What are the top sources of water pollution?
All of life depends on safe water. Many of us take for granted that clean water will be available when we want it — at the press of a button or twist of the faucet. Yet, the Earth’s water supply is a vulnerable resource.
Benjamin Franklin said, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” Water pollution can cause acute and long-term damage to the environment, plants, animals and humans. According to the UN, unsafe water kills more people each year than all forms of war and violence combined; and many experts say that water pollution is a worsening problem. Let’s take a deeper look into four of the leading sources of water pollution.
1. Wastewater and sewage
Untreated sewage and wastewater has been a leading cause of water pollution for millennia. In the U.S. alone, over 1 trillion gallons of untreated wastewater is dumped into lakes, rivers and oceans each year.
In developing countries, the problem is exacerbated. According to UNESCO, upwards of 80% of the sewage from developing countries is returned to the environment untreated.
2. Water pollution from industrial waste
The Industrial Revolution, which began in the mid-seventeen hundreds, brought new pollutants into the water stream. Early on, ambitious titans of industry who were ignorant of the long-term effects, dumped industrial waste directly into the natural water supplies.
Today, water pollution from industrial waste is still a great cause for concern. The Citarum River in Indonesia is considered to be the most polluted river in the world. Over 500 factories still dump their waste directly into this river.
Of the industrial facilities which are required to report their data to the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR), a full 10% reported pollutant emissions to water. Furthermore, facilities are only required to report to the E-PRTR if they exceed a pollutant threshold. Some experts have expressed concern about the untrackable and potentially significant accumulation of emissions from many smaller facilities which fall below the threshold.
3. Agricultural pollution, chemical fertilisers and pesticides
PAN Europe reports that 7% of groundwater stations are contaminated with excess levels of pesticides. These polluted water sources are located in agricultural areas. In the U.S., agricultural pollution is the top contaminator of rivers and lakes.
Pesticides and fertilisers enter the water supply from farm runoff. Chemical fertilisers often contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. When these chemicals enter the water, they cause algae blooms which harm delicate ecosystems. Pesticides that runoff into rivers and streams destroy vegetation and are poisonous to fish.
Animal waste is another significant source of water pollution. Improper management of manure results in runoff that seeps into groundwater, streams and lakes. The contaminated water breeds pathogens and bacteria.
4. Oil pollution and water quality
Big oil spills in the ocean get a lot of publicity when they tragically occur. And indeed, a drilling failure, pipeline leak, or transport disaster can have catastrophic results. Smaller spills and leaks may get fewer headlines, but they happen much more frequently and can cause serious problems.
The Global Marine Oil Pollution Gateway compares oil spill incidents and their effect on penguins. Their conclusions show that even smaller oil spills may have large impacts based on the sensitivity of the environment in which they happen.
What can be done to protect water quality?
In general, we can steward our precious water resources by conserving water usage, reducing wasteful byproducts and carefully sequestering contaminants for mitigation. It’s also important to measure and monitor the quality of the water we return to the ecosystem.
How SurfCleaner skimmer separator hybrids clean contaminated water
When water quality is compromised due to sewage, debris, oil or other pollutants, the contaminants must be removed. Devices like the SurfCleaner Hybrids work by separating sludge, debris and oil products from contaminated water sources, leaving safe water that can be returned to the ecosystem. SurfCleaner Skimmer Separators are used by coast guards, oil refineries, and industrial ports to treat polluted or wastewater. Besides the output of safe water, recovered oil is so pure that it can be reused if needed.