Water is, perhaps, the most precious resource available on the planet. For a large amount of life to exist on Earth, access to fresh water is crucial. Despite the fact that water comprises more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface, only about 2.5 percent of this water can be qualified as “fresh.” Though ample water can be found in the oceans of the planet, this salt water cannot be consumed directly by humans and other animals. This means protecting the fresh water reserves around the world is an incredibly important goal.
Biologically speaking, human beings can survive for roughly thirty days without access to nourishment. A person without the ability to drink fresh water, however, is not going to be able to survive for longer than a week. This alone shows how absolutely necessary water is when it comes to sustaining life on Earth. Though people have a general awareness of how important access to this resource is, many fresh water reserves have been placed in risky situations due to human interference.
Sources of fresh water can easily become contaminated. While there are a variety of problems that can cause water to be considered undrinkable, a good amount of water pollution is the direct result of human interference. Human progress has been responsible for some wonderful inventions and advancements, but it has come with a price. Many moves forward have been at the expense of resources like water. In order to counteract the damage that has been done, it is important for people to look for active ways to get involved and keep the water clean.
Pressing Facts about Water Pollution
The best way to take an active part in keeping the water of the planet drinkable is by learning more about the many problems facing oceans, lakes, rivers, and other crucial bodies of water. By seeing how the current problems developed, it is easier to understand which solutions need to be explored in order to fix them.
Flushed Down the Drain
You most likely don’t think too much about where water goes after it flows down the drain of your kitchen sink. Of course, the journey of the water is far from over after a flush or a rinse. Statistically, more than two million tons of garbage and sewage flow back into the active water reservoirs of the planet after being sent into the pipes of a building. While many nations have complex systems for treating and purifying water, this is not the case in all corners of the globe.
Sadly, more than 633 million people all over the planet are forced to consume water from risky sources in order to survive. Roughly 1.8 million of these people are said to drink from a water supply containing remnants of human and animal fecal matter. Since this is inhumane by any standard, it is important to learn more about protecting water to keep this trend from continuing.
Spread of Disease
With so many people all over the planet relying on contaminated drinking sources, it has led to the spread of a wealth of complicated diseases. According to numbers released by the Center for Disease Control, there are over 250 million cases of water-related illnesses reported around the world each year. Of these cases, somewhere between eight and ten million people will die from the diseases they have contracted. When human waste or animal droppings are consistently present in drinking water, it can cause irreversible damage to those consuming it, cooking with it, or bathing in it.
Beyond these problems, there are also more complicated health concerns related to water. In 2011, a deadly earthquake off the coast of Japan caused a major tsunami. The immediate impact of the tsunami caused severe damage to a number of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Some of the damage has been fixed over the years, but drinking water contaminated by radioactive materials remains a top concern for many locals and government officials. Medical professionals and academics believe there is a significant increase in cancer cases due to higher levels of radiation in the water supplies.
No Public Restrooms
Often, it is a lack of base necessities that can lead to serious contamination issues with water. Think about the last time you were wandering around an urban area and needed to use the bathroom. Unless you or someone you knew lived in the area, you probably went into a business or two to inquire about using the facilities. While this luxury is available to a vast majority of Westerners, it is not always the case elsewhere. In fact, it is more common in some nations for people to defecate in gutters in the streets.
When there are no public restrooms around and people are forced to go in the streets, it leads to more complex contamination issues. Now, if you think this is a problem exclusively found in developing nations, you would be incorrect. Even in America, it is possible for wastewater to get mixed in with fresh drinking supplies. Agricultural reports from the past decade report that about 10% of crops in America each year are irrigated by water supplies containing human sewage.
A Sea of Garbage Islands
The oceans are also in a very precarious position these days. While fresh water supplies provide immediate access to drinking water, the oceans are responsible for keeping most of the water on the planet flowing with the ability to sustain all kinds of complex life. Unfortunately, humans have been treating the ocean as a private dump for so long that the ramifications have reached incredibly bizarre levels. The ocean is filled with plastic from human junk that has been improperly tossed. Since plastic is not biodegradable, it merely floats and converges over the years.
All of this has led to the creation of a number of “patches” forming in different oceans. Though called patches officially by different organizations, these spots are actually gigantic islands of garbage bobbing around in the oceans. The Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, one of the largest of these unfortunately-formed islands, is currently measured at twice the size of the state of Texas.
If you are wondering how these islands came to be, it can be easily explained by basic information about how the oceans of the planet work. Each ocean system includes a gyre, which is the systematic path water flows through. Water in the gyre travels like a vortex, meaning all the water is heading towards the same point. Anything floating along in the water is eventually going to wind up sitting in the center of this vortex. The converging plastics and wastes created the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch and all the other garbage islands.
