Water Pollution: Causes, Impacts, and How to Prevent It

In addition to air, water is an important element of life for living things. Drinking, cooking, bathing, and many other activities that require water as the main component. Unfortunately, the importance of water is still not fully realized. Not a few, humans actually damage the environment and cause water pollution.

For now, the impact of water pollution may not be fully felt. However, in the next decades, humans and other living things may no longer be able to find clear, pollution-free water. Wow, why is that, huh?

What is water pollution?

If you look at Presidential Regulation Number 20 of 1990, water pollution is the entry or inclusion of living things, substances, energy, and or other components into water by human activities. As a result, the quality of the water decreases to a certain extent which causes the water to be unable to be used according to its designation.

The World Health Organization (WHO), categorizes polluted water as water whose composition has changed, making it impossible to use it again. In other words, the water is toxic and unsuitable for drinking or use to support daily life.

Contaminated water should not be consumed or used as a supply for basic daily activities, such as agriculture and cooking. If forced can cause diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and poliomyelitis. In fact, according to a study published in The Lancet, polluted water could have caused 1.8 million deaths in 2015.

Causes of water pollution

As mentioned earlier, polluted water is water that contains pollutants in levels that can no longer be used. These pollutants include bacteria, viruses, parasites, fertilizers, pesticides, pharmaceutical products, nitrates, phosphates, plastics, fecal waste, and radioactive substances.

Worse, these substances don’t always change the color of the water, meaning they are often invisible pollutants. Therefore, it is important to carry out quality tests using small samples and aquatic organisms to determine the levels of pollutants contained in them. 

For example, one of the most polluted waters in the world is the Ganges River. The Sankat Mochan Foundation reported the level of fecal bacteria in river water reached 31 million per 100 milliliters. In Indonesia, there is the Citarum River which has various wastes and occupies one of the most polluted rivers in the world. 

In addition to garbage, some causes of water pollution are:

  • Global warming. An increase in global temperature causes CO2 emissions to heat water which ultimately reduces oxygen content and reduces its quality
  • Deforestation. One of the important roles of trees is to bind water in their roots. When trees continue to be cut down, it drains water sources and produces organic residues that become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria
  • Industry, agriculture, animal husbandry. The use of chemical compounds in industrial processes causes water eutrophication, aka the emergence of pollution due to excessive nutrients into aquatic ecosystems
  • Disposal of waste and feces. Closely related to human daily activities, the United Nations states that 80 percent of the waste on earth flows into rivers and oceans without being treated
  • Maritime traffic. Cruise ships, warships, and even engine-powered boats contribute to water pollution. Most of the plastic pollution in the oceans even comes from fishing vessels, tankers and cargo shipping
  • Fuel spill. Have you ever heard the news of a mid-sea drilling leak or other leaks? This incident also reduces the quality of water on earth.

Impact of water pollution

Like other pollution, water pollution also has a great impact on living things. The negative effects are felt not only on the environment but also spread to the global economy and health. 

David Malpass, President of the World Bank revealed that deteriorating water quality hinders economic growth and exacerbates poverty in many countries. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of areas in the water basin tends to fall by up to a third. In particular, when the biological oxygen demand or an indicator measuring organic pollution in the water exceeds a certain threshold. 

In addition, there are many things that also experience a decrease in quality. These include the following:

  • Biodiversity damage. Water pollution damages aquatic ecosystems and triggers the uncontrolled proliferation of phytoplankton. 
  • Food chain contamination. Fishing in polluted waters and using wastewater for life is tantamount to introducing toxins into food
  • Lack of drinking water. The United Nations says that billions of people around the world do not have access to clean water for drinking or sanitation, especially in rural areas
  • Disease. WHO estimates that around 2 billion people have no choice but to drink water contaminated with feces. As a result, this group is susceptible to diseases such as cholera, hepatitis A, and dysentery
  • Infant death. According to the United Nations, diarrheal diseases due to lack of hygiene caused the death of about 1,000 children every day worldwide.

How to prevent water pollution

Considering the very important role of water and its impact on life, it is certainly necessary to anticipate water pollution. In fact, half of the world’s population will live in water-scarce areas in less than a decade, reports Iberdrola

For the sake of a better life, there is nothing wrong with making simple efforts to prevent water pollution. As reported by NRDC, here’s how to prevent water pollution: 

  • Take measures that can reduce CO2 emissions to prevent global warming and ocean acidification, for example: reducing the use of motorized vehicles
  • Reducing the use of chemical pesticides and nutrients on crops
  • Treat wastewater safely so that it does not pollute the environment and can be reused, for irrigation and energy production
  • Limit the use of single-use plastics that end up floating in rivers, lakes and oceans, just like  microplastics
  • Dispose of oil, chemicals, drugs, and other non-biodegradable materials properly so they don’t affect water quality
  • Encourage sustainable fishing methods to ensure the survival of the species.

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