines, but consumers account for the vast majority of oil pollution in our seas, including oil and gasoline that drips from millions of cars and trucks every day. Moreover, nearly half of the estimated 1 million tons of oil that makes its way into marine environments each year comes not from tanker spills but from land-based sources such as factories, farms, and cities. At sea, tanker spills account for about 10 percent of the oil in waters around the world, while regular operations of the shipping industry—through both legal and illegal discharges—contribute about one-third. Oil is also naturally released from under the ocean floor through fractures known as seeps.

Radioactive substances

Radioactive waste is any pollution that emits radiation beyond what is naturally released by the environment. It’s generated by uranium mining, nuclear power plants, and the production and testing of military weapons, as well as by universities and hospitals that use radioactive materials for research and medicine. Radioactive waste can persist in the environment for thousands of years, making disposal a major challenge. Consider the decommissioned Hanford nuclear weapons production site in Washington, where the cleanup of 56 million gallons of radioactive waste is expected to cost more than $100 billion and last through 2060. Accidentally released or improperly disposed of contaminants threaten groundwater, surface water, and marine resources.

To address pollution and protect water we need to understand where the pollution is coming from (point source or nonpoint source) and the type of water body its impacting (groundwater, surface water, or ocean water).

Where is the pollution coming from?

Point source pollution.

When contamination originates from a single source, it’s called point source pollution. Examples include wastewater (also called effluent) discharged legally or illegally by a manufacturer, oil refinery, or wastewater treatment facility, as well as contamination from leaking septic systems, chemical and oil spills, and illegal dumping. The EPA regulates point source pollution by establishing limits on what can be discharged by a facility directly into a body of water. While point source pollution originates from a specific place, it can affect miles of waterways and ocean.

Nonpoint source

Nonpoint source pollution is contamination derived from diffuse sources. These may include agricultural or stormwater runoff or debris blown into waterways from land. Nonpoint source pollution is the leading cause of water pollution in U.S. waters, but it’s difficult to regulate, since there’s no single, identifiable culprit.


It goes without saying that water pollution can’t be contained by a line on a map. Transboundary pollution is the result of contaminated water from one country spilling into the waters of another. Contamination can result from a disaster—like an oil spill—or the slow, downriver creep of industrial, agricultural, or municipal discharge.

What type of water is being impacted?

Groundwater pollution.

When rain falls and seeps deep into the earth, filling the cracks, crevices, and porous spaces of an aquifer (basically an underground storehouse of water), it becomes groundwater—one of our least visible but most important natural resources. Nearly 40 percent of Americans rely on groundwater, pumped to the earth’s surface, for drinking water. For some folks in rural areas, it’s their only freshwater source. Groundwater gets polluted when contaminants—from pesticides and fertilizers to waste leached from landfills and septic systems—make their way into an aquifer, rendering it unsafe for human use. Ridding groundwater of contaminants can be difficult to impossible, as well as costly. Once polluted, an aquifer may be unusable for decades, or even thousands of years. Groundwater can also spread contamination far from the original polluting source as it seeps into streams, lakes, and oceans.

Surface water pollution

Covering about 70 percent of the earth, surface water is what fills our oceans, lakes, rivers, and all those other blue bits on the world map. Surface water from freshwater sources (that is, from sources other than the ocean) accounts for more than 60 percent of the water delivered to American homes. But a significant pool of that water is in peril. According to the most recent surveys on national water quality from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly half of our rivers and streams and more than one-third of our lakes are polluted and unfit for swimming, fishing, and drinking. Nutrient pollution, which includes nitrates and phosphates, is the leading type of contamination in these freshwater sources. While plants and animals need these nutrients to grow, they have become a major pollutant due to farm waste and fertilizer runoff. Municipal and industrial waste discharges contribute their fair share of toxins as well. There’s also all the random junk that industry and individuals dump directly into waterways.

Ocean water pollution

Eighty percent of ocean pollution (also called marine pollution) originates on land—whether along the coast or far inland. Contaminants such as chemicals, nutrients, and heavy metals are carried from farms, factories, and cities by streams and rivers into our bays and estuaries; from there they travel out to sea. Meanwhile, marine debris— particularly plastic —is blown in by the wind or washed in via storm drains and sewers. Our seas are also sometimes spoiled by oil spills and leaks—big and small—and are consistently soaking up carbon pollution from the air. The ocean absorbs as much as a quarter of man-made carbon emissions .

On human health

To put it bluntly: Water pollution kills. In fact, it caused 1.8 million deaths in 2015, according to a study published in The Lancet . Contaminated water can also make you ill. Every year, unsafe water sickens about 1 billion people. And low-income communities are disproportionately at risk because their homes are often closest to the most polluting industries.

Waterborne pathogens, in the form of disease-causing bacteria and viruses from human and animal waste, are a major cause of illness from contaminated drinking water . Diseases spread by unsafe water include cholera, giardia, and typhoid. Even in wealthy nations, accidental or illegal releases from sewage treatment facilities, as well as runoff from farms and urban areas, contribute harmful pathogens to waterways. Thousands of people across the United States are sickened every year by Legionnaires’ disease (a severe form of pneumonia contracted from water sources like cooling towers and piped water), with cases cropping up from California’s Disneyland to Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

A woman washes a baby in an infant bath seat in a kitchen sink, with empty water bottles in the foreground.

A woman using bottled water to wash her three-week-old son at their home in Flint, Michigan

Todd McInturf/The Detroit News/AP

Meanwhile, the plight of residents in Flint, Michigan —where cost-cutting measures and aging water infrastructure created a lead contamination crisis—offers a stark look at how dangerous chemical and other industrial pollutants in our water can be. The problem goes far beyond Flint and involves much more than lead, as a wide range of chemical pollutants—from heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury to pesticides and nitrate fertilizers —are getting into our water supplies. Once they’re ingested, these toxins can cause a host of health issues, from cancer to hormone disruption to altered brain function. Children and pregnant women are particularly at risk.

Even swimming can pose a risk. Every year, 3.5 million Americans contract health issues such as skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, and hepatitis from sewage-laden coastal waters, according to EPA estimates.

On the environment

In order to thrive, healthy ecosystems rely on a complex web of animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi—all of which interact, directly or indirectly, with each other. Harm to any of these organisms can create a chain effect, imperiling entire aquatic environments.

When water pollution causes an algal bloom in a lake or marine environment, the proliferation of newly introduced nutrients stimulates plant and algae growth, which in turn reduces oxygen levels in the water. This dearth of oxygen, known as eutrophication , suffocates plants and animals and can create “dead zones,” where waters are essentially devoid of life. In certain cases, these harmful algal blooms can also produce neurotoxins that affect wildlife, from whales to sea turtles.

Chemicals and heavy metals from industrial and municipal wastewater contaminate waterways as well. These contaminants are toxic to aquatic life—most often reducing an organism’s life span and ability to reproduce—and make their way up the food chain as predator eats prey. That’s how tuna and other big fish accumulate high quantities of toxins, such as mercury.

Marine ecosystems are also threatened by marine debris , which can strangle, suffocate, and starve animals. Much of this solid debris, such as plastic bags and soda cans, gets swept into sewers and storm drains and eventually out to sea, turning our oceans into trash soup and sometimes consolidating to form floating garbage patches. Discarded fishing gear and other types of debris are responsible for harming more than 200 different species of marine life.

Meanwhile, ocean acidification is making it tougher for shellfish and coral to survive. Though they absorb about a quarter of the carbon pollution created each year by burning fossil fuels, oceans are becoming more acidic. This process makes it harder for shellfish and other species to build shells and may impact the nervous systems of sharks, clownfish, and other marine life.

With your actions

We’re all accountable to some degree for today’s water pollution problem. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can prevent water contamination or at least limit your contribution to it:

  • Learn about the unique qualities of water where you live . Where does your water come from? Is the wastewater from your home treated? Where does stormwater flow to? Is your area in a drought? Start building a picture of the situation so you can discover where your actions will have the most impact—and see if your neighbors would be interested in joining in!
  • Reduce your plastic consumption and reuse or recycle plastic when you can.
  • Properly dispose of chemical cleaners, oils, and nonbiodegradable items to keep them from going down the drain.
  • Maintain your car so it doesn’t leak oil, antifreeze, or coolant.
  • If you have a yard, consider landscaping that reduces runoff and avoid applying pesticides and herbicides .
  • Don’t flush your old medications! Dispose of them in the trash to prevent them from entering local waterways.
  • Be mindful of anything you pour into storm sewers, since that waste often won’t be treated before being released into local waterways. If you notice a storm sewer blocked by litter, clean it up to keep that trash out of the water. (You’ll also help prevent troublesome street floods in a heavy storm.)
  • If you have a pup, be sure to pick up its poop .

