Water pollution occurs when harmful substances—often chemicals or microorganisms—contaminate a stream, river, lake, ocean, aquifer, or other body of water, degrading water quality and rendering it toxic to humans or the environment.
My hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas is located in the geographical area of Northeast Arkansas and within the boundaries of Craighead County. The rural areas are flat and mostly used for agricultural purposes. Most of the Farmers I know use either wells, flumes and local bodies of water for irrigation of their crops.
Those waters used by the farmers are subject to regulations set forth by our government. As stated by the Environmental Protection Agency and in accordance with the Clean Water Act of 1972, the regulations for pollution discharge into our bodies of water are defined as: 33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972)
The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters.
The basis of the CWA was enacted in 1948 and was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, but the Act was significantly reorganized and expanded in 1972. 'Clean Water Act' became the Act's common name with amendments in 1972.
Under the CWA, EPA has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry. EPA has also developed national water quality criteria recommendations for pollutants in surface waters. The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained.
EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls discharges. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. Individual homes that are connected to a municipal system, use a septic system, or do not have a surface discharge do not need an NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters (Clean Water Act of 1972).
Once a body of water is tested for pollutants, the reports are listed on the EPA website. A 6.026 mile stretch of the Cache River, within the boundaries of Craighead County, tested impaired for four designated human and animal uses:
The assessment also detected lead within in the Fisheries designation, without Total Maximum Daily Load parameters listed (Epa, 2019). Even lead, in small amounts can cause a slew of very serious health issues, especially in kids. A few of the many adverse issue’s children can suffer from can be learning and developmental delays, abdominal pain, seizures and even death, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-.
The agricultural industries require expensive incentives to restore the landscape. In December 2017, $5,059, 429 was allocated to the USDA Financial Assistance Program in Craighead County. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program, which helps agricultural producers confront those challenges all while conserving natural resources like soil, water and air is one of those programs. Without using this financial assistance wisely to reverse or slow down the water pollution coming from the farming industry, Craighead county is going to continue to require assistance and incentives that are going to increase each year and add to an already huge financial burden (FY17, Financial Assistance by Program and County, 2017)
Expanding our research into water pollution, from a social and political point of view, yields some surprising results. In 2016, Gallop published its annual Environmental Survey. The survey indicated that 61% of Americans are concerned with polluted drinking water (McCarthy, 2016). In addition, we have begun to demand our politicians touch upon issues related to the environment. In the 2016 Presidential Election, candidates were forced to highlight and explain their stance on policy regarding our environment (McCarthy, 2016).
Science has recognized the urgent need to find sustainable solutions for curbing water pollution and finding methods to conserve our already stressed supplies of fresh water. One solution that has been recommended by the scientific community is implementing the process of water reclamation. In the past, wastewater that had been used for human needs, within our society, was labeled as sewage. During the majority of the last century, treatment of sewage focused on three issues, when cleaning the wastewater:
The use of reclaimed water can be very sustainable in order to meet demands on our water sources. The treated water can be used in irrigation, industrial applications plus residential and direct consumption. Reusing wastewater also lightens the energy consumption required for other management solutions such as desalination and inter-basin transfers (Garcia-Cuerva, Berglan, & Binder, 2016). In my opinion, not only would we be conserving water, but we also are liming the discharge of pollutants into our bodies of water by treating and removing toxins from water designated for recycling.
The advantages and disadvantages of using reclaimed water are still being researched. One issue with reusing sewer water is there is an associated fear of contamination and sickness from wastewater that has been reclaimed and used for drinking and watering of food crops. Such an aversion has been extremely difficult to overcome (Garcia-Cuerva, Berglan, & Binder, 2016).
Until people are comfortable with the thought of using recycled water and cities, counties and states have adopted the practice, the research must continue. We must also adapt to changing technologies as they become available.
Since the programs are usually directed at the state level, the cost of implementation varies within each area. One source of monetary support can come from the Water Research Foundation, www.warf.org. With a $700 million-dollar portfolio, there is huge potential for funding for the projects. Also, The EPA has offered funding at the state level that serves as a sort of bank that allows states to borrow monies for water reuse study and application. Information about The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is the available at https://www.epa.gov/cwsrf.
Water insecurity, within the coming years, has the potential for creating social and political upheaval, battles for water supply control and waterborne diseases. There is growing support for finding new technologies for treating wastewater. (Reddy & Lee, 2012) Each day we are depleting our water supplies and polluting our natural sources of water. Without intervention, we are headed towards a global water crisis. Support from the scientific community suggests that water reclamation and reuse is one sustainable solution, in an ongoing issue.
One personal habit I have that contributes to polluting our waterways is choosing to use a supermarket, instead of a farmer’s market, for our food needs. The EPA states that agricultural practices add to the problem of water pollution by adding excess nutrients into our water sources. Products used in farming or animal waste gets washed into a body water by runoff from rainfall or waste being washed into bodies of water (Sources and Solutions: Agriculture, 2017).
Choosing to buy products that are locally sourced and raised on a smaller scale, lessens the byproducts of waste, from larger farming operations. Another idea I could implement is starting a container garden and growing our own produce. One of the best ways I can promote sustainable and practical solutions within my local community is continuing my education in Environmental Science with Natural Resources and Wildlife Conservation. I will be able to enter the workforce and use my education to research and implement new ways to conserve our natural resources.