We all are aware that water is one of the basic necessities of life. It is important to realize that water pollution kills more people than war and all other sorts of violence combined.
If you are part of the same population that thinks that there is more water on earth than land, you need to understand the fact that, yes, water is in abundance. But the resources of freshwater that we can easily categorize as drinkable water are limited.
To believe the global statistics, we have access to less than one percent of the freshwater. As we are expecting an increase in global freshwater, the situation is likely to worsen in the near future, so the challenges will only get hard.
What is WATER POLLUTION?
Water pollution can be easily understood as a phenomenon when harmful substances such as chemicals, pesticides, insecticides, and other types of pollutants become part of the ecosystem. They then interfere with the habitat and cause contamination in the stream, rivers, lake, and aquifer. All this causes a severe degradation in the water quality, and dependency on these contaminated waters then leads to health complications in humans.
Main Culprits or Causes
Water is a fluid that is known as Universal Solvent. It is uniquely able to dissolve a lot more substances than any other liquid that is present on our planet. That is why the concept of water pollution is so scary, and that is why we all should be more attentive towards these matters.
Today we will be considering some of the main factors that are leading to water pollution and the sectors that we humans depend on so much:
Agriculture; The Major Issue
Who would have thought that agriculture which is responsible for feeding us, is playing a significant role in water pollution in the 21st century? This is because of the fact that this globally popular sector that accounts for a water withdrawal of 70% globally is polluting all our main water bodies.
From agrochemicals to organic matter, alongside drug residues and certain sedimentation, all these pollutants are being discharged into large quantities in the rivers, which constitute most of the water on earth.
The recent and sudden rise in the production of food and the expansion of farming practices have led to the continuous use of pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides. All these types of chemicals are rich in compounds that, when are discharged in large quantities, cause serious fluctuations in the ecosystem in which they are being drained. The current value of pesticides in the global market at this current more is much more than 35 billion dollars per annum.
Some of the other countries which have seen immense growth in the use of insecticide are as follows:
4. South Africa
It is important to note here that most of these countries owe a large chunk of their GDP to agricultural practices that are deeply rooted in their domestic regions.
According to the director of FAO’s land and water division:
Agricultural practices at this moment have overtaken the pollution from local dwellings and industries. They are now becoming the prime reason for the severe and fatal degradation of land and coastal water ecosystem. This problem is also prevalent not only in middle-income countries but also in those countries which are considered to be economically stable.
Rather than just presenting an eyebrow twitch, it is rather much more important and productive that we acknowledge the fact that this is, in fact, a serious issue that needs to be addressed properly now.
Further diving into the details, the irrigation land has also undergone serious changes. In 1961 the area was only 139 million hectares, but it is now 320 million hectares. This also points towards one thing, and that is a serious case of irreversible water pollution.
All this has also led to the boom in livestock. If we were to believe the numbers, because well numbers never lie, back in 1970, there were approximately 7.3 billion units of livestock, but in 2011 the expansion topped the chart with 24.2 billion units.
Currently, the stats are that the production of livestock accounts for almost 70% of the overall agricultural land and 30% of the planet’s land.
While we are on the topic of agricultural growth, a sub-category of this sector that is aquaculture, has also grown. The production curve of this sector point towards a growth that is almost 20 folds. Alone in 2014, the total aquatic production of animals reached 167 million tonnes on a global scale. This has led to the addition of fish excreta as well as uneaten foods being added to the fresh waters, which in turn diminishes the water quality of such a natural ecosystem.
The sudden rise in the production of more aquatic animals to meet the global food needs has subjected our ecosystems to irreversible changes. This also accounts for the over the top and sometimes not necessary use of chemicals such as:
● Anti-fouling agents
All this is actively participating in degrading the downstream water ecosystems.
Nitrate-The Show Stealer
If we are to continue our talk about water pollution, then it is our long-due duty to unmask some of the show stealers that are the pollutants that are causing all this pollution.
Among many others, there is one pollutant that tops the chart and has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Nitrate!
At this current moment, nitrate is one of the most abundantly found pollutants in underground water sources. This accumulation of nitrates in the waters leads to eutrophication. Although it is not nitrate that is the only culprit, we often associate the phenomenon of eutrophication with this chemical. Some other chemicals, such as phosphorus, also play a major role in the degradation of water ecosystems.
As the amounts of organic matter increase in the water ecosystem, the productivity and, of course, the fertility of that water body tends to also increase. This is because all this organic matter is responsible for such an increase in overall productivity.
The agricultural runoff and industrial runoff are responsible for this activity. This more than needed increase in fertility masks the surface and thus causes the life that is present deep down to deteriorate.
Sunlight can’t get in the oxygen also starts to deplete. Both of these compounds are inevitable for the proper functioning of the life that is present under the surface of the ocean. Algae start to cover the surface, and water blooms, as well as other sorts of microscopic organisms, feed on both light and oxygen and leave no room for life to thrive. Only a few fish species can survive on these murky and eutrophicated waters.
The Factor Of Factories
With the rise of population, the world is in constant need of goods that suit the customers. To meet there such a basic need, there has been a thing that we so proudly declare as the industrial revolution. The use of science accompanied with the right taste of technique and technology led to the use of new and revolutionized manufacturing processes, which enhanced productivity.
But everything comes at a price, and that is the same case that happened here. To meet the basic needs of life, we established factories that ended up throwing all their refuse inside the freshwater ecosystems. At first, it was all happy and green because of the lack of awareness at that time. But with the path-breaking and eye-opening book of Rachel Carson, all this changed, yet there was a long road to walk to make sure that people knew what environment means and what pollution is.
Even with all the awareness that is divided here and there, the factories are still reluctantly disposing their wastes into clear water bodies that are the home for a number of aquatic species.
Water Pollution-A Persistent Issue of The Future
From the actively happening of dumping of wasted storage and disposal control from certain factories such as leather industries, meat processing factories, sports industries, to name a few. All of these commercial sectors are making sure that they dump their common refuse, such as high-temperature waters, as well as materials that are the end products of certain processes.
United Nations, in 2010, acknowledged The Human Right To Water and explained that companies are responsible for making sure that their operating processes are not wreaking havoc on the water bodies as these freshwater ecosystems are equally shared by humanity. To have access to clean and fresh water is a basic human right that should be met at all costs.
This above-mentioned right is further backed up by UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 that explains that there is an urgent need to clean and improve the overall water quality at a global scale. This can be achieved by reducing the number of pollutants being released into the water bodies.
Thus make sure to play your due part in combating this global issue of water pollution. Because until there is exact news that mars can prove to as habitable, we only have this planet for us and for our future generations.
Save as much as you can and keep in mind that:
“Thousand’s have lived without love, not one without water!”
Nida Riaz is a freelance blogger based in Pakistan. She started writing about her passion for the environment when the world came to a stop in early 2020.