With your voice

One of the most effective ways to stand up for our waters is to speak out in support of the Clean Water Act, which has helped hold polluters accountable for five decades—despite attempts by destructive industries to gut its authority. But we also need regulations that keep pace with modern-day challenges, including microplastics, PFAS , pharmaceuticals, and other contaminants our wastewater treatment plants weren’t built to handle, not to mention polluted water that’s dumped untreated.

Tell the federal government, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and your local elected officials that you support water protections and investments in infrastructure, like wastewater treatment, lead-pipe removal programs, and stormwater-abating green infrastructure. Also, learn how you and those around you can get involved in the policymaking process . Our public waterways serve every one of us. We should all have a say in how they’re protected.

This story was originally published on May 14, 2018, and has been updated with new information and links.

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What Causes Water Pollution and How Do We Solve it?

What Causes Water Pollution and How Do We Solve it?

Water pollution is putting our health at risk. Unsafe water kills more people each year than war and all other forms of violence combined. Meanwhile, less than 1% of the Earth’s freshwater is actually accessible to us and it’s in our best interest to protect what we have, especially considering that by 2050, global demand for freshwater is expected to be one-third greater than it is now. Here are six causes of water pollution, as well as what we can do to reduce it.

Water is uniquely vulnerable to pollution because it’s able to dissolve more substances than any other liquid on Earth. Toxic substances from farms, towns, and factories readily dissolve into and mix with it, which causes water pollution as a result.

6 Most Common Causes of Water Pollution

1. sewage and wastewater .

According to the UN , more than 80% of the world’s wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused; in some least-developed countries, this figure tops 95%. Harmful chemicals and bacteria can be found in sewage and wastewater even after it’s been treated. Households release sewage and wastewater, which makes its way to the ocean, mixing with freshwater and affecting the water quality and marine life. Also, the bacteria and pathogens found in wastewater breed disease, and cause health-related issues in humans and animals. 

2. Oil Spills

Large oil spills and leaks are some of most significant causes of water pollution. These are often caused by oil drilling operations in the ocean, but nearly half of the estimated 1 million tons of oil that makes its way into marine environments each year come not from oil tankers, but from land-based sources like factories, farms and cities. In England and Wales, there are about 3,000 pollution incidents involving oil and fuel each year. Oil makes drinking water unsafe and a substantial amount of oil released into oceans or become river water pollution, will destroy marine life and the ecosystems that support them. What’s more, oil reduces the oxygen supply within the water environment.  Oil is also naturally released from under the ocean floor through fractures known as seeps.

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3. Industrial Waste

Industrial waste is one of the biggest sources of water contamination. Many industrial sites produce waste in the form of toxic chemicals and pollutants, and some don’t have proper waste management systems in place. Sometimes, industrial waste is dumped into nearby freshwater systems. The toxic chemicals leached from this waste can make the water unsafe for human consumption, and they can also cause the temperature in freshwater systems to change, making them dangerous for marine life. Finally, industrial waste can cause “ dead zones ,” which are areas of water that contain so little oxygen that marine life cannot survive in them.

sources of water pollution, oil spill, gulf of mexico

4. Agricultural Runoff

To protect crops from pests, farmers use pesticides, however when these substances seep into the groundwater, they can harm animals, plants and humans. Additionally, when it rains, the chemicals mix with rainwater, which flows into waterways and creates further pollution. Other agricultural processes such as uncontrolled spreading of slurries and manures, tillage and ploughing the land can also cause water pollution.

5. Marine Dumping and Plastic Pollution in the Sea

Most items collected and dumped into oceans by many countries can take anywhere from two to 200 years to decompose completely! Other sources of waste at sea include plastic and other materials blown or washed from land. Currently, about 11 million metric tons of plastic make their way into the oceans each year. Research has found that should this rate of pollution continues, the amount of ocean plastics will grow to 29 million metric tons per year by 2040. The damage to wildlife habitats and to life on land is incalculable. 

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6. Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste can persist in the environment for thousands of years , making disposal a major challenge and one of the most harmful water contaminants. Radioactive waste released from facilities that create nuclear energy can be extremely harmful to the environment and must be disposed of properly; uranium, the element used in the creation of nuclear energy, is a highly toxic chemical. Accidents occur at these facilities from time to time, and toxic waste is released into the environment.

In April 2021, Japan discharged contaminated water containing radioactive materials from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. Though the Japanese government claims potential health risks and damage to marine life to be minimal as the waste water have been treated, close monitoring is required to ensue there are no environment effects from the water pollution. 

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How Can You Reduce Water Pollution?

  • Reduce your plastic consumption and reuse or recycle plastic when you can. 
  • Properly dispose of chemical cleaners, oils and non-biodegradable items.
  • Use phosphate-free detergents – phosphates lead to algae blooms and kill fish and other aquatic animals by reducing the oxygen in the water. 
  • Dispose of medical waste properly.
  • Eat more organic food, which is produced without the use of pesticides.
  • Cut down on your meat consumption – raising animals for meat takes lots of water for the grains and other feed they need. Furthermore, the antibiotics and solid waste are both likely to end up in groundwater and rivers.

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What Is Water Pollution?

Watch this brief, video picture of practice that captures everyday classroom life and provides real-life examples of how students learn and think about freshwater topics.

Earth Science

When asked what water pollution is, most students can readily explain pollution as trash thrown away by humans that enters our water. Students can readily identify items visible to the naked eye, such as cigarette butts, plastic bottles, and bags. This type of debris is certainly a water-pollution problem. However, when students are asked about other sources of water pollution, they may be lost or not able to identify invisible pollutants. Chemical released by manufacturing, cars, and lawns and farms are large contributors to water pollution but can be hard for students to identify because they may not be visible, or the source of the pollution is not easily connected to the area that is impacted. For example, yard fertilizers and pesticides run into storm drains and simply "disappear" from students' world. Likewise, if students are asked how pollution gets into water, they may point to littering but not identify different types of runoff. It is important that students understand that there are many pollutants that get into the water—in different ways—so they can better understand how to prevent pollution from entering the water systems in the first place. Watch this video of 6th grade students in San Diego, California—a coastal community. The purpose of this classroom video is to see students share their ideas about water pollution. For additional classroom context, video analysis, and reflection opportunities, read the Picture of Practice page for "What Is Water Pollution?" in the Earth's Freshwater Educator Guide , page 80.

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Water Pollution: a Global Imperative for Health and Environment

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what is water pollution in essay

The Environment

Water pollution.

Water pollution and trash

  • Pollution in the water can reach a point where there isn't enough oxygen in the water for the fish to breathe. The fish can actually suffocate!
  • Sometimes pollution affects the entire food chain. Small fishes absorb pollutants, such as chemicals, into their bodies. Then bigger fishes eat the smaller fishes and get the pollutants too. Birds or other animals may eat the bigger fishes and be harmed by the pollutants. One example of this was the use of the insecticide (bug killer) DDT. When birds of prey ate fishes that were infected with it, they would lay eggs with thin shells. The population of birds of prey began to drop until DDT was banished.
  • Sewage can also cause major problems in rivers. Bacteria in the water will use oxygen to break down the sewage. If there is too much sewage, the bacteria could use up so much oxygen that there won't be enough left for the fish.
  • Water pollution from major events like acid rain or oil spills can completely destroy marine habitats.

