Water Pollution How to combat this issue in our everyday life

Water is one of the most precious natural resources of our planet. The reason being that about 97% of the total water is salty, and therefore not potable; a further 2% is locked in glaciers and polar ice caps, thus leaving just about 1% of it which is useful for consumption. Apart from clean drinking water, we also need to keep the waters in the oceans, rivers, and lakes unpolluted otherwise it harms the very planet we survive on. With human population increasing rapidly water resources all over the world are getting polluted; so much so, that precious and unique organisms and ecosystems are being harmed and are even going extinct at an alarming rate.

Causes of Water Pollution

Although certain natural processes may cause some amount of water pollution, anthropogenic effects cause water pollution the most. We need to use water everyday, both in our industries as well as our homes. We get this water from groundwater sources, rivers, and lakes. Most of the water we use - and abuse - finds its way back to one or more of these water bodies. The used water from agricultural and industrial practices, and household use, all comes together to generate sewage or waste water. If sewage is allowed to flow back into water systems without being treated, it causes pollution. The polluted water bodies harm all life, humans, animal and plants. Water also gets polluted due to surface runoff from industries, agricultural land and urban areas, which flow directly through storm-water drains into water systems without any treatment.

 

The disposal of sewage is a major problem in developing countries where there isn’t adequate sanitation in large areas, thus carrying disease causing bacteria and viruses into sources of water. However, developed countries too contribute to water pollution; people often flush pharmaceutical and chemical products down their toilet, adding to the chemical load of land sewage. Some of the other causes of pollution are oil spillages and dumping in oceans, dumping litter into streams, rivers, and oceans such as cardboard, newspaper, foam, Styrofoam, plastic packaging, aluminum, glass, and so on. Some of these pollutants take a very long time to degrade. For example, foam takes 50 years, Styrofoam takes 80 years, aluminum takes 200 years while plastic packaging can take 400 years! Nuclear waste, atmospheric deposition, and underground storage leakages are some of the other causes of water pollution.

Prevention methods of water pollution

If you want to help keep our waters clean, there are many things we can do to help. We can prevent water pollution of nearby rivers and lakes as well as groundwater and drinking water by following some simple guidelines in our everyday life.

  • Conserve water by turning off the tap when running water is not necessary. This helps prevent water shortages and reduces the amount of contaminated water that needs treatment.
  • Be careful about what you throw down your sink or toilet. Don’t throw paints, oils ,grease, fat or other forms of litter down the drain.
  • Use environmentally friendly household products, such as washing powder, household cleaning agents and toiletries .Use only phosphate free soaps and detergents.
  • Take great care not to overuse pesticides and fertilisers. This will prevent runoffs of the material into nearby water sources.
  • By having more plants in your garden you are preventing fertiliser, pesticides and contaminated water from running off into nearby water sources.
  • Don’t throw litter into rivers, lakes or oceans. Help clean up any litter you see on beaches or in rivers and lakes, make sure it is safe to collect the litter and put it in a nearby dustbin.
  • DO NOT flush pills, liquid or powder medications or drugs down the toilet or sink.
  • Avoid using the toilet as a wastebasket. Most tissues, wrappers, dust cloths, and other paper.goods should be properly discarded in a wastebasket. The fiber reinforced cleaning products that have become popular should never be discarded in the toilet.
  • Avoid using a garbage disposal. Keep solid wastes solid. Make a compost pile from vegetable scraps.
  • Install a water efficient toilet. In the meantime, put a brick or 1/2 gal container in the standard toilet tank to reduce water use per flush.
  • Run the dishwasher or clothes washer only when you have a full load. This conserves electricity and water.
  • DO NOT dispose of the chemicals, motor oil, or other automotive fluids into the sanitary sewer or storm sewer systems. Both of them end at the river. A single quart of motor oil that seeps into groundwater can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water. When you buy motor oil, ask if the store or service station has a program to buy back waste oil and dispose of it properly. Keep up with car maintenance to reduce leaking of oil, coolant, antifreeze and other hazardous fluids. Skip the home carwash. Take your car to a professional –- professional carwashes are required to drain their waste water into sewer systems, where it is treated before being discharged. This spares your local rivers and bays from the brake fluid, oil and automotive fluids that could otherwise contaminate your water. Many carwashes also recycle their wastewater, and use less than half the amount of water of a home carwash. Ask around to find a carwash that practices wastewater recycling. Alternatively, you can “wash” your car at home using a waterless carwash product. 
  • If your home has a sump pump or cellar drain, make certain it does not drain into the sanitary sewer system.
  • Discarding harmful products correctly is important, but not buying them in the first place is even better. Ask local stores to carry nontoxic products if they don’t already..
  • It’s an easy switch that makes a big difference. Using toxic chemicals like bleach and ammonia to clean your home is not only bad for the water supply, it’s not necessary. Natural cleaners are just as effective at getting the house clean, and you don’t have to worry that you’re contributing to water pollution when you use them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a list of cleaning products (as well as a variety of other products) that are considered “green,” meaning they won’t pollute the water supply. See epa.gov/greenerproducts. Common household supplies like white vinegar and baking soda can be used for everything from washing windows to scrubbing bathroom tiles, and they’re completely nontoxic.

About the author

Dr Harsha Mishra is working as Assistant Professor and Head of the dept. of Basic Sciences and Hunanities in K.J. Somaiya Institute of Ehgg & I.T. Sion , Mumbai. Her research interest is in the field of water analysis. She strongly believe that awareness in our daily routine would reduce water pollution problem 50 percent. E mail id  harsham@somaiya.edu

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