You are on page 1of 9

Mokritskiy 1

Dmitriy Mokritskiy Lorraine Orenchuk Graduation Project 15 May 2013 Water Pollution Water covers only seventy five percent of the Earths surface. Out of that seventy five percent, ninety seven percent of the water is in the oceans, unsuitable for drinking. Only three percent of Earths water is fresh water (Murphy). Water is an essential resource to human existence. Without water, a human being cannot survive. Water is a limited resource and it is not only vital to human beings, but to the whole ecosystem. Although an essential resource to human existence, water continues to be disregarded and polluted. Water pollution occurs when a body of water is negatively affected due to the addition of large amounts of pollutants to the water. In order to stop water pollution from occurring, each individual must take critical steps to preserve water among other resources because it is vital for human existence. Water pollution can be categorized in two main categories, point and non-point sources. Point source pollution occurs when a pollutant is transferred directly into the waterway such as a pipe spewing toxic chemicals directly into the river. Non-point pollution develops when pollutants runoff directly into a body of water. For instance, non-point pollution is seen when fertilizers from a field are carried directly into a stream by rain water runoff. Although point source pollution has decreased due to the Clean Water Act of 1972, non-point pollution continues to happen. The Clean Water Act was passed as an objective of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters by preventing point and nonpoint pollution sources (EPA Stormwater). Since the passage of the Clean Water Act, interest has been focused primarily on minimizing pollution from point source discharges and after

Mokritskiy 2

many years of working with industries, point source pollution has decreased (Lampe). Currently, the biggest concern that the EPA has is with non-point source pollution because unlike point source pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants; it comes from many different sources. As pollution from point sources declined, it was clear that the remaining pollution was the result of storm water discharges from non-point sources. Water suffers from many forms of water pollution but the most common type of water pollution is stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff is the precipitation from rain or snow that flows over the ground picking up pollutants in its path (EPA Stormwater). The pollutants are then discharged into the storm sewers, where they eventually end up in lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands or coastal waters. As rainwater flows over farm land or impervious surfaces such as rooftops, parking lots, roads, and sidewalks, it can pick up pollutants, such as oils, trash/debris, fertilizers, pesticides, paint cleaners, and other harmful chemicals into the storm drain. The storm drain leads directly into a body of water and its a common misconception that storm sewers go directly into a wastewater treatment plant. The stormwater does not get treated and goes directly into a body of water. As the EPA determined, stormwater runoff is the leading cause of water pollution in the nation (EPA Stormwater). Stormwater negatively impacts humans and the environment. The runoff is very harmful to marine animals and can kill water fowl, turtles, fish and other aquatic species. The trash and debris can be mistaken for food by some animals or it can destroy spawning habitat for the fish. The nutrients associated with the runoff can promote bacterial growth and algae blooms that can deprive the water of its oxygen. When theres no oxygen in the water, the fish start to die, breaking the food chain of larger mammals. The stormwater can include pathogens, heavy metals, and other chemicals that may pose a health hazard to humans who come into contact with untreated waters (Agouridis).

Mokritskiy 3

The stormwater pollution can be managed in two main ways. The first way is source reduction and it focuses on reducing stormwater pollution by controlling pollutant sources. The source reduction can include different practices such as implementing sediment and erosion control measures, preventing litter and picking up trash, using less fertilizer, and picking up pet waste. These practices are simple and do not require much thinking. Each individual can help the environment and reduce stormwater pollution by recycling and using less plastic. The second way of reducing stormwater pollution includes using Best Management Practices (BMPs) to increase stormwater storage or infiltration and reduce stormwater pollutant loads (Agouridis). A BMP can include something as simple as harvesting rainwater in a rain barrel for the garden, or making infiltration trenches, designing a rain garden, and constructing a wetland. Stormwater pollution can be reduced in these simple steps and thus preventing other types of water pollutions from spreading. The second most common type of water pollution in the United States is nutrient pollution. Nutrient pollution is when too many nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, are added to bodies of water and can act like fertilizer, causing excessive growth of algae. The nutrients can come from many different sources and are discharged into the water via rain runoff. The nutrient pollution can also affect groundwater where excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus can seep into the ground and affect aquifers. Aquifers are where most of our drinking water comes from and if they get polluted, the consequences can be deadly. The main contributor to nutrient pollution is agriculture; pollutants such as animal manure, excess fertilizer applied to crops and fields, and soil erosion make agriculture one of the largest sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the country (EPA). Other sources of nutrient pollution include pet waste, lawn fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides. Some nutrients can occur naturally. For example, nitrogen occurs in nature in decaying leaves and in the soil. Low levels of nitrogen arent harmful; in fact they are essential for a healthy ecosystem. But nutrients in excess,