No dumping water pollution sign

  • Sewage - Even today sewage is flushed directly into streams and rivers in many areas around the world. Sewage can introduce harmful bacteria that can make people and animals very sick.
  • Farm animal waste - Waste from large herds of farm animals such as pigs and cows can get into the water supply from the runoff of rain and large storms.
  • Pesticides and herbicides - Pesticides are often sprayed on crops to kill bugs and herbicides are sprayed to kill weeds. These strong chemicals can get into the water through runoff of rain storms. They can also contaminate rivers and lakes through accidental spills.
  • Construction, floods, and storms - Silt from construction, earthquakes, floods, and storms can lower the oxygen content in the water and suffocate fish.
  • Factories - Factories often use a lot of water to process chemicals, keep engines cool, and for washing things away. The used waste water is sometimes dumped into rivers or the ocean. It can be full of pollutants.
  • Save water - Fresh and clean water is a precious resource. Don't waste it! Take shorter showers, ask your parents not to water the lawn, make sure the toilet isn't running, and don't leave the faucet running.
  • Don't use weed killer - Ask your parents if you can pull the weeds in the yard so they don't need to use weed killer (an herbicide).
  • Scrape your plates clean into the trash and don't put grease into the kitchen drain.
  • Trash - Always pick up your trash, especially when at the beach, lake, or river.
  • Soap from washing your car can run down the street drain and cause water pollution.
  • Only around 1% of the Earth's water is fresh water. The rest is salty and we can't drink it.
  • Around 40% of the rivers and lakes in the United States are too polluted for fishing or swimming.
  • The Mississippi River carries around 1.5 million tons of pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year.
  • Between 5 and 10 million people die each year from water pollution related illnesses.
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Water Pollution Essay

Water is a necessity for all life forms present on this planet. Animals need water to quench their thirst, plants need water to draw nutrients from the soil and keep nourished, and people need water for a variety of activities like drinking, cooking, cleaning, and washing, to mention a few. Even though water is so important to us, there are many practices which humans follow which are making fresh water scarce. Water pollution is when the substances that make the water contaminate the sources of the water. Chemicals, garbage, bacteria, and parasites are examples of pollutants. Eventually, every kind of pollution finds its way into the water. Here are a few sample essays on "water pollution".

Water Pollution Essay

100 Words Essay On Water Pollution

Water is necessary for our survival and to live a healthy and happy life. Everyone is familiar with the picture of people living in misery in nations without access to water, such as Africa. It's time for everyone to wake up and understand how important water conservation is. Human species couldn't survive in a world without water. All plants and animals fall under this same category. In fact, without water, the entire planet will suffer. Water bodies, including lakes, rivers, seas, oceans, and groundwater, have all been contaminated. Water bodies become contaminated when waste from homes, factories, and other buildings enters them.

As stated, water pollution is a severe issue that can be catastrophic for all living beings, including humans, plants and animals. We must comprehend the value of water in our life and the need to preserve it. There are numerous easy ways to prevent water waste, including taking shorter showers, watering plants with RO waste, cleaning cars with a wet cloth rather than a hose, etc. To gather rainwater, we must also employ the rainwater harvesting technique. In this way, we can conserve water.

200 Words Essay On Water Pollution

On Earth, water is abundant. Both above and below the surface of the Earth, it exists. Rivers, ponds, seas, and oceans are just a few of the water bodies found on the surface of the Earth. Even though our world can replenish its own water, over time, we are destroying and abusing the abundance of water present. Even though 70% of the surface of the Earth is covered by water and 30% by land, the rapidly expanding water contamination impacts marine life and humans. Everyone is beginning to be concerned about the uneven distribution of water on Earth and the rising demand for it due to the growing population.

Contaminants | City sewage and commercial waste discharge are two of the most harmful factors contributing to water contamination. Contaminants that reach the water supply through soils or groundwater systems, as well as through rain, are examples of indirect sources of water pollution. The chemical contaminants are more dangerous and challenging to remove from a water body than the visible impurities, which can be easily eliminated by physical cleaning or filtering. Water's characteristics are altered when chemicals are added, making it dangerous to use and perhaps lethal.

Solution | To prevent water pollution, there are several steps we, as citizens and the government, can take. Since water efficiency and conservation are essential elements of sustainable water management, enhancing water infrastructure must be prioritised. Intelligent irrigation systems and solar desalination are excellent examples of clean technology for managing and conserving water.

Also, Rainwater harvesting and reusing is an excellent method to prevent water pollution. Groundwater and other natural water sources can be under less stress because of reclaimed wastewater and rainwater gathering. It is common knowledge that one way to avoid water scarcity is through groundwater recharge, which enables water to move from surface water to groundwater.

500 Words Essay On Water Pollution

Although water is essential to every living thing on the planet, Humans still indulge in activities that make water a scarce resource. When a body of water—such as a river, lake, ocean, etc.—becomes polluted due to human activity or a natural source, the term "water pollution" is used. Water contamination is now a significant environmental issue that requires responsible management. Water contamination is caused primarily due to human activities such as urbanisation, industrialisation, deforestation, trash dumping, and landfills.

Causes Of Water Pollution

On the earth, fresh water is extremely limited, and pollution is making it much more so. We lose millions of litres of fresh water each year to industrial pollution and other forms of pollution. Pollutants include both large and small items of obvious trash as well as intangible, dangerous, and deadly compounds.

Many factories are located close to water sources, and they transport their waste there using fresh water. This industrial waste is poisonous by nature and endangers both the flora and fauna's health. People close to polluted water bodies have been seen to have significant skin, respiratory, and occasionally even life-threatening health illnesses.

Urban garbage and sewage are other significant contributors to water contamination. Each household generates tons of waste annually, including plastic, wood, chemicals, and other substances. This trash reaches our aquatic bodies, such as rivers, lakes, and streams, and pollutes them without an effective waste disposal system.

How To Manage Water Pollution

By educating people about the causes and impacts of water pollution on life and the environment, water pollution might be significantly reduced. People need to participate in cleanup initiatives when a community or organisation cleans up the waterways every week or at least once a month. To completely eradicate water contamination, strict legislation must also be created and adequately enforced. Strict oversight will increase accountability and may deter individuals and groups from polluting. We should all be aware of our daily activities and take measures to help the world become a better place for future generations.

Real-Life Experience

I have always loved my town as it has many lakes, rivers, and forests. One day, as I walked along the river that ran through my village, I couldn't help but notice the strange colours swirling in the water. It wasn't the crystal clear blue that I was used to seeing. Instead, the water was a murky brown, and there was a strong, foul smell emitting from it. Curious, I decided to investigate further. I made my way down to the riverbank and peered into the water, trying to get a closer look at what was causing the strange colours and smells. As I looked more closely, I saw that strange foam bubbles were floating on the surface of the water.

Suddenly, I heard a noise behind me and turned to see a group of people rushing towards the river. They were shouting and waving their arms, and I could see the panic on their faces. I quickly realised that something was very wrong. As the group reached the river, they saw that the water was teeming with dead fish floating belly up on the surface. The smell of rotten fish was overpowering, and it was clear that something had seriously polluted the river.

After a thorough investigation, it was determined that a local factory had been releasing toxic chemicals into the river, causing widespread pollution and destruction of the ecosystem. I was shocked and saddened by this discovery, and I knew it would take a lot of work to clean up the river and restore it to its former glory.

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Essay on Water Pollution for Students in 1000 Words

January 7, 2022 by ReadingJunction Leave a Comment

Essay on Water Pollution in English (1000 Words)

Here, you will read an Essay on Water Pollution for Students in English 1000 Words. We have also explained Its Facts, Causes, Effects, and Control and Prevention Steps.

Table of Contents

Essay on Water Pollution in English (1000 Words)

So, let’s start the Essay on Water Pollution.

What is Water Pollution?

‘The Loss of Vigor in a Freshwater body like lakes, rivers oceans, and groundwater due to Toxic mixed substances through human activity is known as  Water Pollution” . 

The mixture of Toxic substances into water and lying beneath the surface of water degrades water quality. We can supply the process to our daily activities and drinking, which is causing a significant threat to our lives.

Causes of Water Pollution

Freshwater is only 25% of the total water resources. The water is contaminated with 70% of industrial waste, more than 6 billion pounds of garbage, and most plastic is dumped into oceans. 

There is a point alerted in Newspapers in July quoting, and there will be more plastic bottles than the fish in near future beaches. The more effect on flora and Fauna with the details given:

 80% of domestic sewage is causing Water Pollution, and the water is the chief source for Cholera and typhus diseases to humankind.

Fifteen million children aged less than five were killed with Water Pollution related infections, and 2.5 billion were affected worldwide.

Eleven million litres of radioactive substance were mixed into the Pacific ocean in 2011, Tsunami through Japan and debris of 70 K.M.s islands were formed.

Asia is the most populated continent in which bacteria from human waste accounted to be high. Million Tons of human waste is mixed into the water worldwide.

The most polluted river in the world contains dirt, garbage , dead animals and humans  is in our Country- The Ganges. The Underground water is contaminated with arsenic, which is highly toxic, poisonous, and carcinogenic in Bangladesh.

The drinking water in China is polluted, with nearly 20% Carcinogens. Almost 40% of rivers and 46% of lakes are contaminated and are not suitable for swimming, fishing, or any activity in America, and sewage is a threat to water bodies.

