Comprising over seventy percent of the Earth’s surface, water is undeniably the most valuable natural resource. Life on Earth would be non-existent without water because it is essential for everything on our planet to grow. The human body is composed of 50-80% water. Blood and muscles contain significant amounts, and approximately 95% of the brain is water. All body systems and organs need water to function properly, and will shut down without it. Most of the chemical reactions that take place in our body need water as their medium. We can live without food for a few weeks, but can survive only a few days without water.
It’s essential because unlike other nutrients, water isn’t stored in the body. Typically, everyday, we lose around 10 cups of water, just living; urinating, perspiring and breathing. All organisms contain water; some live in it; some drink it. Plants and animals require water that is pure, and they cannot survive if their water is loaded with toxic chemicals or harmful microorganisms. Yet even though humans recognize this fact, the population has disregarded it by polluting the rivers, lakes, and oceans of the world. Consequently, we are harming our planet.
In addition to organisms vanishing due to lack of polluted water, the drinking water has become greatly affected, as has the population’s ability to use water for farming and recreational purposes. We have lived on this planet for millions of years and we have come to rely on its ability to support and sustain human and animal life indefinitely. The world survives by way of an ecosystem and that system is the core of all living things. For many years now scientists have warned that our cavalier attitude toward preservation of the eco system will cause it to begin breaking down, however, their warnings often fell on deaf ears.
In order to combat water pollution, we must understand the causes of water pollution, and ways in which water pollution can be prevented. “The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future” (Marya Manes, pg. 18). Manes brilliantly describes the mistakes of humans all over the world in the few choice words she used. The crisis of water pollution is a global problem that is often payed attention to when it is too late.
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 has been gaining a great deal of attention lately, especially as our water delivery infrastructure continues to age. Particles of various metals such as lead and copper, and other substances like radon and arsenic could be entering our drinking water supplies. Spilled-on-the-ground hydrocarbon-based substances are also leaking into water supplies and pose a significant hazard. Insecticides are another common weapon that contributes to pollution. “These chemicals are absorbed in the earth, and then run off into water- lakes or rivers and streams, and eventually into the oceans.
The most recent catastrophe on Chesapeake Bay which contaminated almost the entire shrimp and scallop crop was presumed to have been caused by a chemical spill which began a “fouling” process that was like a fatal domino effect. From the pristine water of the Bay it then ran off into nearby farmland, not only damaging crops, but also polluting one of the largest poultry producing areas in the country” (Rachel Carson, pg. 49). However, despite this obvious and crucial fact, many rivers, lakes and oceans are becoming increasingly more polluted, creating a serious ecological and environmental problem.
Not only is pollution the cause of the death of many organisms essential to ecological balance, but human drinking water has also been affected. There are three main mechanisms by which the chemical composition of groundwater, which is our natural source of drinking water, may be changed: by natural processes, by man’s waste-disposal practices such as those for sanitary wastes, liquid industrial wastes, solid wastes, and radioactive wastes, and by spills, leaks, and agricultural activities and other sources unrelated to disposal. The degree of risk posed by contaminants varies according to many factors.
These include the volume and toxicity of the contaminant, its concentration in the aquifer, its persistence in the environment, and the degree of human and environmental exposure to the contaminant. In addition, the number of persons affected, or likely to be affected, over time and the percentage of available groundwater both locally and regionally should be taken into consideration. If the contaminants in the groundwater exceed the standards set for drinking water by the federal government, for example, then the water is hazardous for the use for which it was designated under the standards.
These standards include, however, only a limited number of chemicals, and thus they do not necessarily protect humans or the environment against either the short-term or the long-term effects of every contaminant that might be found in groundwater. The number and diversity of potential sources of groundwater contamination make it clear that groundwater contamination will never be totally eliminated everywhere. We can, however, minimize or reduce the impact of many potential sources of contamination to groundwater. There are many different sources that contribute to water pollution.
Runoffs from lawns, driveways, roads or sidewalks are a major contributor. When an individual fertilizes their yard or sprays insecticide, when it rains those remaining chemicals are then washed away and then find its destination in our local streams. Same principle applies to the agriculture industry. There are many toxins that can be attributed to the farming industry. Some of the more toxic are fertilizers, manure, livestock waste and oil and other chemicals from the equipment. According to an article titled, “Pollution Potential of Livestock Manure”, raw manure is up to 160 times more toxic than raw municipal sewage.
This causes great concern for all living creatures. When these toxins enter into our water supply they create nitrite. High levels of these can deplete our water of oxygen, killing the fish and all other aquatic animals. Nitrates as well as other toxins can also soak into the ground and end up in our drinking water resulting in illness or even death. In my opinion, if this matter is not resolved, our beaches and oceans will soon be labeled dump sites. Besides the unattractiveness of the problem on the surface, life inside the ocean is struggling to survive.
