Why is water pollution an emerging Global Crisis? | Let’s Talk Geography

Why is water pollution an emerging Global Crisis?

Why is Water Pollution an Emerging Global Crisis?

Water pollution occurs when pollutants are released into subterranean groundwater or into lakes, streams, rivers, estuaries, and seas to the degree that they interfere with beneficial water use or ecosystem function.

  • Alongside the release of chemical substances and microorganisms, the release of energy, in the form of radioactivity or heat, into bodies of water is also called water pollution.
  • A wide variety of substances, including pathogenic microorganisms, putrescible organic waste and plant nutrients, toxic chemicals, sediments, heat, fuels, and radioactive substances are some common sources of water pollution.
Water pollution
Water pollution with plastic bags in ocean illustration

Some major sources of water pollution are the following:

Our drinking water is polluted by almost everything that is a result of our civilisation.

Governments have attempted to restrict pollutant discharges in the water through various Clean Water Acts and water resource laws in order to reduce pollution and contamination.

◉ From the years 1990 to 2006, over 1.6 billion people got access to clean and safe drinking water. But due to failure of taking instant actions, many factories still dump their toxic wastes in the sea somehow.

Water Pollution Map
Image Source: ourworldindata.org
Water Pollution Graph 1
Image Source: ourworldindata.org

⫸ Water Pollution: - An Emerging Global Crisis

Water pollution has become a big concern around the world, particularly in underdeveloped nations, where over 3.2 million children die each year as a result of contaminated drinking water and inadequate sanitation.

▶ In developing countries, access to adequate wastewater treatment facilities is extremely limited.

▶ Water bodies in underdeveloped countries are frequently utilized as open sewers for human waste and garbage, like the Ganges River in India demonstrates and receives about a billion liters of domestic waste give or take, 260 million liters of industrial waste in addition, with runoff from 6 million tons of fertilizers as well as 9,000 tons of pesticides utilized in the agricultural field, and many animal carcasses.

Source of Water Pollution
Plastic bottles, other trash garbage as source of Water Pollution

▶ The reason behind the absence of adequate water treatment facilities and regulations in developing countries is the lack of finances available for funding infrastructure that can regulate water pollution.

▶ As a result, the amount of clean water accessible for human consumption, sanitation, agriculture, and industry, as well as other ecosystem services, is reduced.

▶ A decrease in the amount of water available for use holds devastating environmental, health, and economic consequences that disrupt a country’s social and economic growth.

⫸ What is the measure of Water Pollution?

Water pollution can be measured through many broad categories of methods:

▶ Physical, chemical, and biological.

▶ Some methods may be conducted in the place of origin itself without sampling, like temperature.

▶ Some other methods include a collection of samples and specialized analytical tests in the laboratory. Some standardized and validated analytical methods for testing water and wastewater samples have been published.

Taking samples of water
Taking samples of water with test tube from city river to determine level of contamination and pollution

▶ Temperature, specific conductance or Electrical Conductance (EC) or Conductivity, solids concentrations (e.g., Total Suspended Solids (TSS)), and turbidity are some of the physical tests performed on water.

▶ Water samples could be examined by using analytical chemistry methods.

▶ pH, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD),[74]: 102 chemical oxygen demand (COD),[74]: 104 dissolved oxygen (DO), total hardness, and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus compounds) are all often quantified characteristics, e.g. nitrate and orthophosphates), metals (including zinc, copper, cadmium, lead and mercury), oil and grease, total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), surfactants and pesticides.

⫸ How does pollution affect marine water?

Marine water pollution has several disadvantages that either directly or indirectly affect life.

▶ Harmful to Marine Sea animals – Sea animals are common victims of ocean pollution.

plastics seas global problem |
Global problem of plastics in our oceans
  • By permeating marine animals’ gills, oil spills, for example, will entrap and suffocate them. When the oil gets soaked by the feathers of the sea birds, they might not be able to fly due to their heavier body weight or feed their young.
  • Animals that aren’t killed by crude oil may suffer from cancer, behavioral changes and become unable to reproduce.
  • The oil spill also affects the process of photosynthesis by staying afloat on the water surface which doesn’t allow sunlight into the water body.
  • Skin and eye irritation, liver and lung problems can affect marine life over a considerable period of time.
  • As a result, the amount of clean water accessible for human consumption, sanitation, agriculture, and industry, as well as other ecosystem services, is reduced.
  • Animals like dolphins, fish, sharks, turtles, seabirds, and crabs are most vulnerable to harm from plastic debris in marine water bodies.

