Water is an extremely important natural resource, making up more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. It plays a vital role in supporting life and promoting growth. The human body contains significant quantities of water, ranging from 50-80%, with high proportions found in blood, muscles, and the brain. In fact, approximately 95% of the brain is composed of water. All systems and organs in our body rely on water for proper functioning; without it, they would cease to operate. Water also acts as a necessary medium for most chemical reactions that occur within our bodies. While we can go without food for weeks, survival without water is limited to just a few days.
Water is not stored in the body like other nutrients, but rather lost throughout the day. Approximately 10 cups of water are expelled daily through activities such as urinating, perspiring, and breathing. Clean water is crucial for all living organisms, whether they inhabit or consume it. Both plants and animals cannot tolerate contaminated water with toxic substances or harmful microorganisms. Unfortunately, humans have disregarded the significance of water by globally polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans. Consequently, our planet is suffering considerable damage.
The absence of contaminated water has resulted in the vanishing of organisms. Additionally, the availability of potable water and the community’s capacity to utilize water for agriculture and leisure have been significantly affected. Our dependence on the Earth’s capacity to maintain life has evolved over countless years. The ecosystem acts as the base for all living beings and is vital for our survival. Despite numerous alerts from scientists regarding the ramifications of neglecting ecosystem conservation, a large number opted to disregard them.
To address water pollution, understanding the causes and preventative measures is crucial. Marya Manes, on page 18, emphasizes the consequences of our actions and highlights that the harm inflicted upon nature and living beings will eventually rebound on us. Manes concisely encapsulates the common mistakes made by people worldwide. Water pollution is a global emergency that often receives attention only after it has become irreversible.
If problems were addressed in a timely manner, many of these issues would have been diminished before we became labeled in a “state of crisis”. “We face a water crisis that threatens to limit economic growth, undermine living standards, endanger health and jeopardize national security. We live on the edge of water bankruptcy” (George H. Buehler, pg. 11). I believe water bankruptcy is near. Although water is everywhere and looks clean, contamination is lying on the surface. It’s a shame America, the nation of opportunities, isn’t doing its part to safeguard our future.
The quality of drinking water is a growing concern due to the deteriorating water delivery infrastructure. Our drinking water sources may contain harmful substances such as lead, copper, radon, and arsenic. Additionally, hydrocarbon-based substances spilled on the ground can seep into our water supplies and pose a significant threat. Insecticides also contribute to pollution by being absorbed into the soil and eventually reaching lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans.
Rachel Carson introduces the recent catastrophe on Chesapeake Bay that led to the contamination of the shrimp and scallop crop. She suggests that the catastrophe was likely caused by a chemical spill, which initiated a “fouling” process with far-reaching consequences. This spill not only affected the Bay’s pristine water but also spread to nearby farmland, resulting in damage to crops and pollution of a significant poultry producing area in the country. Despite this significant event, pollution of rivers, lakes, and oceans is an ongoing issue, posing a severe ecological and environmental problem.
Pollution impacts both the deaths of important organisms that maintain ecological balance and human drinking water. The chemical composition of groundwater, our natural source of drinking water, can be altered through three main ways: natural processes, human waste-disposal practices (including sanitary waste, liquid industrial waste, solid waste, and radioactive waste), and incidents like spills, leaks, agricultural activities, and unrelated sources. The degree of risk associated with pollutants differs based on various factors.
When evaluating groundwater pollution, multiple factors need to be taken into consideration. These factors encompass the quantity, toxicity, concentration in the aquifer, environmental persistence, and level of exposure to humans and the environment. Additionally, it is crucial to consider the number of individuals presently or potentially affected over a period of time and the proportion of locally and regionally accessible groundwater. If the contaminants surpass federal drinking water standards, they are labeled as hazardous based on those particular criteria.
While these standards only cover a limited range of chemicals, they do not provide comprehensive protection for humans or the environment against all contaminants discovered in groundwater. Eliminating contamination entirely in every region is impractical due to the diverse origins of groundwater pollution. However, we can reduce or mitigate the impacts caused by various potential sources of groundwater pollution.
Water pollution stems from multiple sources.
The pollution in local streams is primarily due to runoff from lawns, driveways, roads, and sidewalks. When individuals fertilize their yards or use insecticide, the chemicals are washed away by rain and eventually make their way into the streams. The agriculture industry also contributes to this issue as pollutants such as fertilizers, manure, livestock waste, and chemicals from equipment add to the pollution. According to a research article titled “Pollution Potential of Livestock Manure,” raw manure can be significantly more toxic than raw municipal sewage – up to 160 times more poisonous.
The increasing presence of toxins in our water supply is causing growing concern for the well-being of all living creatures. These toxins lead to the production of nitrite, which at high concentrations can deplete oxygen levels in our water and cause fish and other aquatic animals to die. Furthermore, nitrates and other toxins may seep into the ground and contaminate our drinking water, potentially resulting in various illnesses or even fatalities. If this problem is not resolved, our beaches and oceans will soon become designated dumping sites, impacting both their visual appeal and posing a threat to marine life’s survival.
