You are on page 1of 14

When toxic substances enter lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, and other water bodies, they get dissolved

or lie suspended in water or get deposited on the bed. This results in the pollution of water whereby the quality of the water deteriorates, affecting aquatic ecosystems. Pollutants can also seep down and affect the groundwater deposits.

Water pollution has many sources. The most polluting of them are the city sewage and industrial waste
discharged into the rivers. The facilities to treat waste water are not adequate in any city in India. Presently, only about 10% of the waste water generated is treated; the rest is discharged as it is into our water bodies. Due to this, pollutants enter groundwater, rivers, and other water bodies. Such water, which ultimately ends up in our households, is often highly contaminated and carries disease-causing microbes. Agricultural run-off, or the water from the fields that drains into rivers, is another major water pollutant as it contains fertilizers and pesticides. Domestic sewage refers to waste water that is discarded from households. Also referred to as sanitary sewage, such water contains a wide variety of dissolved and suspended impurities. It amounts to a very small fraction of the sewage by weight. But it is large by volume and contains impurities such as organic materials and plant nutrients that tend to rot. The main organic materials are food and vegetable waste, plant nutrient come from chemical soaps, washing powders, etc. Domestic sewage is also very likely to contain disease-causing microbes. Thus, disposal of domestic waste water is a significant technical problem. Sewage generated from the urban areas in India has multiplied manifold since 1947. Biochemical oxygen demand, or BOD The amount of organic material that can rot in the sewage is measured by the biochemical oxygen demand. BOD is the amount of oxygen required by micro-organisms to decompose the organic substances in sewage. Therefore, the more organic material there is in the sewage, the higher the BOD. It is among the most important parameters for the design and operation of sewage treatment plants. BOD levels of industrial sewage may be many times that of domestic sewage. Dissolved oxygen is an important factor that determines the quality of water in lakes and rivers. The higher the concentration of dissolved oxygen, the better the water quality. When sewage enters a lake or stream, micro-organisms begin to decompose the organic materials. Oxygen is consumed as micro-organisms use it in their metabolism. This can quickly deplete the available oxygen in the water. When the dissolved oxygen levels drop too low, many aquatic species perish. In fact, if the oxygen level drops to zero, the water will become septic. When organic compounds decompose without oxygen, it gives rise to the undesirable odours usually associated with septic or putrid conditions. Eutrophication When fresh water is artificially supplemented with nutrients, it results in an abnormal increase in the growth of water plants. This is known as eutrophication. The discharge of waste from industries, agriculture, and urban communities into water bodies generally stretches the

Today, many people dump their garbage into streams,


lakes, rivers, and seas, thus making water bodies the final resting place of cans, bottles, plastics, and other household products. The various substances that we use for keeping our houses clean add to water pollution as they contain harmful chemicals. In the past, people mostly used soaps made from animal and vegetable fat for all types of washing. But most of todays cleaning products are synthetic detergents and come from the petrochemical industry. Most detergents and washing powders contain phosphates, which are used to soften the water among other things. These and other chemicals contained in washing powders affect the health of all forms of life in the water. Agricultural Run off

The use of land for agriculture and the practices


followed in cultivation greatly affect the quality of groundwater. Intensive cultivation of crops causes chemicals from fertilizers (e.g. nitrate) and pesticides to seep into the groundwater, a process commonly known as leaching. Routine applications of fertilizers and pesticides for agriculture and indiscriminate disposal of industrial and domestic wastes are increasingly being recognized as significant sources of water pollution. The high nitrate content in groundwater is mainly from irrigation run-off from agricultural fields where chemical fertilizers have been used indiscriminately.

