All living things need water. However, water pollution remains a significant problem. Groundwater systems can quickly become polluted by chemicals and other toxins, making the water unhealthy not only for drinking but also for cooking and bathing. People have even gotten sick by eating food (animals and plants) raised or grown using contaminated water.
Most Americans have access to safe drinking water, so it can be easy to believe that water pollution is a problem elsewhere. However, there are still contaminants in drinking water that are potentially harmful. To better understand the water pollution problem, we will provide information about water pollution, its causes, and diseases caused by consuming polluted water.
What is Water Pollution?
Water pollution is the contamination of a body of water, making it toxic for humans and the environment. The two main categories of pollutants are:
- Microorganisms – Viruses, fungi, bacteria, and intestinal worms typically caused by animal and plant waste
- Chemicals – Pesticides, pharmaceuticals, household products, industrial waste, heavy metals
Causes of Water Pollution
While natural causes such as floods and landslides can affect water quality, the primary cause of water pollution is human activity. Here are some activities that contribute to water pollution.
- Wastewater & Sewage – Over 80% of the world’s wastewater is put back into the environment without being treated. Wastewater also includes stormwater runoff. When it rains, stormwater carries oil, grease, chemicals, and debris from the roadways into the sewage system.
- Agriculture – Farming and livestock production are significant water polluters. Fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste are washed into waterways each time it rains.
- Industry – A significant amount of industrial waste drains into freshwater. That water then flows to rivers and eventually to the ocean. Another source of industrial water pollution is air pollution produced by burning fossil fuels. The air pollution then produces acid rain that flows into the water.
- Oil – Your mind may immediately go to major oil spills. However, everyday cars and trucks leak oil and gas that makes it back to water sources.
- Radioactive Waste – Mining for uranium, nuclear power plants, producing and testing military weapons, hospitals, and research facilities generate radioactive waste. Improperly disposed of waste can remain in the environment for thousands of years.
- Marine dumping – When people throw trash into the sea, it can take hundreds of years to decompose.
Water-borne diseases can be very painful and often lead to a terrible quality of life or even death. Here are some of the most common diseases caused by using/consuming polluted water.
You can contract typhoid by consuming food or water contaminated with feces from someone who has typhoid. However, advances in sanitation and hygiene have reduced typhoid occurrences. Symptoms include nausea, headache, and loss of appetite.
Consuming contaminated water or food washed with contaminated water can cause cholera. Symptoms include vomiting, headache, and stomach cramps. One infected person can contaminate the water affecting the entire area’s population.
Giardia is spread through contaminated streams and ponds but can also be found in a town’s water supply and swimming pools. The infection lasts for a few weeks but can sometimes cause issues for many years. Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping and bloating, diarrhea, nausea, and weight loss.
Dysentery is an intestinal infection that can cause severe diarrhea and blood or mucus in the stool. While it is a water-borne disease, it is most commonly spread through poor hygiene. Symptoms include stomach pain and cramping, diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.
E. coli (Escherichia Coli)
E. coli are mostly harmless and are an important part of a healthy digestive system. However, some E. coli are pathogenic and can be dangerous. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by consuming contaminated food and water, but it can also be transmitted from person to person. Symptoms include fatigue, clay-colored stool, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain near your liver, loss of appetite, and fever.
Water contaminated with lead from old pipes or chemicals leaking into the water system can cause lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause reproductive issues, high blood pressure, and can lead to severe organ damage.
Trust the Purity of Your Water to the Experts!
As you can see, there are significant health risks involved in dealing with contaminated water. We all must do what we can to reduce water pollution to ensure that everyone has the luxury of fresh, clean water.
At Independent Water Services, Inc., we know the importance of pure, fresh water. We have provided various drinking water solutions to customers throughout Central Washington for almost four decades. We can test your water supply and then recommend, install, and maintain a water system to improve the quality of your water.
Contact us today to schedule your FREE water analysis.