Facts of Water pollution

Nearly more than a dozen Facts for Water Pollution include pollutants from Industry, Agriculture, energy production, Sewage, and other activities. Mississippi River carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico.

Nearly 1.2 Trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste are dumped U.S. water resources.

Near 70% of industrial waste are dumped into waters without untreated, and more the 80% of Sewage water is unprocessed. Nearly 20,000 known abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites could be contaminated if there is a leak.

The Animal discharge of sewage and industrial waste in the Yangtze River has reached 25 billion tons; more than 70% of rivers and lakes were polluted in China and unfit for human use.

Industry dump is estimated at 300-400 MT of polluted waste in waters every year, and Nitrate from agriculture is standard in the world’s aquifers.

Human activity is the leading  cause of water pollution  in dumping into industrial waste, temperature rise, oxygen reduction, and deforestation. The Leaking underground storage Tank, Streams, dump, spills and leaks, abandoned wells, Leakage sewage system.

Damming of Rivers results in the effects of downstream agriculture and fisheries. More eutrophication I due tons stay in the dam, increased evaporation in dams, especially with a large area.

Destruction of wetlands, the release of waste by Industries, mining can increase the number of minerals and salts in the water. Agriculture results in  Soil Erosion  and nutrients increasing by Pesticide use.

Effects of Water Pollution

Water Pollution is very harmful to humans, animals, and water life. The impact on human beings, animals, and water animals can be catastrophic, depending on the kind of chemicals concentrations of the Pollutants.

Urban waste diverted to nearby water resources, Garbage dump, Illegal dump by manufacturing, Garbage dump, illegal dump by manufacturing units, health centres, hospitals, Schools and Market places (Garbage).

Loss of Aquatic Fauna is also happening because of water pollution. Crabs, birds, Seagulls, Dolphins and other Animals are due to Water pollution.

Tiny animals will consume the crash of food chains. Lead and Cadmium will be found in consumed fish, and humans or others will consume the same will be a great disaster and great menace in the food chain and loss of species on earth and water in particular.

Human health, Ecosystems, Death of Animals is the primary and familiar Points that will be affected, resulting in a tremendous economic cost for purifying.

The U.S. Tourism Industry is losing $1 billion a year from losses in fishing and recreational activities due to Water pollution.

How to Control Water pollution?

Several Industries are causing Water pollution by discharging the waste into oceans, and Accidental spills are causing a lot of environmental consequences.

Do not release oils, fats or grease through Kitchen Sink; instead, keep a waste utensil and discard it into solid waste.

Do not drain contaminated liquids, Pills, drugs, or medicines into Drains. Instead, use the recommended disposal methods to control the water bodies to be polluted.

Do not use toilets as Bin, minimum use of detergents, pesticides & fertilizers. Promote trash properly, promote sewage treatment and management. 

Conserve water, promote environmentally safe products, promote greenery, support green-oriented products, promote recyclable and reusable options that don’t promote plastic.

Dispose of used oils at its collection points, pickup Pet waste, promote organic farming, report to the local authorities any pollution activities.

Install water-efficient household appliances and participate in the Prevention of water pollution activities or  save water  from pollution campaigns.

Let us promote more  activities to save  our precious water as much as possible. Give the most honour for water and life, Don’t waste or pollute rivers. 

Pay for water services and be active to solve or rectifying any water problem in our society. Let us conserve water and thereby save our water and environment.

People should use water resources very safely and cautiously for sustainable and promising life on our planet. I hope this guide and essay on water pollution helped you in your project.

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what is water pollution in essay

  • Biology Article
  • Water Pollution Control

Water Pollution And Its Control

Water is one of the most vital natural resources on earth and has been around for a long time. In fact, the same water which we drink has been around in one form or the other since the time of the dinosaurs.

The earth has more than two-thirds of its surface covered with water. This translates to just over 1 octillion litres (1,260,000,000,000,000,000,000 litres) of water distributed in the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams.

what is water pollution in essay

That is a lot of water, however, less than 0.3% is accessible for human consumption. As commercialization and industrialization have progressed, that number continues to dwindle down. Furthermore, inefficient and outdated practices, lack of awareness and a plethora of other circumstances have led to water pollution.

Also Read: How Can We Conserve Water?

Water Pollution

  • Water pollution
  • Modern Epidemic

Minamata Incident

  • Ganges River

What is Water Pollution?

Water pollution can be defined as the contamination of water bodies. Water pollution is caused when water bodies such as rivers, lakes, oceans, groundwater and aquifers get contaminated with industrial and agricultural effluents.

When water gets polluted, it adversely affects all lifeforms that directly or indirectly depend on this source. The effects of water contamination can be felt for years to come.

Also Refer:  Types of Pollution

Sources Of Water Pollution

The key causative of water pollution in India are:

  • Urbanization.
  • Deforestation.
  • Industrial effluents.
  • Social and Religious Practices.
  • Use of Detergents and Fertilizers.
  • Agricultural run-offs- Use of insecticides and pesticides.

Water Pollution – A Modern Epidemic

Causes of Water Pollution

One of the primary causes of water pollution is the contamination of water bodies by toxic chemicals. As seen in the example mentioned above, the dumped plastic bottles, tins, water cans and other wastes pollute the water bodies. These result in water pollution, which harms not just humans, but the whole ecosystem. Toxins drained from these pollutants, travel up to the food chain and eventually affect humans. In most cases, the outcome is destructive to only the local population and species, but it can have an impact on a global scale too.

Nearly 6 billion kilograms of garbage is dumped every year in the oceans. Apart from industrial effluents and untreated sewage, other forms of unwanted materials are dumped into various water bodies. These can range from nuclear waste to oil spills – the latter of which can render vast areas uninhabitable.

Effects Of Water Pollution

The effect of water pollution depends upon the type of pollutants and their concentration. Also, the location of water bodies is an important factor to determine the levels of pollution.

  • Water bodies in the vicinity of urban areas are extremely polluted. This is the result of dumping garbage and toxic chemicals by industrial and commercial establishments.
  • Water pollution drastically affects aquatic life. It affects their metabolism, and behaviour, and causes illness and eventual death. Dioxin is a chemical that causes a lot of problems from reproduction to uncontrolled cell growth or cancer. This chemical is bioaccumulated in fish, chicken and meat. Chemicals such as this travel up the food chain before entering the human body.
  • The effect of water pollution can have a huge impact on the food chain. It disrupts the food chain. Cadmium and lead are some toxic substances, these pollutants upon entering the food chain through animals (fish when consumed by animals, humans) can continue to disrupt at higher levels.
  • Humans are affected by pollution and can contract diseases such as hepatitis through faecal matter in water sources. Poor drinking water treatment and unfit water can always cause an outbreak of infectious diseases such as cholera, etc.
  • The ecosystem can be critically affected, modified and destructured because of water pollution.

Water Pollution - Minimata Disease

The Minamata Incident marked one of the worst cases of water pollution

In 1932, a factory in Minamata City, Japan began dumping its industrial effluent – Methylmercury, into the surrounding bay and the sea. Methylmercury is incredibly toxic to humans and animals alike, causing a wide range of neurological disorders.

Its ill effects were not immediately noticeable. However, this all changed as methylmercury started to bioaccumulate inside shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay. These affected organisms were then caught and consumed by the local population. Soon, the ill effects of methylmercury were becoming apparent.

Initially, animals such as cats and dogs were affected by this. The city’s cats would often convulse and make strange noises before dying – hence, the term “dancing cat disease” was coined. Soon, the same symptoms were observed in people, though the cause was not apparent at the time.

Other affected people showed symptoms of acute mercury poisoning such as ataxia, muscle weakness, loss of motor coordination, damage to speech and hearing etc. In severe cases, paralysis occurred, which was followed by coma and death.  These diseases and deaths continued for almost 36 years before they could be officially acknowledged by the government and the organisation.

Since then, various control measures for water pollution have been adopted by the government of Japan to curb such environmental disasters in the future.

Pollution of the Ganges

Some rivers, lakes, and groundwater are rendered unfit for usage. In India, the River Ganges is the sixth most polluted river in the world. This is unsurprising as hundreds of industries nearby release their effluents into the river. Furthermore, religious activities such as burials and cremations near the shore contribute to pollution. Apart from the ecological implications, this river poses a serious health risks as it can cause diseases like typhoid and cholera.