Industrial effluents

Waste water from manufacturing or chemical processes in industries contributes to water pollution. Industrial waste water usually contains specific and readily identifiable chemical compounds. During the last fifty years, the number of industries in India has grown rapidly. But water pollution is concentrated within a few subsectors, mainly in the form of toxic wastes and organic pollutants. Out of this a large portion can be traced to the processing of industrial chemicals and to the food products industry. In fact, a number of largeand medium-sized industries in the region covered by the Ganga Action Plan do not have adequate effluent treatment facilities. Most of these defaulting industries are sugar mills, distilleries, leather processing industries, and thermal power stations. Most major industries have treatment facilities for industrial effluents. But this is not the case with small-scale industries, which cannot afford enormous investments in pollution control equipment as their profit margin is very slender. Effects of water pollution

biological capacities of aquatic systems. Chemical run-off from fields also adds nutrients to water. Excess nutrients cause the water body to become choked with organic substances and organisms. When organic matter exceeds the capacity of the microorganisms in water that break down and recycle the organic matter, it encourages rapid growth, or blooms, of algae. When they die, the remains of the algae add to the organic wastes already in the water; eventually, the water becomes deficient in oxygen. Anaerobic organisms (those that do not require oxygen to live) then attack the organic wastes, releasing gases such as methane and hydrogen sulphide, which are harmful to the oxygenrequiring (aerobic) forms of life. The result is a foul-smelling, waste-filled body of water. This has already occurred in such places as Lake Erie and the Baltic Sea, and is a growing problem in freshwater lakes all over India. Eutrophication can produce problems such as bad tastes and odours as well as green scum algae. Also the growth of rooted plants increases, which decreases the amount of oxygen in the deepest waters of the lake. It also leads to the death of all forms of life in the water bodies.

The effects of water pollution are not only devastating to people but also to animals, fish, and birds.
Polluted water is unsuitable for drinking, recreation, agriculture, and industry. It diminishes the aesthetic quality of lakes and rivers. More seriously, contaminated water destroys aquatic life and reduces its reproductive ability. Eventually, it is a hazard to human health. Nobody can escape the effects of water pollution.

The individual and the community can help minimize water pollution. By simple housekeeping and
management practices the amount of waste generated can be minimized.

Clean and plentiful water provides the foundation for prosperous communities. We rely on clean water to survive, yet right now we are heading towards a water crisis. Changing climate patterns are threatening lakes and rivers, and key sources that we tap for drinking water are being overdrawn or tainted with pollution. NRDC experts are helping to secure safe and sufficient water for people and the environment by:

Promoting water efficiency strategies to help decrease the amount of water wasted; Protecting our water from pollution by defending the Clean Water Act and advocating for solutions like green infrastructure; Helping prepare cities, counties and states for water-related challenges they will face as a result of climate change; and Ensuring that waterways have enough water to support vibrant aquatic ecosystems.

Promoting Water Efficiency

Despite the many existing pressures on our water resources, there are cost-effective solutions that will allow us to transform our relationship with water. To address increasing water scarcity in many places in the nation, NRDC is working to promote investments and policies that increase water use efficiency and decrease water waste, such as:

Adopting sensible standards for efficient appliances, buildings, and irrigation; Supporting cost-effective investments by utilities to help customers save water; and Improving pricing structures to save both water and money.

How stormwater runoff solutions can improve efficiency and water quality Find out how changes in wastewater pricing could save you water and money Use our interactive tool to see how different California communities are planning for the future

Protecting Clean Water

Dirty water is the world's biggest health risk, and continues to threaten both quality of life and public health in the United States. When water from rain and melting snow runs off roofs and roads into our rivers, it picks up toxic chemicals, dirt, trash and disease-carrying organisms along the way. Many of our water resources also lack basic protections, making them vulnerable to pollution from factory farms, industrial plants, and activities like fracking. This can lead to drinking water contamination, habitat degradation and beach closures. NRDC is working to protect our water from pollution by:

Drawing on existing protections in the Clean Water Act, and working to ensure that the law's pollution control programs apply to all important waterways, including headwater streams and wetlands, which provide drinking water for 117 million Americans; Improving protections to reduce pollutants like bacteria and viruses, which threaten Americans' health and well being; and Establishing new pollution limits for top problem areas, such as sources of runoff and sewage overflows.

12 simple things you can do to reduce water pollution

Water and Climate Change

From more severe and frequent droughts to unprecedented flooding, many of the most profound and immediate impacts of climate change will relate to water. More than one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as a result of global warming. Other impacts will include sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, harm to fisheries and more frequent and intense storm events. To help communities prepare, NRDC is creating tools that help the public and government officials to better understand and anticipate the waterrelated impacts of climate change at a state, county, and city level. We also promote ways to reduce wasted energy resulting from inefficient water collection, treatment and distribution.

