Water pollution impacts people, animals and the ecosystem in numerous ways. As one of the more far-reaching types of pollution – alongside air pollution – water pollution comes from numerous sources and can impact human health directly and indirectly. Water pollution in coastal regions might impact the livelihood of fishermen or the tourist trade, while water pollution in land-locked states can taint the supply of fresh water for entire towns.
Some areas face greater danger from water pollution than others. For example, in the United States, some states' legislation provides greater protection of waterways from pollution than those of other states. This can lead to a disparity between states, particularly in rural or low-income areas.
Water Pollution in Pennsylvania
When you think of water pollution, you might first think of Flint, Michigan, and its lead-contaminated tap water. However, Pennsylvania has some of the most historically polluted waters in the United States. Home to many prolific mining towns, years of unregulated mining led to extensive pollution in many lakes, rivers and streams. But Pennsylvania's pollution problem is far from over.
Many areas face ongoing contamination from fracking, abandoned oil wells, chemicals on decommissioned military bases and more. For example, fracking – the process used to extract natural gases from the Earth – results in the pollution of groundwater. This pollution impacts nearly six million residents with well water.
Water Pollution in Texas
Everything's bigger in Texas – but apparently, that adage also includes pollution levels. As is the case in most other areas impacted by water pollution, rural areas face the most contamination. Pollutants such as radiation, lead and arsenic come from numerous sources, including outdated pipes and direct dumping of chemicals into waterways.
In fact, Texas has some of the worst radiation contamination in the entire country. Researchers estimate that approximately 80% of the state's population receives tap water contaminated with radium-228 and radium-226.
Water Pollution in Florida
Not to be outdone by Texas, Florida has their own special brand of water pollution that results in deadly red tides. A red tide event occurs when pollutants in the water cause an overgrowth of toxic algae. This algae sucks the oxygen out of the water and accumulates within fish and shellfish, impacting those who eat the fish through bioaccumulation.
These events are caused by improper use of fertilizers and similar chemicals. When applied in excess or prior to heavy rainfall, the chemicals wash into nearby waterways. The algae feed on the chemicals and "bloom" or reproduce at a rapid rate.
Water Pollution in Other Countries
Like other types of pollution, water pollution occurs frequently in countries with low income or poor infrastructure. In many low-income countries, access to fresh water can prove to be an immense hurdle to overcome. This impacts not only individuals who need water to drink, but also their ability to provide water for livestock or agriculture.
For example, an estimated 80% of the population of Eritrea, a state in northern Africa, lack access to easily accessible fresh water and basic water services. No infrastructure for sewage or wastewater exists, which means that local water supplies often contain human waste contamination. Farming practices also result in animal waste polluting water supplies as well, exacerbating the problem.
In areas most impacted by water pollution, the solution lies in swift governmental action. Infrastructure to purify the freshwater supply and contain potential contaminants, regulations on the use and disposal of toxic chemicals, and other tools can help drastically reduce global water pollution. This often requires multiple governments working together on regulations and sharing technology with one another to achieve better health for the entire people and ecosystems of the Earth.
- Purely Social: Top 10 States With the Worst Public Tap Water in the United States
- World Vision: 10 Worst Countries for Access to Clean Water
- PennFuture: Part 1: A Primer on Pennsylvania's Water Crisis – Challenges Impacting Every Community
- NBC News: A "Forever Chemical" Contaminates Drinking Water Near Military Bases
- Environmental Working Group: 170 Million in U.S. Drink Radioactive Tap Water
About the Author
Marina Somma is a freelance writer and animal trainer. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology & Policy from Monmouth University. Marina has worked with a number of publications involving animal science, behavior and training, including animals.net, SmallDogsAcademy and more.