Pollution of the Ganges is also driving some of the distinct fauna to extinction. The Ganges River shark is a critically endangered species that belong to the order Carcharhiniformes. The Ganges River dolphin is another  endangered species of dolphin that is found in the tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers.

As per a survey, by the end of 2026, around 4 billion people will face a shortage of water. Presently, around 1.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean, potable water and proper sanitation. It is also projected that nearly 1000 children die every year in India due to water-related issues. Groundwater is an important source of water, but unfortunately, even that is susceptible to pollution. Hence, water pollution is quite an important social issue that needs to be addressed promptly.

Control Measures of Water Pollution

Water pollution, to a larger extent, can be controlled by a variety of methods. Rather than releasing sewage waste into water bodies, it is better to treat them before discharge. Practising this can reduce the initial toxicity and the remaining substances can be degraded and rendered harmless by the water body itself. If the secondary treatment of water has been carried out, then this can be reused in sanitary systems and agricultural fields.

A very special plant, the Water Hyacinth can absorb dissolved toxic chemicals such as cadmium and other such elements. Establishing these in regions prone to such kinds of pollutants will reduce the adverse effects to a large extent.

Some chemical methods that help in the control of water pollution are precipitation, the ion exchange process, reverse osmosis , and coagulation. As an individual, reusing, reducing, and recycling wherever possible will advance a long way in overcoming the effects of water pollution.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is sewage treatment.

Wastewater treatment or sewage treatment generally refers to the process of cleaning or removing all pollutants, treating wastewater and making it safe and suitable for drinking before releasing it into the environment.

What are the main steps in sewage treatment?

There are four main stages of the wastewater treatment process, namely:

  • Stage 1: Screening
  • Stage 2: Primary treatment
  • Stage 3: Secondary treatment
  • Stage 4: Final treatment

What are the main causes of water pollution?

The main causes of water pollution are attributed to

  • Industrial activities
  • Urbanization
  • Religious and social practices
  • Agricultural runoff
  • Accidents (such as oil spills, nuclear fallouts etc)

What are the effects of water pollution?

Water pollution can have disastrous consequences on the ecosystem. Furthermore, toxic chemicals can travel through the food chain and get into our bodies, causing diseases and death.

To learn more about water pollution, causes, effects, preventive measures and other important environmental concerns (such as eutrophication), visit us at BYJU’S Biology.

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Essay on Water Pollution for Children and Students

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Essay on Water Pollution: Water pollution is a topic of great environmental concern in today’s context. Water is a rare resource, much essential for life on earth. It is not only water that is essential but it also must be clean and safe to use. Polluted and contaminated water is good for nothing and is also hazardous to use or consume. The main causes of water are human-induced and include activities like industrialization, agricultural activities, improper waste disposal, etc.

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Short and Long Essay on Water Pollution

We have provided below short and long essays on water pollution in English for your knowledge and information. After going through the essays, you will know what water pollution is and what are its main causes; how to stop water pollution; water pollution prevention etc. These essays will be helpful in your school/college assignments of essay writing, speech giving or paragraph writing, etc.

Water Pollution Essay 100 Words – Sample 1

Water Pollution refers to the contamination of water bodies and underground resources of water by any of the several human activities or natural causes. Human activities like, urbanization, industrialization, deforestation, waste disposal, landfills are primarily responsible for water pollution.

Some of the natural causes responsible for water pollution are volcanoes and debris from floods. Another natural cause of water pollution is algae bloom. The term “algae” is used to refer to a large and diverse group of photosynthetic organisms. Algae bloom means an increase in the population of algae in a water body, consequently resulting in its discoloration and contamination.

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Water Pollution Essay 150 Words – Sample 2

The term “Water Pollution” is used when a water body like a river, lake, ocean, etc is polluted due to human activity or a natural cause. Today, water pollution has become a major environmental concern and needs to be responsibly dealt with.

Fresh water is very scarce on the planet and pollution is making it even scarcer. Every year we lose millions of liters of freshwater to industrial and other types of pollution. Pollutants consist of visible small and big pieces of garbage as well as invisible, harmful and toxic chemicals.

The visible impurities can be easily removed from a water body by manual cleaning or filtration, but the chemical pollutants are more hazardous and difficult to remove. Chemicals get mixed into water and change its properties, making it harmful to use and life-threatening.

It is only through sincere individual and collective efforts, that we can overcome the problem of water pollution and prevent a severe water crisis in future.

Water Pollution Essay 200 Words – Sample 3

Water Pollution is a matter of environmental concern as well as life and health of all living species. For a population of 7.8 billion growing at a rate of 82 million every year we have very little freshwater.

Only 2.5% of all the water available on earth is freshwater that we use for our daily needs. But, human’s desire to expand boundaries and explore commercial avenues have put stress on our freshwater resources, making them polluted as never before.

Many industries are set up near water bodies and use freshwater to carry industrial waste to the nearby water bodies. This industrial waste is toxic in nature and poses a health hazard to the flora and fauna. People in the settlements in the vicinity of polluted water bodies are observed to be suffering from serious skin, respiratory and sometimes even life-threatening other ailments.

Other the main cause of water pollution is urban waste and sewage. Every household produces tons of waste annually, consisting of plastic, wood, chemicals, and other compounds. In the absence of a proper waste disposal mechanism, this waste reaches our water bodies like rivers, lakes, streams and pollutes them. Water pollution must be prevented if we want the earth to be green, healthy and filled with life.

Water Pollution Essay 250 Words – Sample 4

Water is an essential resource for life on earth. Without water, or to be more specific, without clean and safe water, life on earth would be unimaginable. You may think that we still have plenty of water with it constituting 97.5% of the total volume of earth. But, there is a catch – that 97.5% is salt water that is found mainly in oceans; the water we do not use for our daily needs.

The remaining percentage, that is, only 2.5% is freshwater what we use. Moreover, only 0.3% of that 2.5% is the water found on the surface of the earth. To be more specific, the total volume of water on earth is 1,386,000,000 Km 3 , out of which only 10,633,450 Km 3 is freshwater. Leaving very less freshwater for a population of 7.8 billion as on December 2019 and every year 82 million people are being added to that figure. On the other hand, the volume of freshwater used by the world population took centuries to be produced and thus it can’t be afforded to be polluted at any cost.

If the pollution of water continues as it is today, within a couple of decades we could face an acute water crisis. Then we might be left with no option but only to regret what we have done. There is still time and things can be normalized if we take action today. Whether it is an individual action or a collective one, an action to conserve water and prevent its pollution is the need of the day.

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Water Pollution Essay 300 Words – Sample 5


Water Pollution occurs when external pollutants enter the otherwise clean and safe natural water resources. Due to the growing human intervention and expansion of urban settlements, water pollution has become a painful reality today.

Water Pollution Sources

The sources of water pollution are many and almost all of them are generated due to human activities. Industries emit millions of gallons of toxic smoke and material waste which is left directly into the air, water bodies and natural resources. Most of such waste from the industries are left directly into the water bodies without any kind of treatment. Most of the industrial waste is toxic in nature and in turn, increases the toxicity of the water it reaches.

Also, the domestic waste that is generated every day in the millions of households around the world contains waste plastic materials, chemicals, oils, metals, etc. Most of the households lack a proper waste disposal mechanism and mostly the waste is directly dumped into the environment.

How to Stop Water Pollution

Water pollution could be prevented considerably by making people aware of its causes and its effects on life and the planet. People must take part in cleaning campaigns wherein a group or community takes up the task of cleaning the water bodies every weekend or at least once in a month.

Moreover, strict laws need to be formed and strictly implemented with the objective of eliminating water pollution. Strict monitoring could prevent people and organizations from polluting and will improve accountability as well.

Water pollution today has become a topic of hot debate and concern for environmentalists and scientists. It threatens the future of all the living species on the planet earth. Water is an essential commodity to live added by the fact that only 2% of the water on earth is fresh water that we use. We can’t afford to pollute it further and must take steps for the reversal of the damage that we have already done.

Water Pollution Essay 350 Words – Sample 6

Water Pollution refers to the introduction of pollutants into our water bodies. These pollutants are primarily generated by human-induced activities and pose a threat to our natural water resources.

Water Pollution Prevention

There are several things one could do to prevent water pollution. Some of them are simple enough to be taken by an individual while some require collective efforts. However, the efforts need to be repeatedly done in order to preserve our natural water resources. Some of the implementable ways to prevent water pollution are given below-

Keep your drain free of Contaminants and Chemicals.