Mokritskiy 4

particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, are harmful to the environment (Grumbles). Extreme levels of nitrogen cause algae blooms that can deplete the oxygen supply in waters, resulting in conditions that cannot sustain aquatic life. Nutrients lead to a process called eutrophication where the nutrient rich body of water causes algae growth. Eutrophication is defined by USGS as the increase in the rate of supply of organic matter in an ecosystem (USGS). Too much eutrophication can lead to harmful effects such as low levels of sunlight in water, depletion of oxygen, and making the water toxic. When the water has low levels of oxygen, marine life can be endangered and fish kills can occur. Nutrients running off into the ocean can cause dead zones such as in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay where the water does not support life. Nutrient pollution, however, can be greatly reduced by slowing down the run off from fields by applying best management practices and managing manure in crop production to maximize the nutrients taken up by crops and minimize nutrients that can be lost to the environment (Grumbles). Crop fertilizers contribute to nutrient pollution and it was estimated that America alone applies twenty to thirty percent more fertilizer to crops than is necessary (MIT). The value can be drastically reduced by farmers making measurements on how much fertilizer is actually needed and using less of it. Planting riparian buffers can also greatly reduce the problem of nutrient pollution; the plants can reduce the rate of nitrates leaching into the ground by taking up most of the nutrients. Best management practices can be applied and the rain runoff can be stored in retention ponds and manmade wetlands designed to contain rain water and nutrient pollution. Some other ways that an individual can prevent nutrient pollution from occurring is using fewer lawn fertilizers, cleaning up after pets, and burning less fossil fuel. Each individual can make a difference in lowering the number of nutrients used and in turn benefit the environment. The third most common type of water pollution in the United States is groundwater pollution. Groundwater is defined by the EPA as rainwater or surface body water that soaks into the

Mokritskiy 5

soil and is stored underground in aquifers or tiny spaces between permeable rocks and soil. An aquifer is a formation, group of formations, or part of a formation that contains sufficient saturated, permeable material to yield significant quantities of water to wells and springs (USGS). Groundwater begins as precipitation from rain and snow, and then it flows underground, picking up pollutants in its path. Groundwater pollution can occur by runoff from non-point sources or it can be polluted from point sources such as a landfill leaking harmful contaminant into the ground. Ground water is very important here in the U.S because approximately half the population of the United States relies on groundwater for drinking water, and more than ninety percent of rural residents obtain their water from groundwater through wells or springs (Trautmann). Groundwater pollution can come from many different sources, point or non-point. The main contributors to groundwater pollution are agricultural, industrial, and naturally occurring discharges. The different pollutants such as fertilizers, animal manure, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, and hazardous materials can eventually reach groundwater from industrial, agricultural, and residential activities. Groundwater contamination can be manmade but can also occur naturally from rocks and mineral deposits in the soil. High levels of chemicals and minerals can be very toxic and make the water unsuitable for drinking. The greatest concern for groundwater contamination is when inorganic minerals, salts, metals and synthetic organic compounds pollute the water. Inorganic minerals in low concentrations such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium are beneficial for human health but others such as arsenic, barium, or mercury are toxic if consumed. High levels of chloride are also dangerous in groundwater and can seep into the ground from highway de-icing salts. Nitrate is another example of a toxic contaminant that can cause methemoglobinemia or the "blue baby syndrome" at high concentrations (Trautmann). The causes of high nitrate concentrations can include septic systems that are spaced too closely together, fertilizers that leach from lawns or agricultural fields, and