With no words to speak and no form of communication, our marine life is seeking our help. “High levels of genetic abnormalities, in the form of chromosomal damage and recurring gross abnormalities have also been demonstrated” (Carl J. Sinderman, pg. 249). Marine life is being punished by human stupidity. Oil and chemicals being dumped into our oceans are damaging our ecosystem and all living things. Getting rid of this toxins by large companies may erase there problems, but end up causing twice as more problems in the future. Aquatic organisms are being harmed and not enough is being done to prevent this from happening.
Not enough people are taking a stance to raise awareness but they don’t realize that the extinction of these organisms will harm us as well. This problem is global and people everywhere are fighting it every day. The facts I have come across in journals and books are shocking. For example, Asian rivers are the most polluted in the world. They have three times as many bacteria from human waste as the global average and twenty times more lead than rivers in industrialized countries. “Pollution of freshwater is a problem for about half of the world’s population.
Each year there are about 250 million cases of water-related diseases, with roughly 5 to 10 million deaths” ( Sam Henderson, pg. 27) Steps need to be taken to preserve our water supply which in return will preserve our life on Earth. “The United States is on the brink of a new era in water quality regulation. Newly-finalized total maximum daily load (TMDL) rules are bringing to life a long-dormant approach to the identification, prioritization, and repair of the nation’s polluted waters that promises to expand the gains in water quality secured by the Clean Water Act’s first twenty-five years”(James Boyd, Pg. ). The Clean Water Act’s history is full of neglect but changes are beginning to show within time. This act requires states to identify waters that are not in compliance with water quality standards, establish priorities, and implement improvements. “Within ten years of the CWA’s passage, water scientists and regulators reported significant improvements in water quality.
An analysis of changes in water quality over the period 1974 to 1981 documented widespread reductions in lead and fecal bacteria concentrations, a reduction in industrial and municipal biological oxygen demand loads of seventy-one percent and forty-six percent, respectively, and some localized improvements in measures of dissolved oxygen deficit. These gains were largely due to CWA-related expenditures for the improvement of municipal sewage treatment. Between 1970 and 1985 the fraction of the U. S. population served by wastewater treatment jumped from forty-two percent to seventy-four percent”(James Boyd, pg. ). The Clean Water Act is slowly but surely doing as promised and ensuring rules and regulations are strictly enforced. Another method that goes hand in hand with the Clean Water Act is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Establishment of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting system has brought reporting, penalty, and anti-backsliding provisions to the regulatory method. Complementing this federal permit authority enables citizens to file suit for compliance with NPDES permits or EPA orders.
Together, these enforcement tools have shown significant reductions in industrial point source releases. For instance, “between 1987 and 1990 toxic discharges to surface water fell from 417 to 197 million pounds per year, according to Toxics Release Inventory data” (Kristi Johnson, pg. 14). These are the type of changes that need to continue to take place that will ensure us that the Federal Government is doing its part. Water pollution can be a silent killer. Waterborne diseases are not uncommon amongst people who have been exposed to water contamination.
A waterborne disease is any disease that can spread through contaminated water. The contamination can involve bacterial, viral or protozoan organisms. Some examples of waterborne diseases include cholera (bacteria), dysentery (bacteria or amoeba), cryptosporidiosis (protozoa), hepatitis A (virus) and giardia (protozoa). Infection can result not only from drinking the water but also from swimming in the water where it can enter the body in other ways such as through broken skin. Many poorer countries have limited uncontaminated water supplies so waterborne disease is a huge health issue worldwide. Estimates suggest that nearly 1. 5 billion people lack safe drinking water and that at least 5 million deaths per year can be attributed to waterborne diseases” (Charles E. Haley, pg 782). Waterborne diseases should not even exist. Even though they do, people should take steps to prevent themselves from getting ill by raising awareness. Some forms of preventions can include being educated in having good hygiene, improvements in habitation and general sanitation, as well as getting involved with your community in making changes to prevent further outbreaks of waterborne diseases.
Improvements in public drinking water including more protected water intakes, filtration and chemical treatment can possibly eliminate waterborne diseases such as typhoid and cholera from the US. Furthermore, the problem of water pollution needs to be addressed on a daily basis. We as humans cannot afford for innocent lives to be taken away by something that can be potentially prevented. Amongst other diseases that are difficult to fight, water should not be the reason for so many of them. Not only are people dying from drinking the water which they think is clean, people are also dying from swimming in oceans and lakes.
Families going to the beach for a celebration or even just for a fun day can later be diagnosed with having some type of waterborne disease. Contamination doesn’t have to be visible for it to be there. More awareness should be out there for people to know exactly what we are faced with. I think if more information was steadily available to the public, then we would really go out there and fight to have clean water. I myself was not aware of any of their problems outside of doing this paper and that assures me many others are not aware as well.
The government should make water pollution a global epidemic so people can wake up and stop doing things that are harming our ecosystems. Companies who are dumping should not only be cited or fined; they should be closed down all together to teach everyone else a lesson. In my opinion, this issue is a global epidemic and needs for media coverage to help fight it. People don’t need to die for the government to stop and declare some type of action plan that they probably won’t even go through with. Water pollution is a serious problem and needs to be addressed in a serious manner.
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