Water degradation is the contamination of water (inland water that’s not saline) with materials or substances that result in the water being unfit for human, plant or animal use. Pollution may occur from chemicals, fecal waste, pesticides, sediments, petroleum or heated substances. Water sources that have been polluted are unfit for fishing, swimming, and the water is unfit for human consumption. Water quality degradation is, as a result, diffuse contaminants at the source with the spatial as well as the temporal variability that’s associated with the sources (Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change, 2007). It is more difficult to identify and control diffuse pollution as compared to point source pollution. The spread of pollution downstream over time is one of the challenges that water resources management face.
Aims of The Research
Given that the competition for resources is on the rise, there is need for governments and industries to come up with rapid measures to come up with new approaches. The aim of this research therefore is to outline the possible and sensible measures to conserve fresh water by curbing all forms of water pollution (Pratchet, 2011 p.334). Further, this paper aims at highlighting efficient resource allocation in a bid to match up to societal expectations in regards to water system.
Through evidence-based approaches, this research aims at explaining the effects of water pollution and constraints in the environment and the ecosystem. The research will go into details on water degradation, causes, consequences as well as giving recommendations on how water degradation can be kept at bay.
Causes of Freshwater Quality Degradation
• Human Population Growth
• Poor water management
• Precipitation, temperature and climate change
As human population increases, the amount of fresh water on Earth remains the same; it doesn’t increase. On the contrary, the water amounts continue going down because people’s needs continue increasing. In many parts of the world, water consumption is too high, and nature is not comfortable coping with the speed at which water is being used (Pratchet, 2011 p.344). This leads to some of the world’s greatest rivers not reaching the lakes or the oceans which in turn alters the ecological processes of precipitation and formation of rainfall. When this is combined with water over-use, the result is reduced amount of water as well as over salted water in the lakes because the water doesn’t reach the lakes and oceans thus leading to acidic rainfalls. Water systems are already endangered, and they might be unable to provide humans with the vital services as well as goods.
The more the pressure on water resources increases, the more the world’s population increases to the anticipated 9 billion people by the end of 2050. Living standards have also been expected to go up along with the demand for energy, food as well as industrial output. This increase in human population, as well as increase in living standards, will make it harder to protect rivers and other water sources.
Agriculture is one of the most preferred human activities, and it is no coincidence that it has the greatest impacts on the environment. Vast areas of wetlands have been destroyed so that they can make way for agricultural activities. Crop production and animal production have also been known to make use of vast amounts of water. Farming needs lots of fertilizers and pesticides that more often than not find their way to water bodies thus degrading the quality of water (Pratchet, 2011 p.401). These pesticides and fertilizers not only make this water unfit for human consumption but they also make fresh water sources unfit for water fish and other aquatic life. Almost 70% of water available worldwide is used for agriculture with this amount rising in countries like Pakistan and India. This in turn makes clean water be a scarce commodity in Pakistan and India.
Poor water management both regionally and globally is a major problem when it comes to protecting water quality. Some of these rules, policies and institutions are not strong enough to manage water resources. Sometimes the money involved is not enough while at other times the technology needed is not enough, or it is just not there. On the other note, poor governance like corruption and lack of responsibility in the offices involved are also great causes of water quality degradation. This means that even if some of the offices are aware of pollution to water sources, they do nothing about it because they have already been bribed to turn a blind eye to the vice. For example, Nairobi River in Kenya was polluted under the watchful eye of the city council (Palaniapppan, et.al, 2010). The river was full of raw sewage, plastic bags, plastic containers and a whole lot of other industrial waste that’s harmful to water quality but the city council did nothing much to protect the river. Today the river has been rid of pollution but the water is still not good for human consumption, and neither is it fit for water aquatic life. This is to mean that the water resources are not well managed, and the water habitats are not protected either.
Rising temperatures and rain patterns that keep on shifting as a result of changing climate changes have caused some serious impacts on the water resource. Rising temperatures and fluctuating amounts of rain have seen the water quality and water quantities going down; the water decreases in amounts and later becomes salty as massive evaporation happens. Water scarcity will always be an increasing problem even in the future for a few reasons. For starters, the distribution of time and space in terms of precipitation is always uneven, and it leads to temporal variability in water resources. A good example is the Atacama desert in Chile which is the driest part of the earth; its receives the least amount of rain each year (Strayer & Dungeon, 2010, p.904). Other areas like India, Mawsynram and Assam receive 450 inches of rain per year. If water on the planet were to be divided equally, 5000 to 6000 m3 of water should be available for everyone in the world per year. However, this doesn’t happen because the water amount is decreasing each new day and population is increasing at the same time.
The rate of evaporation also varies a great deal, and it depends on the temperature as well as the relative humidity; this impacts on the amount of available rain that’s available to replenish the ground water. The combination of shorter durations of rainfall as compared to the intensity of rain and increased evapotranspiration as well as increased irrigation leads to the depletion of groundwater sources. This means that with high levels of rainfall, there is increased runoff and water is hardly absorbed by the ground (Strayer & Dungeon, 2010 p.1122). Again, increased evapotranspiration that is the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration combined makes sure that no water gets infiltrated into the ground thus the water goes back to the atmosphere. Climatic changes also lead to a distorted hydrological cycle that results into more greenhouse gasses being in the atmosphere and a whole lot of other things like the imbalance of snow and rain and increased evapotranspiration.