Is your state ready for the water impacts of climate change? Find out how cities can prepare for water shortages, flooding, and other impacts Learn more about climate change and water solutions

Preserving Water Ecosystems

Fish, birds and wildlife depend on clean water, just as people do. NRDC works to protect and restore important waterways to ensure that there is enough water flowing to keep these ecosystems intact and functioning. In the San Francisco Bay-Delta -- the largest estuary on the west coast -- we are stopping unsustainable water withdrawals that threaten endangered fish species and their habitat through a range of litigation tools. We are also continuing to restore water flows to California's second largest river, the San Joaquin River. Through implementation of the historic San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement, an agreement won after 18 years of litigation brought by a coalition of conservation and fishing groups, and led by NRDC, the settlement will restore water flows and reintroduce salmon to the San Joaquin.

Water covers 70% of the Earths surface and makes up over 60% of the human body. Water pollution affects marine ecosystems, wildlife health, and human well-being. The answer to solving pollution is to make changes in our daily habits and pay more attention to the types of products we consume. The following lists display causes of water pollution and the effects it has on human health and the environment. Causes of Water Pollution

Sewage from domestic households, factories and commercial buildings Sewage that is treated in water treatment plants is often disposed into the sea. Sewage can be more problematic when people flush chemicals and pharmaceutical substances down the toilet. Dumping solid wastes and littering by humans in rivers, lakes and oceans. Littering items include cardboard, Styrofoam, aluminum, plastic and glass. Industrial waste from factories, which use freshwater to carry waste from the plant into rivers, contaminates waters with pollutants such as asbestos, lead, mercury and petrochemicals. Oil Pollution caused by oil spills from tankers and oil from ship travel. Oil does not dissolve in water and forms a thick sludge.

Burning fossil fuels into the air causes the formation of acidic particles in the atmosphere. When these particles mix with water vapor, the result is acid rain. An increase in water temperature is caused by global warming and thermal plants that use lakes and rivers to cool down mechanical equipment.

Effects of Water Pollution


Groundwater contamination from pesticides causes reproductive damage within wildlife in ecosystems. Sewage, fertilizer, and agricultural run-off contain organic materials that when discharged into waters, increase the growth of algae, which causes the depletion of oxygen. The low oxygen levels are not able to support most indigenous organisms in the area and therefore upset the natural ecological balance in rivers and lakes. Swimming in and drinking contaminated water can cause skin rashes, cancer, reproductive problems, typhoid fever and stomach sickness in humans. Industrial chemicals and agricultural pesticides that end up in aquatic environments can accumulate in fish that are later eaten by humans. Fish are easily poisoned with metals that are also later consumed by humans. Mercury is particularly poisonous to small children and women. Mercury has been found to interfere with the development of the nervous system in fetuses and young children. Ecosystems are destroyed by the rising temperature in the water, as coral reefs are affected by the bleaching effect due to warmer temperatures. Additionally, the warm water forces indigenous water species to seek cooler water in other areas, causing an ecological damaging shift of the affected area. Human-produced litter of items such as plastic bags and 6-pack rings can get aquatic animals caught and killed from suffocation. Water pollution causes flooding due to the accumulation of solid waste and soil erosion in streams and rivers. Oil spills in the water causes animal to die when they ingest it or encounter it. Oil does not dissolve in water so it causes suffocation in fish and birds.

Water pollution has been extensively documented as a contributor to health problems in humans and marine animal ecosystems. It has a huge impact on our lives, and if we do our part by not throwing trash or chemicals into our water supplies and drains, we can contribute to the improvement of aquatic life and of our health in general.