What Are The Types Of Water Pollution?
Surface Water Pollution
This is the most visible form of water pollution, wherein plastic and other types of garbage can be seen floating in the ocean or rivers. Generally, basic human wastes can be seen here, like plastic bottles or cans. Surface water pollution can also include major industrial accidents, however, like oil spills or nuclear reactor accidents.
The lesser obvious type of water pollution happens beneath our soil and is caused by highly toxic chemicals from pesticides or chemical spills.
These are microorganisms found in water that consume biodegradable wastes. When said microorganisms thrive, they use up oxygen. In turn, anaerobic microorganisms that produce toxins, like ammonia, begin to increase with the depletion of oxygen and harmless aerobic microorganisms.
This type hurts the marine life more than it harms us. The excess of nutrients found in wastes and fertilizers allow algae and weeds to thrive. This vegetation boom would mean less oxygen to go around, thus hurting surrounding marine life.
What Can You Do?
While all of this information about water pollution might make you feel helpless, there are actually some fantastic ways to help. Often, simple decisions you make on a daily basis can have lasting impacts on the planet’s resources. Take a look at these suggestions and see which ideas might be the easiest for you to work into your routine.
As mentioned, the oceans are currently filled with various plastics that cannot break down like other refuse. In order to stop islands like the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch from growing larger, it is important for consumers to alter the way they dispose of products containing plastic. Though recycling programs have been in effect in America for decades, estimates suggest less than 30% of materials that can be recycled are actually disposed of in the proper way. This means more people need to start recycling for actual change to occur at a faster pace.
If you already recycle and feel like you want to provide additional help to the cause, there are some simple steps you can take. First, you might want to organize a neighborhood meeting about your community’s recycling initiative. By speaking with all of your neighbors at once, you might be able to come up with a solution that is practical and productive for everyone in your area. It can even be a good idea to write to local government officials to try and get them to take a more proactive part in implementing recycling programs.
Second, you can do wonders by reducing the amount of products you purchase that are packaged in plastic. Since plastic is a very cheap material to produce, most companies shrug off the environmental concerns and continue to create their products in hazardous ways. Take time to research companies that take active steps towards reducing their plastics. Being a smart shopper can go a long way when it comes to cleaning the seas.
Plastic is far from the only harmful substance tossed into the oceans by humans. Household cleaners are one of the most-used categories of products in nations like America. Of all these products, more than 53% rely on abrasive and damaging chemicals. While these substances can be dangerous to the eyes, skin and other areas of contact, they can also cause severe contamination issues with water.
Phthalates are a compound found in most plastics and cleaning agents. Esters of phthalates are responsible for adding flexibility to rigid plastics, as well as providing manufactured scents to products ranging from dish soap to air fresheners. Though not dangerous in an outright manner, allowing phthalates to be disposed of in the wrong fashion can contaminate water supplies with these compounds. Drinking water from sources with high levels of phthalates has been connected to a number of health problems. In one study, men with high phthalate levels experienced low sperm counts and other issues with the endocrine system.
The act of recycling involves taking old materials and processing them to be used in new and effective ways. While a little different in practice, repurposing can also be a fantastic idea to explore when you want to become more conscious about the environment. Repurposing is the act of taking something and fixing it to give it a brand new use. Unlike recycling, there is no need for the materials to be re-rendered via any complicated processes. All you need to do is get creative with how you look at what some consider to be “junk.”
For example, maybe you are tired of looking at an old end table in your bedroom. The table itself is fine, but the materials have faded and worn over the years from constant use. Instead of throwing the table away and buying a new one, which is quite common, you can breathe new life into the old piece of furniture. Fix the item up with some sandpaper, new paint, and elbow grease. This small project can fill your idle hours with purpose and also allow you the opportunity to reduce your home’s waste.
Furniture is just one example of how you can repurpose old materials. There are hundreds upon thousands of exciting ideas out there to get you started. Take a bit of time to find inspiration and see what projects might help you to keep the world clean.
The planet is facing more trouble than ever before when it comes to matters of the environment. While more and more people are waking up to these issues thanks to the spread of information online, a lot more needs to get done before lasting change can take hold. There are countless organizations around the globe working toward creating a more sustainable future that need the help of bold and passionate individuals who want to enact change. After reading some of the staggering statistics and facts listed here, you might feel as if you want to strike out and make a difference.
Whether you are concerned with the many islands of garbage floating in the ocean, or you want to make sure people everywhere have access to clean drinking water, there is no time like now to try and change the status quo. When you feel inspired to help the planet, it is important to channel this momentum in a way that is advantageous to you. Discover ways to implement change in your own community. The more you focus on local efforts, the easier it will be to see lasting changes and a future with fresh, clean drinking water for all.