An average household generates all kinds of waste including chemicals, disposed medicines, and other hazardous compounds. We must take care while disposing of our household waste and ensure that any such waste didn’t reach the sewage system.

Prevent use of Polythene

Polythene bags are widely used today in every household. They are light, could carry heavyweight, and easy to store. But polythene bags constitute a major threat to water resources. The polythene that we dispose of our houses, finds its way into the water bodies. Being non-biodegradable, it just lays there, polluting water and making it toxic.

Conserve Water

Always try to conserve water while doing your daily activities, whether it’s cooking, shaving, bathing, gardening or cleaning, etc. Water conservation can also be achieved by repairing all the faulty taps in your house and locality as well.

Reuse and Recycle

Much of the waste that we generate in houses could be reused and recycled if only we make a little effort for it. Wastes like automobile oil are disposed into the drain and easily reach into rivers and streams. This is really hazardous to the purity of water and also to the life of organisms that live in water. On the other hand, automobile oil can be reused for several other lubrication purposes.

Water pollution today has become a cause of great concern for human health as well as the environment. Water is an essential commodity without which life can’t be imagined. It is the duty of all to take steps for keeping water pollution-free and also to conserve it, for a healthy future of the planet.

Water Pollution Essay 400 Words – Sample 7

Water Pollution refers to the contamination of water bodies like rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans. It is caused when the pollutants generated by human activities like industrialization, urban waste, littering, etc., enter our water bodies and pollute them.

Types of Water Pollution

As water comes from many sources, there are many types of water pollution. The most common types of water pollution are described below.

  • Agricultural/Nutrients Pollution

Some of the waste water and agricultural waste contain high nutrients levels. These nutrient-rich contaminants cause algae growth, making the water unfit for drinking and other purposes. Algae use the oxygen content in water making oxygen scarce for other organisms, resulting in their death.

  • Sewage and Waste Water

Sewage and waste water from urban settlements is rich in various soluble and non-soluble impurities like mercury, plastic, rotten food, debris, chemicals etc. When these pollutants reach water bodies, some of them float over the surface while some sink at the bottom. The soluble impurities change the composition of water as well. This is a dangerous situation for all the living organisms in the water body.

  • Oxygen Depletion

Any water body contains several microorganisms including aerobic and anaerobic organisms. When the biodegradable waste reaches into the water bodies and decays, it encourages the growth of more microorganisms, consequently using more oxygen, in turn, depleting the oxygen level.

  • Pollution of Ground Water

Use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers pollute the groundwater resources. The chemicals get mixed with soil and are soaked into the ground with rain, reaching the underground water reserve. This contaminated water reaches our wells and other sources of water, making its consumption harmful.

Prevention of Water Pollution

Water Pollution can be prevented by taking these simple steps –

  • Don’t pour down fat or oil in your kitchen sink.
  • Avoid improper disposing of harmful chemicals and other contaminants.
  • Never let unused or expired medicines reach the house drainage system.
  • Segregate the waste as solid, liquid, degradable and non-degradable and ensure its proper disposal.
  • Avoid using pesticides and chemical fertilizers as much as you can.

Water pollution is a growing environmental concern which depletes one of our very essential natural resources. It is only through great determination and political will that we can succeed in saving water from getting contaminated.

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Water Pollution Essay 500 Words – Sample 8

Water Pollution refers to the contamination of water bodies, primarily due to human activities. Water bodies include lakes, rivers, ponds, oceans and underground water resources. Water Pollution occurs when waste from industrial and other sources enter into the water bodies, resulting in the contamination of water, moreover, it is also harmful to aquatic life as well as to humans.

Causes of Water Pollution

Water is an essential natural resource and very useful for life on earth. Causes of water pollution are many and always include human activities. The various causes of water pollution are given below-

  • Urban Sewage: The sewage from urban settlements is usually treated with chemicals and then released into the water bodies after mixing with fresh water. Most of the time, the sewage is not treated and is left into the water bodies. It contains harmful, bacteria and pathogens, which is extremely harmful to aquatic life and to humans as well.
  • Industrial Waste: Large amount of toxic waste is produced by the industries. Industrial waste includes pollutants such as mercury, lead, sulfur, asbestos, and nitrates. These chemicals are not only harmful to flora and fauna but also render the water unfit to use. Due to the absence of a proper waste management system, many industries still dump harmful waste in natural water resources.
  • Garbage Dumping: Common household garbage contains plastic, food, wood, paper, rubber, aluminum, etc. This garbage is directly dumped into oceans and rivers or else reaches them indirectly and takes a couple of years to centuries to degrade. In both cases, it pollutes the water bodies and threatens marine life as well as the life of flora and fauna over the adjoining lands.
  • Oil Spills: Oil is non-soluble in water and being lighter in density, floats over it. Though the oil spills have been considerably reduced in the past decades, the incidents of oil spills still happen. For instance, in 2018, there were 137 oil spills in the United States alone. Out of 137 spills, 65 were reported as the maximum potential spills, releasing gallons of oil into the water.
  • Landfills Leakage: Landfills are the huge piles of garbage usually found on the outskirts of a city or urban settlement. The garbage from the landfills leaks into the water bodies with rain or reaches with the wind, resulting in their contamination. They contain a large amount of several contaminants harmful for aquatic life.

Effects of Water Pollution

The most immediate effect of water pollution is on the organisms that live in water. Moreover, it is also harmful to the surrounding plants, animals and humans those use or consume water in some form or the other.

Chemical pollutants are most harmful in this regard as they are difficult to separate physically and alter the properties of water. They get mixed with the water alter its chemical properties, making it harmful to consume or use.

Use of contaminated water causes several serious diseases in humans like – diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, dysentery, etc and could be life-threatening.

Water Pollution today has become a serious issue that concerns the health of the planet and its inhabitants. Water is a very useful resource, much needed for drinking and other essential activities by humans and animals alike. If the already scarce freshwater is made contaminated then the chances of life on the planet are considerably reduced. To save life on earth we must first save the water by keeping our water bodies clean.

Frequently Asked Questions on Water Pollution

What are the objectives of water pollution.

Water pollution is not the objective but the result of contaminants entering water bodies, harming aquatic life and ecosystems.

How do we detect water pollution?

Water pollution can be detected through various tests and measurements of water quality, including chemical analysis and biological monitoring.

What is the effects of water pollution?

The effects of water pollution include harm to aquatic life, ecosystem disruption, health risks for humans, and damage to the environment.

Why do we stop water pollution?

We aim to stop water pollution to protect aquatic ecosystems, ensure safe drinking water, and safeguard public health.

How can we protect water?

We can protect water by reducing pollutant discharge, conserving water resources, and adopting eco-friendly practices.

What is the main source of pollution?

The main sources of water pollution are industrial discharges, agricultural runoff, sewage, and improper waste disposal.

How to prevent water pollution?

Preventing water pollution involves regulating pollution sources, promoting eco-friendly practices, and raising awareness about water conservation.

What's the cause of water pollution?

The causes of water pollution include chemical pollutants, sewage, oil spills, and excessive nutrient runoff from agriculture and urban areas.

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Understanding the Impact of Pollution on Marine Ecosystems

This essay about the impact of pollution on marine ecosystems sheds light on the pervasive threats facing our oceans. From plastic waste ensnaring marine life to chemical contaminants poisoning delicate habitats, the narrative underscores the urgency of addressing these challenges. It highlights the interconnectedness of human activities, climate change, and ecological disruption, emphasizing the need for collective action and environmental stewardship. Through education, empowerment, and engagement, it advocates for a sustainable future where marine ecosystems thrive once more.

How it works

The intricate dance of life beneath the waves is under constant threat from the insidious encroachment of pollution. Within the vast expanse of our oceans, pollution manifests in myriad forms, each exacting its toll on marine ecosystems and the delicate balance of life they support. Exploring the multifaceted impacts of pollution on these underwater realms unveils a narrative of adversity and urgency, compelling us to confront the consequences of our actions and chart a course towards a more sustainable future.

Plastic pollution, like a modern-day Hydra, proliferates relentlessly, its tentacles reaching every corner of the ocean.

From the sunlit shallows to the abyssal depths, discarded plastics plague marine life, ensnaring unsuspecting creatures and suffocating fragile ecosystems. The ubiquitous presence of plastic debris not only poses physical hazards to marine organisms but also serves as a vehicle for toxic pollutants, contaminating food webs and perpetuating a cycle of ecological harm.