I. WHAT IS WATER POLLUTION? Water pollution is commonly defined as any physical, chemical or biological change in water quality which adversely impacts on living organisms in the environment or which makes a water resource unsuitable for one or more of its beneficial uses. Some of the major categories of beneficial uses of water resources include: public water supply, irrigation, recreation, industrial production and nature conservation. Occasionally, pollution may derive from natural processes such as weathering and soil erosion. In the vast majority of cases, however, impairment of water quality is either directly or indirectly the result of human activities. Virtually all categories of water use contribute to pollution. Every time water is used, it acquires one or more contaminants and its quality declines. Whenever any resource is processed or consumed, some of it becomes waste and is disposed of in the environment. In a large number of cases the waste materials are or become water borne and contribute to water pollution. Both the nature of a pollutant and the quantity of it are important considerations in determining its environmental significance. Generally, readily degradable substances are quickly broken down in the environment and are of great concern only when they are disposed of in sufficiently large quantities that a significant burden is placed on the natural purification processes. On the other hand, we also produce and use a multitude of synthetic substances, a great many of which are non-biodegradable or degrade extremely slowly. Such recalcitrant substances persist in the environment for prolonged periods of time and may therefore become progressively more concentrated. Many of these substances are toxic or carcinogenic and may accumulate in the tissues of organisms. Such pollutants are particularly worrisome as they tend to build up in successive trophic levels of a food web. When characterising pollution and for formulating control and management strategies, it is useful to distinguish between "point" and "non-point" sources. POINT SOURCES are discrete and readily identifiable and, as a result, they are relatively easy to monitor and regulate. Most sewage (wastewater of mainly domestic origin, containing among others, human excreta) from urban areas and industrial wastewaters are discharged from point sources. NON-POINT SOURCES, on the other hand, are distributed in a diffused manner. The location and origin of non-point sources are sometimes difficult to establish and they are therefore less amenable to control. Runoff from large urban or agricultural catchments (*), carrying loads of sediments and nutrients, are examples of non-point sources of water pollution. II. MAJOR TYPES OF WATER POLLUTANTS AND THEIR EFFECTS Human activities give rise to water pollution by introducing various categories of substances or waste heat into a water body. The more common types of polluting substances include

pathogenic organisms, oxygen demanding organic substances, plant nutrients which stimulate algal blooms, inorganic and organic toxic substances and oil. 2.1 Pathogenic Organisms Many serious human diseases such as cholera, typhoid, bacterial and amoebic dysentery, enteritis, polio and infectious hepatitis are caused by water-borne pathogens. In addition, malaria, yellow fever and filariasis are transmitted by insects that have aquatic larvae. Faecal pollution of water resources by untreated or improperly treated sewage is a major cause for the spread of water-borne diseases. To a lesser extent, disease causing organisms may also be derived from animal rearing operations and food processing factories with inadequate waste water treatment facilities. In most developed nations, the spread of water-borne infectious diseases has been largely arrested through the introduction of water and sewage treatment facilities and through improved hygiene. But in many developing countries, such diseases are still a major cause of death, especially among the young. A strong correlation exists between the infant mortality rates of various countries and the percentage of the population with access to clean water and sewage disposal facilities. 2.2 Biodegradable Organic Substances Human and animal wastes as well as effluents from industries processing plant or animal products contain a mixture of complex organic substances such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats as their major pollution load. These substances are readily biodegradable and when introduced into the environment are quickly decomposed through the action of natural microbial populations. Some of the organic matter is oxidised to carbon dioxide and water while the rest is assimilated and used for the synthesis of new microbial cells. In due course, these organisms will also die and become food for other decomposers. Eventually virtually all of the organic carbon will be oxidised. When a biodegradable organic waste is discharged into an aquatic ecosystem such as a stream, estuary or lake, oxygen dissolved in the water is consumed due to the respiration of microorganisms that oxidise the organic matter. The more biodegradable a waste, the more rapid is the rate of its oxidation and the corresponding consumption of oxygen. Because of this relationship and its significance to water quality (dissolved oxygen levels in the water), the organic content of waste waters is usually measured in terms of the amount of oxygen consumed during its oxidation, termed the BIOCHEMICAL OXYGEN DEMAND (BOD). In an aquatic ecosystem, a greater number of species of organisms are supported when the dissolved oxygen concentration is high. Oxygen depletion due to waste discharge has the effect of increasing the numbers of decomposer organisms at the expense of others.