Mokritskiy 6

liquids that percolate into the ground in areas where animal manures are concentrated (Trautmann).That is an extreme example of a groundwater contaminant but other pollutants can cause serious health problems because they are carcinogenic in nature. Humans that are affected by contaminated groundwater can suffer from many different related health issues that can range from allergy type symptoms, including the common cold, to cancer and other more serious health problems (MIT). The environment can also be adversely impacted by contaminated groundwater discharges that can lead to surface water pollution. Groundwater contamination can result in a buildup of contaminants in plants and an animal, to extreme cases of fish kills. The lack of clean groundwater can lead to global problems because when groundwater is contaminated, communities can lose water resources for drinking, irrigation, and industrial purposes which in turn can affect the global economy (Trautmann). When the groundwater is contaminated, it can be a difficult and time consuming process to clean it up. Some of the different methods used to clean up contaminated groundwater can include pumping polluted groundwater from the soil or bedrock, treating it, and then pumping it back into the ground (EPA). Another way to treat contaminated water is to contain the contaminant in a limited area to stop it from spreading and treat it from there. Other contaminants can be treated by leaving the contaminant in the ground and reducing it by natural biological, chemical, and physical processes (EPA). Groundwater pollution can be prevented if each individual would take steps and test water wells for contamination, reduce the use of fertilizers, dispose of chemicals appropriately, and apply best management practices. It is up to each individual to take these important steps in order to conserve water and help prevent groundwater pollution from occurring. Water among many other resources is the only resource on earth essential for human survival. Without water, an average human can survive at most three days. We have relied on water for thousands of years and continue to rely on it to this day. Water is far more valuable than gold or

Mokritskiy 7

money and is often times taken for granted. Water continues to provide us with a food supply, hygiene, power, and much more. Although vital for daily life, water continues to be polluted every day. Water pollution continues to threaten our water supply and action must be taken in order to avoid it. By 2025, scientists predict that more than two-thirds of worlds population could face water shortages (Nature Conservancy). Clean water is essential for sustaining life on Earth. In order to reduce and prevent water pollution from occurring, each individual must act now in order to conserve water and preserve it for future generations to come.

Mokritskiy 8

Works Cited "After the Storm" Weather. Jan. 2003. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 20 May 2013 <http://water.epa.gov/action/weatherchannel/stormwater.cfm>. Agouridis, Carmen, Sarah Wightman, Jonathan Villines, and Joe Luck. "Reducing Stormwater Pollution." Cooperative Extension Service. July 2011. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. 20 May 2013 <http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/aen/aen106/aen106.pdf>. "EPA." Nutrient Pollution. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 20 May 2013 <http://www2.epa.gov/nutrientpollution>. "Glossary of Hydrologic Terms." Oregon Water Science Center. USGS. 21 May 2013 <http://or.water.usgs.gov/projs_dir/willgw/glossary.html>. Grumbles, Benjamin. "Nutrient Pollution and Numaric Water Quality Standards." United States Environmental Protection Agency. 25 May 2007. EPA. 20 May 2013 <http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/standards/upload/2009_01_21_criteria_nutrient_policy20 070525.pdf>. Lampe, Les, Howard Andrews, and Kirk Kisinger. "10 Issues in Urban Stormwater Pollution Control." Stormwater Finance. Sept. 1996. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. 20 May 2013 <http://stormwaterfinance.urbancenter.iupui.edu/PDFs/Lampe.pdf>. Murphy, Matt. "Water is Life - Global Water Cycle." Global Water Cycle & Supplies. 2004. Evergreen State College. 21 May 2013 <http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/MURPHYMW/>. "Nutrient Pollution." Mission 2015:. Massachusetts Institute of Technolgy. 20 May 2013 <http://web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2015/2015/nutrientpollution.html>. "Rivers & Lakes." Freshwater Conservation. The Nature Conservancy. 21 May 2013 <http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/riverslakes/index.htm>.

Mokritskiy 9

Trautmann, Nancy, and Keith Porter. "Groundwater: What it is and how to protect it." Natural Resources Cornell Cooperative Extension. 2012. Cornell University. 21 May 2013 <http://psep.cce.cornell.edu/facts-slides-self/facts/gr-wh-hw-grw85.aspx>.