Yet, the threat of pollution extends beyond the visible specter of plastic waste, delving into the realm of chemical contaminants that silently infiltrate marine habitats. Oil spills, catastrophic in their immediacy and enduring in their aftermath, leave a lasting imprint on marine ecosystems, staining pristine waters and smothering the vitality of coastal communities. Heavy metals, lurking beneath the surface, insidiously accumulate in the tissues of marine organisms, poisoning the very essence of life and perpetuating a silent epidemic of toxicity.

Agricultural runoff, laden with nutrients and pesticides, seeps inexorably into marine environments, fueling algal blooms that choke the life out of once-thriving ecosystems. The specter of nutrient pollution looms large, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the future of marine biodiversity and the sustainability of global fisheries. Meanwhile, the cacophony of human activity reverberates through the ocean depths, disrupting the delicate symphony of underwater life and driving marine species to the brink of despair.

Climate change, a looming specter on the horizon, casts a pall over the fate of marine ecosystems, exacerbating the impacts of pollution with unprecedented ferocity. Rising temperatures, melting ice caps, and acidifying oceans threaten to unravel the intricate tapestry of life that sustains the oceans, unleashing a cascade of ecological consequences that reverberate throughout the biosphere. Coral reefs, the vibrant metropolises of the sea, stand as harbingers of ecological collapse, their demise foretelling a future bereft of color and life.

Yet, amid the darkness, there glimmers a flicker of hope—a beacon of resilience amidst the tumult of uncertainty. Through collective action and unwavering determination, we possess the power to stem the tide of pollution and forge a path towards a brighter tomorrow. By embracing sustainable practices, advocating for policy reform, and fostering a culture of environmental stewardship, we can turn the tide of ecological destruction and nurture the resurgence of marine ecosystems.

Education, empowerment, and engagement serve as our most potent weapons in the battle against pollution, empowering individuals and communities to effect meaningful change on a global scale. Through education, we illuminate the path forward, instilling a sense of responsibility and reverence for the natural world. Through empowerment, we embolden individuals to become catalysts for change, amplifying their voices and channeling their passion towards a common purpose. And through engagement, we foster connections that transcend borders and unite us in a shared commitment to safeguarding the oceans for future generations.

In conclusion, the impact of pollution on marine ecosystems is a testament to the profound interconnectedness of life on Earth—a tapestry of existence woven from the threads of countless species and habitats. Yet, within the intricate web of ecological relationships, lies the potential for renewal and regeneration, waiting to be unleashed by the collective will of humanity. As stewards of this planet, it is our solemn duty to rise to the challenge, to confront the specter of pollution with courage and conviction, and to chart a course towards a future where the oceans teem with life and vitality once more.


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Polluted water

Industrial wastewater discharge

Pollution is decreasing the availability of good quality water. What can we do tackle it at source?

Not enough water

Too much water

Poorly managed water

Water is polluted when it contains high levels of harmful substances. These substances include toxic chemicals and microorganisms and are often invisible. But they are dangerous for our health and for the environment and it means that we cannot drink or use this water. The most common sources of water pollution are from agriculture, urban areas and wastewater, industrial discharges, as well as plastic and other litter.

92% of Europeans said that companies should pay for the costs of cleaning up their pollution and 74% that public authorities should pay for the cost. Progress has been to reduce water pollution in the EU, but there is still a way to go. We have to prevent pollution to become a #WaterWiseEU.

Water pollution in the EU

what is water pollution in essay

Which of the following is a common source of water pollution in Europe? - Agricultural runoff - Urban stormwater runoff - Industrial discharge - All of the above Answer: All of the above.

Water Supply and Sewerage system (environment), Slavonski Brod, Croatia

There are several ways to address water pollution, especially at source. The EU has many laws in place and has recently strengthened legislation on drinking water, treating wastewater, and industrial emissions to reduce pollution. 

Water pollution has a range of sources, and therefore a range of solutions. We need an integrated approach across sectors and actors to tackle pollution at source, from regulation at EU and national level to local actions. Solutions include

  • promoting sustainable agriculture, and using fewer pesticides and fertilisers
  • restoring natural ecosystems like floodplains and wetlands
  • reducing plastic waste 
  • implementing green infrastructure
  • more investment and innovation

Household chemical waste | Photo by CrispyMedia via Adobe Stock

We can all take small actions to help reduce water pollution, including

  • disposing of household waste, like medicines, chemicals, and wastewater properly  
  • reducing the use of harmful chemicals in your everyday life 
  • reducing your use of single-use plastics 
  • not using fertilizers and pesticides on your plants and crops 
  • avoiding littering 

Or join the  #EUBeachCleanUp and organise a water clean-up event near you!

Did you know?

what is water pollution in essay

Waterborne diseases such as cholera can spread when untreated wastewater pollutes drinking water supplies. Pollution from chemicals, including pesticides, can cause serious health issues like cancer and neurological damage. Microplastics have even been been found in our bloodstreams, and their impact on our health in the long-term is still currently unknown. 

what is water pollution in essay

EU water policy is a cornerstone of environmental protection in the EU. These laws protect water resources, fresh and saltwater ecosystems, and ensure our drinking and bathing water are clean. But 78% of Europeans think that the EU should propose additional measures to address water problems.

The EU plan for zero air, water and soil pollution by 2050

Commits EU countries to achieve good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies.

Recently strengthened and updated, and sets common EU standards for treating wastewater.

Protects waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources

The EU’s main law for clean and plentiful drinking water has been recently strengthened and updated.

Ensuring clean and high-quality bathing water across Europe.

Actions on the ground

Image of the day - November 2021

For years, Mar Menor, Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon, was severely polluted by sewage water, agricultural runoff, and discharge from local mining. Six years ago, algal blooms turned its waters green and destroyed 85% of its seabed vegetation. In response to dire conditions, local residents fought back. Over 640,000 people came together to support a campaign to designate the Mar Menor as a legal "person" to ensure its protection and preservation.  The government approved this in 2022. Since then, large- and small-scale cleanup events have taken place, with the lagoon enjoying protected status to prevent further pollution.

Peninsula in river surrounded by green landscape.

The massive fish kill in the Oder River in July and August 2022 is one of the largest ecological disasters in Europe in recent memory. It showed how human induced pollution, coupled with biodiversity loss and climate change, can create a perfect storm, with dire consequences. Since then, the EU has updated its laws and proposed  recommendations  to prevent this happening again.

As part of the EU-funded ‘StopUP’ project, researchers in Belgium are using seashells to filter and store rainwater runoff from urban areas to prevent pollutants from entering rivers, lakes, and bays.

The LIFE Plants for Plants project shows how biostimulants can reduce irrigations and chemical use to boost crop production, leading to higher income for farmers.

The LIFE Belini project is bringing together partners to improve water quality, boost biodiversity and mitigate flooding in the Scheldt River district.

See all the inspiring projects

Which of these is not a way to mitigate water pollution? - Using more chemicals in farming - Using natural pest control methods - Improving water treatment infrastructure - Educating communities about proper waste disposal Answer: Using more chemicals in farming

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Wastewater from Tyson meat processing plants is polluting U.S. waterways, report says

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Tyson Foods is one of the world’s biggest meat and poultry producers. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, it’s also a major polluter in the United States. A new report from the group says Tyson plants dumped more than 371 million pounds of pollutants into U.S. waterways between 2018 and 2022. John Yang speaks with UCS research director Stacy Woods about the report’s findings.

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Tyson Foods is one of the world's biggest meat and poultry producers and according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, it's also a major polluter in the United States. A report entitled waist deep says that in the five years between 2018 and 2022, Tyson plants dumped more than 371 million pounds of pollutants into U.S. waterways. More than half of that was in three states, Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri.

In response, Tyson defends its wastewater treatment program, which it says complies with regulations.

Stacy Woods is Research Director for the Union of Concerned Scientists and one of the authors of the report. Stacy, what pollutants are we talking about here? And what effect do they have on the environment on wildlife and on humans.

Stacy Woods, Union Of Concerned Scientists:

Our report found that Tyson Foods dumped over 25 different pollutants into waterways in 17 states. This pollution included nitrogen, including ammonia, and phosphorus. And we're particularly concerned about those because when there's too much nitrogen and phosphorus in our waterways, it can cause harmful algal blooms that can kill fish and other aquatic wildlife. And also, when people live close to these harmful algal blooms, they can experience things like asthma attacks, and bronchitis.

And these are all byproducts of meat processing?