The marine life is in urgent need of help since they lack a method of communication. As stated by Carl J. Sinderman (pg. 249), there have been notable occurrences of genetic abnormalities, including chromosomal damage and recurring gross abnormalities. The dumping of oil and chemicals into the oceans, caused by human ignorance, has resulted in damage to our ecosystem and all living beings. While it is possible for large companies to effectively remove these toxins, this may potentially lead to further issues down the line. Insufficient measures are currently being taken to protect aquatic organisms from harm.
Many individuals are not actively advocating to increase awareness, although they fail to comprehend that the extinction of these organisms will also negatively impact us. This issue is pervasive, and individuals worldwide are actively combating it daily. The information I have encountered in journals and books is staggering. For instance, Asian rivers are considerably more polluted than any other rivers worldwide. They contain three times the amount of bacteria from human waste compared to the global average, as well as twenty times more lead than rivers in industrialized nations. “Pollution of freshwater poses a problem for roughly fifty percent of the global population.”
According to Sam Henderson (pg. 27), there are around 250 million cases of water-related diseases each year, leading to 5 to 10 million deaths. It is crucial to take action in order to protect our water supply, which ultimately safeguards life on Earth.
In terms of water quality regulation, James Boyd explains that the United States is entering a new phase with the recently-finalized total maximum daily load (TMDL) rules. This approach aims to identify, prioritize, and repair polluted waters, thus building upon the progress made in water quality during the first twenty-five years of the Clean Water Act.
Despite being historically neglected, changes are gradually occurring regarding the Clean Water Act. The act now requires states to identify non-compliant waters, establish priorities, and implement improvements. Within ten years since its enactment, scientists and regulators have reported significant improvements in water quality.
Between 1974 and 1981, there was a significant improvement in water quality due to several factors. These included reductions in lead and fecal bacteria concentrations, a notable decrease of 71% in industrial biological oxygen demand loads, a decline of 46% in municipal biological oxygen demand loads, and localized improvements in dissolved oxygen deficit measurements. The main reason behind these improvements was the investment made under the Clean Water Act to enhance municipal sewage treatment facilities. As a result, the percentage of the U.S. population benefiting from wastewater treatment increased from 42% in 1970 to 74% in 1985 (James Boyd, pg.). The success of the Clean Water Act can be attributed to its strict enforcement of rules and regulations. Additionally, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) complements the Clean Water Act by issuing permits that include reporting requirements, penalties provisions, and measures against regression. This federal permit authority also empowers citizens to legally enforce compliance with NPDES permits or EPA orders.
Enforcement tools have been instrumental in achieving significant reductions in industrial point source releases. As stated by Kristi Johnson’s presentation (pg. 14) using Toxics Release Inventory data, there was a decline in toxic discharges to surface water from 417 to 197 million pounds per year between 1987 and 1990. In order for the Federal Government to fulfill its obligations, it is crucial that these changes are sustained. Contaminated water poses a threat to human life as it can result in waterborne diseases for those who come into contact with it.
A waterborne disease refers to a disease that can be transmitted through contaminated water, which may contain bacteria, viruses, or protozoan organisms. Examples of such diseases include cholera (caused by bacteria), dysentery (caused by bacteria or amoeba), cryptosporidiosis (caused by protozoa), hepatitis A (caused by a virus), and giardia (caused by protozoa). The infection can occur not only from drinking the water but also from swimming in it if the person has broken skin.
The limited access to clean water supplies poses a significant global health issue for many impoverished countries. It is estimated that about 1.5 billion people lack safe drinking water, leading to at least 5 million deaths each year due to these diseases (Charles E. Haley, pg 782).
To prevent waterborne diseases and raise awareness about them, several crucial tasks need attention. These tasks include promoting good hygiene practices through education, improving living conditions and sanitation, and actively participating in community initiatives aimed at preventing future outbreaks.
Enhanced safeguards, filtration, and chemical treatment methods in public drinking water systems in the United States can eliminate waterborne illnesses like typhoid and cholera. It is crucial to address water pollution to prevent unnecessary loss of innocent lives. The responsibility for numerous challenging diseases caused by contaminated water is unacceptable. Tragically, deaths occur not only from consuming supposedly purified water but also from participating in swimming activities in oceans and lakes.
It is crucial to acknowledge that families visiting the beach, whether for a celebration or a leisurely outing, may unknowingly acquire waterborne diseases. It is important to note that contamination can be present even if it is not visible. Therefore, it is vital to raise public awareness about these issues. When individuals have convenient access to information, they are more inclined to take steps towards improving water quality. Personally, I became aware of these concerns only through research for this paper, indicating that there are likely many others who lack knowledge on this topic.
The global epidemic of water pollution necessitates urgent government action. It is crucial for people to acknowledge the harm being inflicted on ecosystems and take preventive measures. Merely imposing fines or citations on responsible companies is inadequate; they should be permanently shut down as a deterrent for others. Media coverage is vital in increasing awareness and promoting collective action against this issue. The government should not wait for fatalities before implementing an action plan, which may not even be fully executed. Water pollution demands serious attention and a dedicated approach.