Water is one of the most important natural resources of all. In fact, not only life in all its forms on our planet depends on water, but also much of human activity, from agriculture and industry, to something as simple as turning on the tap at home and being able to enjoy water to drink or wash. For this reason, water pollution is one of the great problems that we are going to have to face in the coming years, since it is a much scarcer resource than it may seem, although we are more and more human beings on the planet and demand is growing. If you want to know 6 consequences of water pollution, keep reading and we will tell you about it.
Water scarcity: causes and consequences
One of the issues that we have to be clear about when it comes to water and its importance as a natural resource is that, although apparently there is a lot of it, most of it is not useful for our daily use. In this sense, it is essential to distinguish between salt water and fresh water, being the salty one that has dissolved salt in it, and the sweet one that lacks this salt.
The problem, when it comes to the importance of water as a natural resource, is that only a little less than 3% of the water on our planet is sweet. In addition, this 3% includes frozen water, both in the form of snow and ice in mountains and throughout Antarctica and the Arctic Ocean. In this way, the fundamental problem when obtaining water is not so much obtaining water, but obtaining fresh and useful water for human activities and for the good condition of terrestrial ecosystems.
Water pollution: definition and types
Another problem with water pollution is that it can be contaminated in many different ways. Although the classifications may vary according to the sources consulted, the main types of contamination that tend to occur more frequently are the following:
1. Physical contamination of water
With this type of contamination, we refer to the contamination of the water that is carried out from large elements, for example plastics or toilet wipes.
This type of pollution is very harmful, since, in addition, it considerably deteriorates the landscape and the biodiversity of the ecosystems where it takes place.
2. Chemical contamination of water
Unlike physical pollution, this pollution is invisible because it is caused by microscopic particles of pollutants that deteriorate the good condition of the water.
Here we can find from the presence of heavy metals, such as mercury or lead, to micro plastics, oils, synthetic chemical molecules, etc.
3. Biological contamination of water
This type of contamination is characterized by the presence of infectious agents potentially harmful to human and animal health. It usually occurs in population centers as a consequence of gray water (waste water and sewage), as well as in livestock industries and in places where the water is not properly treated for human consumption.
It is water contaminated by bacteria that can cause, from simple gastroenteritis to diseases such as cholera or dengue.
4. Radioactive contamination of water
This is a more difficult contamination to find in water. However, in places where nuclear accidents have occurred, it has a particularly important presence.
An example of this type of pollution is found in the Pacific Ocean, especially after the accident at the Japanese nuclear power plant in Fukushima.
Effects of water pollution
As we can imagine, water pollution is one of the most pressing problems we are facing today. Some of the more direct problems that cause its contamination are the following:
- Lack of drinking water: this is the most urgent problem in many parts of the planet and, in the future, it will be more common than we would like. Water pollution leads to the destruction of many sources of fresh water from which drinking water is obtained, for example aquifers. Its contamination leads to the loss of these sources of fresh water and, consequently, the creation of areas that do not have access to drinking water despite the presence of water in the subsoil.
- Increase in cost of economic activities: Another consequence of water pollution is the increase in cost of many economic activities, especially those related to agriculture and livestock, but also those related to industry, which uses huge amounts of water for operation and cleaning your machinery. As there are greater amounts of contaminated water on the planet, the use of fresh drinking water becomes more expensive and, consequently, also all those economic activities that depend on its use.
- Non-infectious diseases: another consequence of water contamination is the appearance of certain non-infectious diseases in people and animals as a consequence of the presence of contaminants. A good example is found in the presence of metals such as mercury, lead, aluminum and cadmium, which pass from the environment to the water and, finally, to the oceans. These metals pass into the food chain and, finally, reach the human being, where they are associated with degenerative diseases and the appearance of certain types of tumors.
- Infectious diseases: in the same way that water is a medium to distribute heavy metals, bacteria and other germs spread easily in this medium when water is not treated properly. The direct consequence is the appearance of outbreaks of infectious diseases in specific populations that consume water contaminated by the specific infectious agent.
- Destruction of ecosystems and desertification: another of the problems of water pollution is that, by polluting the water, the soils are also polluted. The direct consequence is the destruction of all forms of life dependent on or associated with contaminated soils, which end up turning into deserts as they cannot accommodate life forms.
- Increase in migratory flows: Another consequence of water pollution is the increase in migratory flows. These migratory flows are the consequence of the destruction and desertification of the soils. By destroying an ecosystem and the soils associated with it, you create areas where agriculture is simply impossible. As a result, the local economy ends up giving way, forcing people from this area to migrate to other areas, thus creating completely unpopulated polluted areas as a result of the initial water contamination.