Consequences of Water Quality Degradation
It is clear that water quality degradation is harmful to not only humans but also animals and water-life in general. The consequences are mostly catastrophic based on the level of pollutant concentrations, chemical types and most importantly, the overall pollution. Water degradation is a great contributor to diseases such as Hepatitis, which affects humans especially those that eat seafood that may have been poisoned (Pepper, Gerba, & Brusseau, 2006 p.431). A good number of developing nations suffer from bouts of water-borne diseases such as cholera, which is mostly caused by poor drinking water. Given that the effects of water pollution vary depending on the locations that they are dumped to, research has indicated that most urban areas and cities are likely to be affected by water degradation because that is where most chemical dumping takes place.
Most industries, marketplaces, and health centers are based in urban areas and cities. This means that they are likely to dump garbage anyhow. Garbage dumped legally or illegally could contain dangerous chemicals that affect the environment and pollute water (Jenkins, 2013 p222). Here are some of the common effects that are caused by water degradation;
• Ecosystem Destruction
Destruction of ecosystems is also a sure consequence of water pollution. Organisms found within an area where there are cases of water quality degradation face the risk of being changed completely or destroyed through water pollution. There are many areas today that are affected by ignorant human pollution, which is affecting humans in various ways.
• Destruction of Aquatic Animals
The biggest problem posed by water degradation is the destruction of water animals such as crabs, fish, seagulls, birds and dolphins among many other animals that depend on water bodies for survival. These dead aquatic animals end up on shores after succumbing to pollutants that invade their environment.
• Food-chains Disruption
In more than one way, water degradation disrupts the entire natural food chain in a major way. Tiny animals are fond of pollutants such as cadmium and lead. Eventually, these tiny animals are preyed by shellfish and fish (Strayer & Dungeon, 2010, p.1990). As a result, food chain tends to be disrupted at great levels.
Two Sources of Water Pollution
While water degradation is caused by many factors, only two major sources are highly considered. Given that water pollution is caused by many factors, it is looked at as nonpoint-source pollution while a single source such as a spill of oil in a water body is considered point-source pollution (Greenberg, 2005 p.105). When water is degraded from point sources, it normally occurs in discrete locations such as factories, single farm runoffs, and health centers. For example, there was a spill in 2010 from BP, and this was considered a point source pollution as it was caused by a massive leakage from one point of origin. Most pollution types affect the immediate environment facing the source directly. In some instances, pollution such as nuclear garbage may harm the environment many miles away from the source (Greenberg, 2005 p.107). This is referred to as transboundary pollution.
In various instances, water pollution has been seen as non-point source pollution. This can cause various contamination points within an overstretched area, which in turn can prove to be a massive source of water pollution. Usually, one waterbody is contaminated by many sources such as residential lawns, construction sites, agricultural and city run-offs. The Mississippi River, for instance, is a potential risk as far as non-point source pollution is concerned as it is majorly concerned with many pollution source possibilities (Greenberg, 2005 p.111). The two main sources of water pollution include;
• Surface Water Pollution
This can be defined as the pollution of aquatic organisms that have their habitat above ground. These habitats include streams, rivers, and lakes. When these habitats become polluted, by rainwater that drags pollutants into water, it proves to be catastrophic for the aquatic organisms. The runoff includes things such as chemicals and salts mostly from farms, health care points, fertilizers, lawns, salts, and chemicals (Greenberg, 2005 p558).. Nutrient pollution, on the other hand, is any pollution caused by fertilizers and nutrients. Usually, these results to algae overproduction in addition to other aquatic organisms and this can pose a serious risk. This is because the overabundance tends to cover a massive water surface, is an addition to preventing sunlight from accessing the plants underwater. In turn, this cause reduced levels of oxygen, which can pose harm to aquatic organisms such as fish that depend on oxygen.
Surface water is usually pathogen-polluted, and this can transmit a number of waterborne diseases. In turn, this could result in sewer leaks and animal factory run-offs. The pollution caused by these bacteria and viruses on the water can pose a serious risk to humans and cause ailments such as hepatitis, Cholera, Typhoid and Giardia (Gleick and Christian-Smith, 2011 p.223). With this in mind, there is a need to keep this type of pollution under check and monitor fecal coliform bacteria, which is a result of the human and animal waste. If fecal coliform bacteria are contaminated by water (which is not proactively harmful to humans), it is clear other forms of looming bacteria that may pose a bigger risk (Greenberg, 2003 p667). These other forms of bacteria often stem from the same sources. Toxic chemicals are also a potential source of surface water pollution and it results from synthetic chemicals such as mercury, car fluids, and various petroleum products in addition to pesticides. These chemicals pose a danger to humans, animals and the environment at large.
• Groundwater Pollution
This has been rated as the most complex form of water pollution as it occurs below the earth surface. Just like water on the surface, water below the ground surface tends to face contamination from various sources, and since it is below the ground surface, it proves difficult to control or monitor.
A huge percentage of water degradation is caused by human activity. Factories, healthcare joints, farms, lawns and sewers are a major contributor to water pollution. Unknown to them, these inconsiderate activities such as careless dumping affects not only the aquatic life but also human life in general (Gleick and Christian-Smith, 2011 p.233). Through waterborne diseases such as Typhoid, Hepatitis and Cholera, the effects of water pollution can pose a serious danger. If humans could pose and be considerate of the environment, some of these water-borne diseases would diminish imminently and aquatic organisms will have a peaceful habitat to call home and the environment at large would be such a safe haven.
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