Water contamination is the pollution of water bodies such as groundwater, aquifers, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and oceans. Water pollution is one of the major environmental threats to the survival of the entire planet. Pollutants, in general, affect the entire biosphere directly or indirectly causing environmental degradation. The Pacific Institute reports that 2 million tons of untreated sewage, industrial and agricultural is discharged into the water sources of the world, every day. With pollution happening on an everyday basis and everywhere near human occupation, it is estimated by the accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche that India’s demand for water will exceed supply by 2020. This means that we will not have access to pure drinking water leave alone water for other basic requirements.
To get a glimpse on how water gets contaminated, they can be broadly categorized as:
Point Source Water pollution denotes contaminants that enter the water resource through a single, identifiable source such as a pipe, outlet, or ditch. Usually, it is a spillage from an oil ship, or toxic, chemical, or heated waste water let out by industries and untreated sewage discharged into waterbodies.
Non Point Sources
Non point pollution refers to diffuse contamination that does not originate from a single discrete source. It is often the cumulative effect of small amounts of contaminants gathered from a large area. The agricultural fertilisers containing nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates are run-off into waterbodies during monsoons and heavy rains thus making water hazardous.
Contaminants such as oil, toxic and chemical wastes from industries can seep deep into groundwater located faraway. Sometimes the sources of the contaminants are unidentifiable as they can be an accumulation from large areas.
Also Read: Harmful Impurities Present In Drinking Water
What contaminates the water?
The organic contaminants include undissolved chloroform and chlorinated solvents, cosmetic, hygienic and detergent wastes, food processing wastes, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, drug wastes from pharmaceutical companies, petroleum and its by products.
Inorganic contaminants include acidic compounds, ammonia, and chemical wastes from industries, fertilizers containing nitrates and phosphates, heavy metals from automobiles and silt from construction and land clearing sites.
This includes disposal of garbage like paper, plastic, food and excreta, and heavy objects such as boats and ships into water bodies.
Microorganisms such as bacteria are predominantly harmless or beneficial, however some of them are life threatening and cause diseases. These disease-causing microorganisms are called pathogens and they can cause epidemics. Parasitic worms also contaminate water.
Pathogens are mostly found in surface water or open water resources. However, seepage of septic tanks or untreated sewage water can contaminate water bodies.
Thermal pollution is the rise or fall of temperature of a natural body of water caused by human influence. Thermal pollution is caused by the outlet of heated water which was initially used as coolant in industries. This causes the water to lose oxygen which kills the aquatic species which causes an imbalance in the biodiversity thereby encouraging thermophilic organism to invade.
What happens when water is contaminated?
Contamination of water causes long term illnesses to the humans, animals, plants, and the entire planet. This blue planet is no different from the human body. Two-thirds of both are water. Only 3% of the planet’s water is fresh water. Like the human body, the planet survives on an intricate balance. Other than causing diseases and death, scarcity of freshwater is increasing hatred and fight within our species. Millions of lives have already been lost due to scarcity of water and it is bound to increase the deaths in the future as the climate is changing.
The World Wildlife Fund reports that by 2025, two-thirds for the world’s population may face water shortage and ecosystems will suffer even more. We are on the brink of a water crisis. This is why we need to work together as it is too late already.