How WATER IS POLLUTED - natural and human causes

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Did you know that if all human beings had access to clean and safe water sources, 80% of current diseases could be avoided? Today, around 2 million people, the majority, concentrated in developing countries, do not have assured access to drinking water, which is why they often consume contaminated water. Said contaminated water sometimes comes from wastewater, as well as from industrial wastewater, in which there are large amounts of decomposing organic matter and microorganisms, such as highly pathogenic protozoa, viruses and bacteria.

In this interesting article by Green Ecologist you will discover How is water contaminated and what solutions we can take to prevent such contamination from damaging the existence of this precious natural resource on our blue planet.

How water gets polluted - causes of pollution

Water pollution, or Water pollution, is one of the most common types of natural resource pollution that occurs in the environment. It occurs when some external factor alters the chemical and physical composition of the water, modifying its properties and causing serious damage to those living beings that consume it, both directly and indirectly.

In the following list we will see the main causes of water pollution, which, in general, could be grouped into two types of water pollution: those of natural origin and those of artificial or anthropogenic or human origin:

Causes of naturally occurring water pollution

In the case of water pollution, there is only one way that water can become naturally contaminated:

  • Eutrophication.

Causes of human-made water pollution

  • Toxic spills from domestic and industrial activities.
  • Fertilizers and pesticides from agriculture and livestock.
  • Emerging pollutants and trash.

If you want to discover more about this topic, apart from the information you will find below, you may also be interested in these other articles about What are the polluting agents in water and The most polluting and difficult to separate waste from water. Let's look at each of these causes of water pollution in more detail in the next sections.


Eutrophication consists of a biological contamination of waterIn other words, biological organisms are the cause of said contamination. As there is a very high level of inorganic nutrients, as well as a high microbiological activity and an abundant presence of algae and other organisms, whose excessive population growth causes excessive enrichment in the water.

Therefore, water loses its properties and natural chemical-physical structure, having an excess biological composition that prevents its use as a natural resource and, even, many species do not survive these new conditions in the area, such as, for example, some fishes.

We explain more about what eutrophication is in this other post.

Toxic spills from domestic and industrial activities

Those commonly known as process waters (industrial), fecal waters (residual) and raw waters (prior to drinking water for human consumption), are part of the main types of polluted water whose anthropogenic origin (produced by people) causes the temporary or permanent contamination of surface and underground waters.

Inadequate management of urban and industrial wastewater, just like him dumping of toxic products coming from mining activities, refineries and even forestry operations, leads to catastrophic water pollution, thus preventing the existence of sources of water suitable for human consumption and the maintenance of natural habitats.

If you are interested in discovering more about discharges and waste of this type, you can enter these other posts about What are industrial discharges in water and its treatment and about Industrial Waste: what they are, examples, types, classification and management.

Fertilizers and pesticides from agriculture and industrial livestock

According to current data provided by the FAO or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, among the main primary activities that pollute the planet's water resources are industrial agriculture and livestock, since they discharge in an uncontrolled way, a large amount of pollutants that are very harmful to the quality of the waters, such as nitrates and phosphates.

These chemical components are inorganic remains from fertilizers and pesticides used massively for the maintenance of industrial crops and livestock in large volume, so that when they come into contact with natural sources of water they seriously contaminate them, altering their chemical composition and causing, in many cases, the poisoning and death of living beings that cause it. consume.

Emerging pollutants and trash

Both the emerging pollutants as the garbage They are two of the most prevalent agents of pollution of natural ecosystems in the 21st century.

Deposited in nature by irresponsible human activities, both drugs, What microplastics Y hygiene and cleaning products, poison and kill a large number of aquatic living beings, in addition to rendering useless in many cases the natural water sources in which they are found. The mismanagement of this waste is responsible for the pollution of the planet's waters.

You can discover much more about it with these other articles about Emerging Pollutants: definition, examples and how they affect us and What is garbage: definition, projects and how to avoid it.

Water pollution: consequences and solutions

When dealing with the problem of water contamination, it is important to know its main consequences in order to be able to propose effective solutions to avoid such contamination. Let's see in the following list some of the consequences and effects of water pollution and also possible solutions for contaminated water that can serve as a guide towards strategies that allow us to continue making use of this precious asset:

Effects and consequences of water pollution

  • Intoxication and death of living beings. Learn more about it with this other article on How Water Pollution Affects Marine Animals.
  • Alteration and even disappearance of aquatic ecosystems.
  • Health problems, such as diseases (cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid fever and poliomyelitis), as well as malformations and sterility. Here, then, consult more information on Diseases caused by polluted waters.

To expand this information you can consult this post on the Causes and consequences of water pollution.

Solutions for water pollution

  • Utilize of effective sewage treatment plants.
  • Promote the dissemination of information and Environmental Education activities related to the protection of aquatic ecosystems.
  • Favor the cleaning and maintenance of services that facilitate access to drinking water.
  • Prohibit the discharge of toxic substances from industrial activities into water sources, both underground and surface.

If you want to discover more solutions, we recommend you read this other post on Solutions to water pollution and also this other to learn how to avoid water pollution. Also, if you want to know the treatments to purify contaminated water, we encourage you to read this other article by Green Ecologist about water decontamination: what it is and methods.

If you want to read more articles similar to How is water contaminated, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.

  • Well, J.L; Sastre, H. & Lavin, A.G. (1997) Pollution and environmental engineering: water pollution. Par foundationto the Promotion of Applied Scientific Research and Technology in Asturias (FICYT), pp: 196-469.
  • Innovation and Qualification, S.L. & Target Asesores, S.L. (2016) Expert in environmental management (2nd Edition). Editorial IC, pp: 109-171.
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