Water is polluted many different ways, just to name a few are hypoxia, wastewater pollution, and marine debris. In this paper I will touch on many different ways waters become polluted, and you can see for yourself that human involvement is the root cause of it all. There are different types of pollution in the world. However, my argument is that water pollution is a more pressing matter in comparison to other forms of pollution.
The EPA states in their article “The Problem” that “nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, and is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the water.” When a significant amount of nitrogen and phosphorus enter the water, it causes a rapid growth of algae and other aquatic plants, the rate of growth is too much for the ecosystem to handle and therefore harms resources that aquatic animals need to survive (The Problem). How does nitrogen and phosphorus get into bodies of water? Usually by human activities such as electric power generation, sewage, transportation, and the soaps and detergents we use daily. Nutrients pollution results in undrinkable water. Too much algae will also use up all of the oxygen in the water, taking away the oxygen other organisms need to survive, causing them to die out.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states how hypoxia is another pressing issue. Oxygen levels in the water differ based on seasons and change over time. Hypoxia most often occurs from human-induced factors. The main cause of hypoxia is nutrient pollution (eutrophication), specifically the pollution of nitrogen and phosphorus. Nitrogen and phosphorus get into the water by agricultural run-off, the burning of fossil fuels, and waste-water treatment effluent. When waters reach hypoxic levels, they are unable to sustain life, these areas are called dead zones. These dead zones may cause mass deaths of aquatic life.
A main cause of water pollution that society is guilty of and many do not even bat an eye at is sewage and wastewater pollution. In developed countries it is not as big of a problem. However, in developing countries where they do not have the resources to clean the wastewater before disposing of it, it leads to the contamination of the environment and diseases. Often times, sewage is disposed of into the sea. Even though in developed countries sewage is carried away quickly and hygienically, problems arise when chemical and pharmaceutical substances are flushed down the toilet. When people are sick, sewage will carry the viruses that person was carrying into the environment causing health problems to the marine life as well as humans when the water makes a full circle back to them (The Causes of Water Pollution).
Another persistent pollution in our ocean is marine debris. Marine debris interferes with navigation safety, injures and/or kills marine life, and poses a threat to human health. Marine debris in our waters range from tiny micro plastics to abandoned vessels. It is not possible to rid the ocean of micro plastics. Micro plastics enter the food web when they are ingested by marine life, which then soak up toxins, harming both the fish and the human that ingests the fish. There is no place on earth that is not affected by this problem. Majority of the trash and debris that coat our beaches come from storm drains and sewers, while a percentage of it also comes from shoreline activities. A main debris found is fishing gear, which can do extreme damage to marine wildlife as well as damage to property (Ocean Pollution). In order to help ease some of the large plastic debris that finds its way to the ocean, California passed a statewide ban on the distribution of plastic bags in stores. In the U.S., California is the first state to take this initiative. However, countries such as China and Australia limit their use of plastic bags and other plastic items. The only way to stop plastic from polluting the ocean is to stop the use of plastic (Making the Most (and Least) of Marine Trash).
Why should we be so concerned with water pollution? Not only is the ocean an integral part of our ecosystem, but it impacts the food that we eat. Heavy metals and other pollutants accumulate in seafood, making it harmful to eat. Mercury poisoning is the main concern when it comes to water pollution and consuming fish. Mercury poisoning can lead to vision loss as well as other neurological problems. Majority of mercury is placed into our oceans from the air through coal-fired power plants, waste incinerators, and smelters, which are just the major sources. The EPA gives us a summary of the Clean Water Act which determines levels of mercury that could be in the water without posing a significant risk to human health. It is taken into account how much fish the average person consumes daily in order to define a limit for mercury levels (Summary of the Clean Water Act). It goes without saying that the more fish people eat, the higher the risk of getting sick. If it were not for the drastic levels of pollution, we would not have to worry about being poisoned with a natural food source.
Oil pollution has several negative effects on all living organisms since the chemicals in the oil are poisonous. Since oil cannot dissolve in water it creates a thick consistency that gets stuck in the feathers of birds, preventing them from flying, suffocates fish, and blocks light from photosynthetic aquatic plants resulting in their death (Oil Pollution in Water). The Oil Pollution Act was adopted in 1990 to prevent oil pollution. The Oil Pollution Act had a goal of requiring oil storage facilities to have a response plan in case if a spill were to happen (Summary of the Oil Pollution Act). Creatures most affected by oil spills animals such as sea otters and seabirds since they are typically found at the ocean’s surface or shorelines.
Many people believe that the only place oxygen comes from is plants. However, oxygen also comes from the ocean, more specifically phytoplankton. Phytoplankton produce more than 50-85% of the world’s oxygen (How Much Do Oceans Add to World's Oxygen?). If we pollute our waters the phytoplankton will die, causing a decrease in oxygen levels. Phytoplankton use energy from the sun to convert nutrients and carbon dioxide into new plant materials, this process is how phytoplankton grow. The main argument for why air pollution is a more pressing matter than water pollution is that we need to breathe oxygen to survive. Well according to an article from EarthSky, without the ocean, we would not have near the oxygen levels we have now.
Industrial and agricultural work that releases many different chemicals through run-off into bodies of water. Metals and solvents pollute rivers and lakes and are poisonous to many different forms of aquatic life. The results of the pollution can cause aquatic life to slow development, become infertile, or even result in death. Many farmers also work with chemicals that end up in the water, such as pesticides that they use for their crops. Some pollutants, such as chemicals, do not easily dissolve in water. These types of pollutants settle under the body of water, harming and sometimes killing aquatic organisms that live at the bottom of the body of water. This pollution is very similar to ground water pollution. When we apply chemicals such as pesticides to soils, they are soaked deep into the ground by rainwater. These chemicals then seep into underground water, resulting in underground pollution. How does this affect us if it is under ground? When we dig wells and bore holes to get the water that is trapped in the ground, it then needs to be checked for contaminants before it can be used.
There are many ways to reduce your impact as an individual to reduce water pollution. As I stated before with marine debris, California took the initiative to ban plastic bags. You do not need to wait for a law to be passed for you to limit your use of plastic. If you do use plastic, reuse and recycle when you can. When you are walking along the beach and see a piece of trash, pick it up and throw it out/recycle it. Take responsibility and properly dispose of chemical cleaners, chemicals do not belong down the drain. Keep good care of your car if you have one so it does not leak. Consider reevaluating how you landscape in order to prevent runoff and avoid applying pesticides and herbicides all together. There are ways to make a difference and help prevent water pollution from causing any more damage than it already has.