When oxygen demand of a waste is so high as to eliminate all or most of the dissolved oxygen from a stretch of a water body, organic matter degradation occurs through the activities of anaerobic organisms which do not require oxygen. Not only does the water then become devoid of aerobic organisms, but anaerobic decomposition also results in the formation of a variety of foul smelling volatile organic acids and gases such as hydrogen sulfide and mercaptans (certain organic sulphur compounds). The stench from these can be quite unpleasant and is frequently the main cause of complaints from residents in the vicinity. 2.3 Plant Nutrients The availability of plant nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus are important determinants of the biological productivity of aquatic ecosystems. Nutrient deficient aquatic environments are called "oligotrophic" and those rich in nutrients, "eutrophic". Young lakes are generally oligotrophic, but they naturally accumulate nutrients over time, derived from drainage and sediment run off from its catchment. When human activities greatly accelerate nutrient enrichment of water bodies, the process is called "cultural eutrophication". Sewage, animal wastes and many industrial effluents contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Another major source is fertiliser run off from urban and agricultural catchments. While in the long term, cultural eutrophication accelerates the natural successional progress of aquatic ecosystems towards a terrestrial system, in the short term problems arise due to cyclic occurrences of algal blooms and decay. In warm weather, nutrients stimulate rapid growth of algae and floating aquatic weeds. The water often becomes opaque and has unpleasant tastes and odours. When these organisms die they become food for decomposer bacteria. Depletion of dissolved oxygen leads to anaerobic conditions and a general decline in the ecological and aesthetic qualities of the water body. Algal blooms also reduce light penetration into the water making it impossible for seagrasses and other bottom anchored plants to survive. 2.4 Toxic Inorganic Pollutants Many inorganic substances are released by natural weathering of rocks and are washed into water courses. However, human activities such as mining and mineral processing as well as wastage have been responsible for far greater quantities of toxic inorganic pollutants entering water supplies and aquatic ecosystems. Of particular concern among these are arsenic, an ingredient of some pesticides, and heavy metals such as mercury, lead, tin and cadmium as they tend to accumulate in tissues. Mine drainage and leaching of mine tailings as well as metal finishing and inorganic chemical industries are major sources of metal pollution in the water environment. MERCURY poisoning causes birth defects and permanent brain damage. The worst case of mercury poisoning of a community to date occurred in Minamata in Japan, due to the consumption of contaminated fish and shell fish from the bay which received discharges of

chemical industry effluents over a long period of time. Insoluble metallic mercury is converted by bacteria in the marine sediments into water soluble methyl mercury. It is then concentrated through the trophic levels of the food chain due to selective retention in tissues. LEAD is known to cause damage to the nerve system, and some experts have recommended a tolerance limit of less than 10 parts per billion in drinking water. Prior to the introduction of PVC water pipes, lead piping and cast iron pipes using lead solder were widely used for public water supplies. Some 10 million households in Britain apparently still receive their water supply through lead piping. The main source of environmental lead is probably automobile exhausts. Lead has long been an additive to petrol to boost its octane rating. Exhaust fumes from cars and other vehicles are eventually washed down by rain and enter watercourses. Some inorganic industrial effluents also contain lead. Other heavy metals such as CHROMIUM and ZINC are present in effluents from metal finishing industries. It is believed that discharge of waste waters from many small metal finishing operations in Perth has caused ground water pollution. Chromium salts are added to cooling waters of air conditioning systems for corrosion prevention. Significant contribution of this metal therefore comes from this source as well. Production of alumina from bauxite gives rise to highly caustic effluents which also contain dissolved aluminium and other metals. ALUMINIUM has recently been implicated in the Alzhiemers disease, although there is still uncertainty about the link. CAUSTIC EFFLUENTS can raise the pH of receiving waters to levels unsuitable for many organisms. ACIDIC EFFLUENTS are produced from mine drainage and by many industries such as ore smelting, metal finishing, leather tanning and petroleum processing. Many lakes in the northern hemisphere have been acidified due to acid precipitation. Increased levels of sulfur and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum are the principal causes of acid rain. Acidification lowers the pH of the water, especially when there is little buffering capacity in the form of alkalinity to neutralise it. Fish, amphibians and many insects will be killed by increased acid levels and in severe cases only a few resistant species such as fungi may survive. 2.5 Toxic Organic Chemicals Many thousands of natural and synthetic organic chemicals are in use today for the manufacture of a variety of products ranging pesticides, pigments, pharmaceuticals and plastics. Several of these are known to cause birth abnormalities, genetic defects and cancer. Some chemicals like DDT and PCB's are concentrated in tissues to dangerous levels. Many are only very slowly biodegradable and persist in the environment for long periods of time. The major causes of organic chemical pollution are improper disposal of domestic and industrial wastes and herbicide and pesticide run off from farming areas, where they are used in substantial