Stacy Woods:

It comes from the wastewater in the meat processing. Wastewater is produced in these meat processing plants, when folks working in these plants rinse off dead animal carcasses when they clean meat products, and when they rinse down these industrial equipment, and so that wastewater contains things like blood and feces and in bacteria like E. coli.

So there's a lot of wastewater that is produced when meat processing plants create meat and poultry products. The Tyson Foods plants that we looked at produced over 87 billion gallons of wastewater in those five years.

I want to read you part of a statement that a Tyson spokesperson gave us about your report. It says Tyson Foods uses a robust management system to mitigate environmental risks and impact. This report does not acknowledge our ongoing compliance with EPA regulations and certification by the Water Alliance where our strong water management practices. What do you say to that?

The most shocking thing that we found in our investigation was that when Tyson Foods dumped these millions and millions of pounds of pollutants directly into our waterways, they were pretty much following the rules.

Now, there were a few instances where a couple of plants exceeded the rules for a few pollutants some of the time. But by and large, they were in fact following the rules. And we think that's a problem. Those rules need to change.

Luckily, the EPA is actually right now working on updating those rules. The Union of Concerned Scientists and other groups, along with other citizens submitted comments in support of strengthening those rules so that these industrial polluters, like Tyson Foods, will be forced to clean up their act and stop dumping so much pollution directly into our waterways.

Why is it that the these levels would sound high when you describe them are within the APS regulations?

That's a great question. And I can't speak to the reasons why EPA has the regulation set right now. But I can tell you is that the regulations that are in effect right now and during our study period, were enacted over 20 years ago.

In that time, there's been tremendous gains and technologies that can allow these polluters to clean up their wastewater before releasing it out into our environment, which is why it's definitely time for updated regulations that will reduce the amount of water pollution that's allowed to come from these kinds of plants.

The report said that Tyson operates 123 plants in the United States, but that the data you analyze, only came from 41. So could this actually be low?

Yes, our estimate is indeed an under estimate. And the reason is that the current regulations only apply to a small sliver of the meat and poultry plants in the United States.

The EPA estimates that under the current regulations, only about 500 of the roughly 5,000 meat and poultry plants are required to report their water pollution. So, for Tyson Foods, we had reportable water pollution for only 41 of their 123 plants. And we would assume that the remaining plants are also creating wastewater.

Is this a problem specifically to Tyson? Or is this a problem industry wide for meat and chicken processing?

Stacy Woods The meat and chicken processing industry is a known water polluter across the United States. This is not specific to Tyson Foods, but we decided to investigate Tyson Foods because they are one of the largest meat and poultry processors in the US. So we anticipate that their influence in the overall industry pollution would be pretty high.

Stacy Woods of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Thank you very much.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about our report.

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Tyson Fresh Meats processing plant is seen three days after a fire heavily damaged the facility in the Finney County town ...

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John Yang is the anchor of PBS News Weekend and a correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. He covered the first year of the Trump administration and is currently reporting on major national issues from Washington, DC, and across the country.

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what is water pollution in essay

The Mexico City water crisis, explained

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Mexico City is in the midst of a water crisis. Some experts have predicted the metropolitan region, which boasts the highest population of any metro area in North America at nearly 22 million people, may start to run out of water as early as June, a day described as “Day Zero.” And while there are options available to the city, larger issues with water infrastructure and management may be harder to remedy in the short term.

At issue are the aquifers beneath the city, where most of the city’s water comes from. “When the Spaniards arrived on the continent, they drained the lakes on which the city was was built,” said Caroline Houck, senior editor at Vox. “And so all of the impervious surfaces that have been built on top of those don’t really allow for the rainwater that does fall to replenish the aquifers.” That infrastructure, along with moderate-to-severe drought conditions exacerbated by climate change, has drained the aquifers.

But Mexico City isn’t alone in it water struggles, as Houck reported in a story for the “Today, Explained” newsletter. She spoke with “Marketplace” host Amy Scott about the intersection of drought and water infrastructure, both in Mexico City and around the globe. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

Amy Scott: Caroline, can you describe the situation briefly in Mexico City? How did it get so bad?

Caroline Houck: Yeah, so Mexico City right now is staring down a pretty acute water crisis. There’s there’s a couple of acute factors here. There’s been abnormally low rainfall for a long time. And some of that is exacerbated by current phenomenon, things like El Niño, the weather phenomenon that’s causing droughts across the region. But in other ways is a much more structural, kind of systemic issue. When the Spaniards arrived on the continent, they drained the lakes on which the city was was built. And so all of the impervious surfaces that have been built on top of those don’t really allow for the rainwater that does fall to replenish the aquifers that provide actually the vast bulk of Mexico City’s water. And then there’s also some particular issues with the water infrastructure itself. Mexico City, by some estimates loses about 40% of its water that does enter its system, whether it’s through leaky pipes or being stolen. And then all of this is also being exacerbated by climate change, making these droughts worse and more unpredictable.

Scott: And you write that this isn’t just happening in Mexico City. Where else are people are facing water shortages right now?

Houck: I think that’s what really struck me when I got into this and why I was interested in this piece. I remember visiting Cape Town right around when they had their own Day Zero water crisis back in the 2010s. And to your point, it’s not just Mexico City right now. So right now, we have El Niño exacerbating droughts throughout Latin America. Bogotá, Colombia has been rationing water for a month now, I believe. Early on, the president, Gustavo Petro, even told people — I think semi-jokingly, I hope — to leave the city and drink water elsewhere, just because the system was so strapped. The Panama Canal, this lifeline of international commerce, is having to restrict transit through because drought has brought down the canal levels too low. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Colorado River in the U.S. [which] is over indexed and over allocated, and it’s causing issues across the American Southwest. So this is not the issue of one city. This is the issue of how we treat water in the 21st century.

Scott: You mentioned Cape Town, South Africa, which got dangerously close to Day Zero back in 2018. How did they end up surviving that crisis?

Houck: Yeah, so I think there’s a little bit of hope and there’s a little bit of pessimism here in that the idea of this Day Zero campaign really kind of launched a lot in South Africa during the time. It was launched as this kind of awareness campaign to get people to reduce consumption, and that awareness campaign helped extend the runway. But as an expert told my colleagues over on the “Today, Explained” podcast, what ultimately helped in South Africa is that it rained. And we can’t always count on the rain. So I think we need to make systemic changes, or at least that’s what the experts I spoke to said, that we need to really rethink how we manage water as a resource.

Scott: Yeah, I mean, Mexico City is also counting on rains coming, hopefully next month, but what other options does the city have?

Houck: Yeah, so I think there’s like the short term ones that maybe you’re already thinking of, from what I said previously. You can fix these leaky pipes. If you’re saving 40% of water, that’s a big difference if you’re counting the days down before there’s no water at all. But ultimately, what needs to happen is also rethinking not just the way we manage water, but also, some experts said, rethinking the way we grow our cities, making it more possible for the aquifers we all rely upon to replenish and to avoid these kinds of boom-bust cycles where you get an intense rainstorm and everything floods. And instead of it all percolating down and being there for the long term for the city residents. it just floods out and rushes out to the rivers and the sea.

Scott: When I’ve reported on water issues, I’ve heard over and over again, that water is too cheap. In other words, especially for the biggest users like agriculture, the price doesn’t reflect the actual cost of that water. And if if we had to pay that cost, maybe we’d do a better job of conserving as a society. Are you hearing that as well?

Houck: Yeah, so I actually had like kind of an interesting discussion in the different academics I spoke to about this. I’m personally still torn, I’m not going to endorse any side, but one one person told me about the good that’s being done by charging industry in American cities for their wastewater, their sewage, their runoff, and how that’s incentivizing them to think more creatively about, instead of just using water once through a system, can they can they reuse it multiple times? And that sounded really convincing to me. I’ve also talked to people who say, look, this is fundamentally a human right. And when we’re talking about water and urban environments, treating it as a commodity can lead to gross inequities. I’m not sure exactly what the answer is, but I think there is like a rich discussion there about the best ways to treat this.

Scott: Yeah. And one thing I’ve heard is is priced appropriately for people who can pay and subsidized for those who can’t.

Houck: So yeah, and I think that’s one of the things that really jumps out to me also about Mexico City right now is the way this is exacerbating inequality, right? Like there’s obvious tensions around who does get water, whose pipes regularly work, but also when they don’t work, who has the money to pay for that increasingly expensive use of water.

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what is water pollution in essay


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