Oxygen Depletion in Seawater – As extra debris in the ocean degrades over time, it consumes oxygen in the process, resulting in less 02 in the ocean. Low oxygen levels kill ocean creatures such as penguins, dolphins, whales, and sharks.

Oxygen depletion is also caused by the presence of excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the sea water.

A dead zone is formed in an area where there is excess oxygen depletion; here, no marine life can survive.

  • Deep-sea ocean mining is the cause of marine pollution as well as disruption at the deepest levels of the ocean. Drilling for elements like cobalt, zinc, silver, gold, and copper has the ability to create sulfide deposits deep inside the sea, which is considered very harmful to the ocean.
  • Poisonous chemicals that are considered hazardous for marine life are released by various industries. The pesticide chemicals have been reported to accumulate in the tissues of animals, which might further lead to the failure of their reproductive system.
environmental pollution
Water Pollution in the harbor

Insoluble Chemicals, which do not dissolve, and sink in the depths of the ocean, which are usually used in industries and agriculture flow into the rivers in the run-offs and from where they subside into the ocean. These chemicals are ingested by small animals which are later eaten by large animals and so on, evidently affecting the whole food chain.

Humans eat animals from damaged food chains, which has an influence on their health because chemicals from these polluted animals are deposited in human tissues and can cause cancer, birth defects, and long-term health problems.

⫸ Effects of Water Pollution on human health

◆ Ingesting Microplastics:

Microplastics are ingested by people either through drinking water or eating contaminated seafood. In 2016, at Tokyo Bay, some scientists examined 64 anchovies for microplastic consumption amongst which 77% of them were found to have microplastics in their digestive systems.

Salt, Beer, and other food items are also suspected of containing them in their composition.

Microplastics may cause oxidative stress, inflammatory reactions, and metabolic disorders in humans as per research. However, further studying on the matter is required to confirm these consequences.

Consuming water contaminated by Sewage:

Globally, around 2 billion people use a drinking water source with fecal contaminants as quoted by WHO.

● Consuming water contaminated by Sewage
Access to drinking water stacked

Contaminated water can give shelter to bacteria, which are responsible for diseases like diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis A, and polio.

According to the United Nations, about 297,000 children under the age of five die each year as a result of diseases caused by poor sanitation, hygiene, or contaminated drinking water.

Chemical pollutants:

Including pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy metals can be the cause of serious health problems.

Flint, Michigan, residents experienced water contamination in 2014 as a result of insufficient testing and treatment of their water supply. Rashes, hair loss, and itching skin were all caused by the contaminated water. Children that drank the water had their blood lead levels doubled.

A person can be at risk of these problems if they ingest certain dissolved chemicals:


Altered brain function

Damage to immune and reproductive systems

Cardiovascular and kidney problems

Swimming in contaminated water can also trigger:


Pink eye

Respiratory infections


⫸ Effects of Water Pollution on animals and plants-

🎯 Plants have to face water pollution in the form of runoffs and acid rain.

First, nutrients required for plant growth and other biological processes are washed away.

Plastic Waste
Plastic waste on the beach

Second, chemicals found in runoff are often toxic to plant life and their introduction to a plant system will often result in the death of the plant. Furthermore, contaminated water can degrade soil quality, making it impossible for subsequent plant generations to thrive.

When sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide levels in the atmosphere become concentrated in rain clouds and fall as rain or snow, acid rain develops.

These substances are then injected into soil and water sources, causing pH levels to rise and plant life to suffer.

🎯 Animals have similar challenges from the water carrying toxic contaminants. Contaminated runoff along with industrial wastes in the water contribute to the deaths of many species of fish, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians per year.

The contamination not only kills their offspring but destroys their food sources alongside poisoning their living environment.

One serious contamination of water that has broad negative effects on animal life is the chemical Mercury (Hg).

Water Pollution
Death fish and plastic garbage on the beach

Mercury can lead to detrimental behavioral changes in animals by harming their nervous system.

Mercury also causes damage to some essential organ systems in animals.

Mercury contamination in animals like fish also affects humans and hence, the food chain. Fish from water sources with high mercury concentrations have led to mercury poisoning in the people who consume the fish.

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