quantities. In addition, large quantities of hazardous wastes have, in the past, been disposed of in landfills with inadequate containment from where they are slowly leached into surface and ground water supplies, eventually finding their way into the food chain. 2.6 Oil Pollution Petroleum is one of the major energy sources today and huge volumes of oil are transported between points of production and consumption around the globe. All along these major transportation routes oil spills happen regularly and oil slicks are ever present. With serious spills, many marine birds and other animals are choked to death by the oil slick. Even when dispersed, many hydrocarbons in the oil are toxic to aquatic organisms. Some are thought to be carcinogenic. Oil being lighter than water floats on the surface as a thin film which can interfere with the transfer of gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as heat, between the water and the atmosphere. Routine petroleum refining, storage and use also results in pollution by leaking oil, oily waste water and sludge. A significant proportion of underground fuel storage tanks in service are thought to leak oil into the ground water. 2.7 Thermal Pollution Tremendous quantities of waste heat is produced by power plants and to a lesser extent by a broad spectrum of other industries. Cooling water drawn from the ocean, river, lake or aquifer is passed through heat exchangers where it absorbs the waste heat and is subsequently discharged back into the environment. Significant rises in water temperature can be caused in the receiving water in the vicinity of cooling water disposal sites. Such increases in temperature can greatly alter the species composition in ecosystems as organisms normally tolerate temperature variations only over a very small range. At higher temperatures, oxygen solubility is reduced, but bacterial respiration rate will increase, making the water more prone to deoxygenation. Temperature variations will also cause alterations in pH due to changes in the degree of ionisation and increased solubility or precipitation of bottom deposits. III. CONTROL OF WATER POLLUTION With increasing urbanisation and expanding agricultural and industrial production, water pollution problems have progressively become more serious and necessitated the adoption of suitable control measures for ameliorating pollution. For a given body of water, the desired level of quality is usually specified in terms of parameters such as dissolved oxygen concentration, nutrient levels etc. The intended beneficial uses of the water resource are generally the basis on which the required quality criteria are formulated. Sources of pollution should then be regulated so as to achieve and maintain the minimum

required water quality. This is usually accomplished through effluent discharge standards which specify the compliance requirements for the disposal of effluents in the environment. Approaches to controlling sources of water pollution may be grouped into three broad categories: (1) minimisation of waste or pollutant generation, (2) Treatment prior to disposal of waste streams at source, and (3) "in-situ" reduction or elimination of pollution. 3.1 Minimisation of Pollutant Generation Reduction of the quantity of waste or pollutants generated by an activity is obviously the most desirable approach to pollution control. Since it conserves resources that would otherwise be wasted, and at the same eliminates the cost of removing pollutant after they are produced, it is the cheapest and most effective alternative. For non-point pollution sources, this is perhaps the only practicable method of pollution control. Yet, this approach has not been exploited by society to its fullest extent. As a general rule, a resource becomes a waste when it can no longer be economically utilised or recovered. It is then disposed of in the environment in the cheapest manner possible. Availability of economical technology for resource processing and usage has been a main determinant of when the resource is discarded as waste. In the past, decisions concerning resource usage or waste disposal have been governed largely by immediate economic considerations and have not always considered the effects of these actions on the quality of the environment. As accountability for environmental damage gains increased recognition, fostered by a growing desire within society for sustainable development and a cleaner environment, more attention and effort will undoubtedly be devoted to reducing resources going to waste and causing pollution. Minimising soil erosion by improved agricultural practices (e.g. by minimising surface runoff and leaving crop residues in the ground), more efficient use of nutrients (e.g., though the use of slow release fertilisers) and the development and use of biological pest control techniques in preference to the use of non-biodegradable toxic chemicals are some of the measures for minimising water pollution from agriculture. Considerable potential also exists in many industries to reduce waste generation. Development and use of non-polluting technology to modify or replace existing manufacturing processes, and recycling or recovering materials that would otherwise be wasted are two approaches which not only reduce pollutant generation, but can sometimes even result in a saving for the industry by minimising or eliminating the need for waste treatment for pollutant removal. In other cases, it may be more practical to segregate strong and weak waste streams to facilitate materials or energy recovery. Good house keeping practices, such as for example minimising spillage and materials wastage, can also lead to waste reduction and savings in production cost. 3.2 Wastewater Treatment at Source

In nature, a variety of different mechanisms operate to degrade and transform waste materials into stable, harmless end products such as carbon dioxide. This cleansing ability is often referred to as the "self-purification" or "assimilative" capacity. When the quantities of wastes to be disposed of are large, however, the natural purification processes become overloaded and can no longer assimilate the wastes without adversely affecting environmental quality. Man-made treatment systems are then needed to reduce pollutant loads to acceptable levels for discharge. For the most part, these purification systems make use of the same mechanisms as in the natural environment to bringing about waste stabilisation. The multitude of different wastewater treatment technologies can be classified as physical, chemical and biological processes, depending on the nature of the purification mechanism employed. The character of the pollutants and the form (suspended or dissolved) in which they are present usually determine the most suitable process for their removal. For example, gross suspended solids and floatable materials such as oil and fat are readily removed by physical processes such as sedimentation or flotation respectively. BIOLOGICAL METHODS are effective and economical when the waste water contains mostly biodegradable pollutants such as organic matter. A key advantage of biological processes is that the microorganisms involved in waste stabilisation are themselves produced in the process. For dilute wastes - including general domestic wastewaters, "aerobic" biological processes (activated sludge, oxidation ponds and aerobic biofilter) are usually favoured since they are capable of producing an effuent with very low residual pollutant concentrations. These processes, however, require oxygen, in proportion to the pollutant load present. Oxygen is supplied through aeration, which is a significant cost component. For strong wastes, "anaerobic" biological treatment in enclosed vessels is generally preferred as they proceed in the absence of oxygen, and in addition produce a useful, energy-rich by-product in the form of methane. The effuent from anaerobic processes, however, contain higher levels of residual organic materials and may require further polishing treatment (often in aerobic processes). CHEMICAL TREATMENT is used when the pollutant of interest is non- biodegradable and is not amenable to removal by simple physical means (e.g. when it occurs in dissolved form). Heavy metals are typically removed by chemical precipitation, while toxic substances such as cyanide may be chemically oxidised. An important disadvantage of chemical treatment methods is that they generally require dosing with a chemical which can prove to be quite expensive. In addition, disposal of the chemical sludge produced in these processes may also pose some problems. When a community based treatment system is impractical, it is still possible to provide a degree of treatment prior to discharging sewage into the environment. A popular method used for individual homes and small groups of residences is the SEPTIC TANK. It consists of a simple baffled tank which traps most of the solids in the waste water and also affords some decomposition of soluble organic matter. The effluent is disposed of into the ground through a

system of leach drains. As solids progressively accumulate in the tank, it is necessary to periodically desludge the system, typically every 3 to 7 years. As deep sewering in built-up areas is very expensive, other more efficient alternatives to the septic tank are also desirable for on- site use. In recent years, a number of new systems, which are essentially miniature versions of the biological processes used for large-scale plants have become available. 3.3 In-situ Pollution Control Waste minimisation and treatment help prevent pollution from occurring and should be the principal approaches to water quality maintenance. Occasionally, however, when a water body is already adversely affected, it will be necessary to consider action aimed at helping the ecosystem recover from the impact of pollution. Methods to facilitate this are collectively grouped under insitu control techniques. Aeration of lakes and reservoirs, especially when they are thermally stratified (in summer), has been used to prevent anaerobic conditions from occurring. Forced circulation of water in stratified lakes is an alternative method. Dredging nutrient rich superficial sediments from highly eutrophic lakes, while very expensive, has sometimes helped reduce occurrence of severe algal blooms. Addition of aluminium or iron salts to assist the precipitation of phosphorus has also been practiced in some lakes to control dissolved phosphorus levels in the water.