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Economic Effects Of Water Pollution Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 3000 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Water pollution is ever more becoming a big problem that the human population needs to seriously look at. Water is the most valuable resource that we have and all living things can’t go for long without it. 70% of the surface of the Earth is covered with water but apparently only 3% of it is fresh and fit for human consumption. Of that 3%, 75% of it is frozen; leaving a mere 1% of the earth’s surface water which is available for consumption.

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Some of the major sources of water pollution include agricultural pollution, organic pollution, toxic waste, runoff and thermal pollution. In modern times, organic pollution has been on an upward trend to the environment and this is heavily because of the growing population the world is witnessing. One will find in a developed city, that there are so many people that the environment sewerage plants and sewerage plants are not able to take in all the waste and at the same time, function in its usual way. The excess waste becomes food for the algae and this increases their growth rate and thus depletes oxygen in the water.

In order to combat diseases and combat the extinction of plant and animal life, which play a big part in the economy, water pollution should be put under control. It has been estimated that it is the lead cause of deaths and diseases in the world. To control water pollution steps need to be taken like treatment of domestic sewage, which apparently contains 99.9% of pure water, industrial waste water treatment, done through pollution prevention process, agricultural waste water treatment through point and non point source control system and many other ways.

Research question

Does water pollution really have an effect on the economy?


This proposal aims at looking at the various ways that can be used to prevent water pollution and to establish the ways that are most efficient and economically viable. This will be done by clearly looking at all the methods that can be used to prevent water pollution and their workability. The importance of so doing is to look at the cost effective method than can be used and how well the method works.

Literature Review

This research proposal aims at looking at the different types of water pollution i.e. point source pollution and the non-point source pollution, the causes i.e. pathogens, chemical and other contaminants, thermal pollution and also to look into details the different methods that are used to reduce or eliminate water pollution i.e. domestic sewage, industrial wastewater, agricultural wastewater, construction site stormwater, urban runoff (Parks, 2007).

Previous research

During the summer of 1971, at a filtration plant in Chicago south, the filters were blocked with a lot of algae that they hand to be removed by hand. The water tasted and smelled like dead fish and this led to the addition of a lot more chlorine in order for the water to be drinkable. If this can happen to such big lakes like Lake Michigan then all the lakes out there are not safe. To stop this from happening better systems to treat sewage need to be devised. New systems that take raw sewage and turn it into usable water have been developed, however it is only done on a small scale basis. A research done by Pulitzer centre found out that more than 900 million people in the world do not have access to clean water everyday and that 4500 people die each day due to waterborne illness. People spend a lot of time on a daily basis to fetch clean water, taking time away from more economically productive education and work. This is despite the fact that unlike most crises around the world, sanitation and clean water can be achieved at affordable prices and the reward of the venture is impressive.


There are two types of water sources, ground water and surface water and they both have different pollutants. Some of the sources of surface water pollution include:

Point source pollution- This refers to a single recognizable source of water pollution and the contaminants enter the channel through passages such as a ditch or a pipe. This can be done through discharges from a factory, stormwater or a sewage line. From the book written by S.K. Agarwal, he says that much of the pollution in our rivers is caused by human activities which are not controlled causing accelerated flow of soil minerals from the land to the rivers. He says that point source water pollution can be prevented by ensuring that the water coming from factories and sewerage systems is well treated before being released into rivers and other water bodies.

Non-point source pollution-This refers to pollution that does not originate from one discrete source. It is mostly summative contamination effect of little amounts of contaminants which gather from a large area. An example is the runoff of nutrient in storm water or storm water that is washed off from roads, parking areas or highways. Some of these discharges may contain harmful pollutants that may mix with clean water and make it harmful to plants and living organisms. This can be prevented by channeling the run off to other places where it can be treated before being released to water bodies.

Ground water pollution-This is not easily categorized as surface water pollution. Groundwater aquifers are at risk of contamination from sources that may not openly affect surface water bodies

Causes of water pollution

The precise contaminants that lead to pollution in water include a wide range of chemicals, pathogens, and tangible or sensory changes such as increased temperature and discoloration. Even though most of the substances and chemicals that are found may be naturally occurring (sodium, calcium, manganese, etc.) the concentration is often determines what is a normal composition of water, and also what is a contaminant.

Substances that deplete oxygen may be natural materials, such as plant matter like leaves and grass, as well as artificial matter like chemicals. Other natural substances may cause turbidity which occurs as cloudiness blocking light and disrupting plant growth, and clogging the gills of some fish genus.

Many of the chemical matter are toxic. Pathogens can produce waterborne ailment in either humans or animals. Modification of water’s physical chemistry includes change in pH, temperature, electrical conductivity, and eutrophication. This is an increase in the intensity of chemical nutrients in an ecological unit to a level that increases in the primary productivity of the ecological unit. Depending on the quantity of eutrophication, subsequent destructive environmental effects such as oxygen depletion and rigorous reductions in water quality may occur, distressing fish and other animal populations (Parks, 2007).


Virus, Bacteria, and Parasites –Ages ago, waterborne diseases caused a lot of deaths. Even today in underdeveloped nation, an anticipated 25,000 people will pass away daily from waterborne diseases. Consequences of waterborne microbes can be instant and overwhelming. Therefore, microbes are the most significant consideration in making water up to standard for human consumption.

Generally speaking, current municipal supplies are rather free from unsafe organisms because of regular disinfection with chlorine and recurrent sampling. This does not imply that municipal water is free of all bacteria. People with personal wells and undersized rural water systems have a greater reason to be alarmed about the possibility of microorganism contagion from animal waste, septic containers, and many other problems. In California, there is a little district, where 4,000,000 gallons of urine is taken up by the ground daily from dairy cows! Powers that be claim that nearly 4000 cases of waterborne illnesses are accounted every year in the U.S. They also approximate that much of the temporary ills and day by day gastrointestinal malady that go usually unreported can be accredited to organisms located in our water supplies.


Total Dissolved Solids — These substances include dissolved rock particles and other compounds from the ground. The existence and quantity of total dissolved particles in water characterizes a point of controversy among those who endorse water treatment products. The consequences of higher levels of Total Dissolved Solids in water include:

High TDS water is always less thirst quenching.

High TDS results in undesirable flavor which could be bitter, salty or metallic.

High TDS hinders the flavor of foods and drinks, resulting to them not being pleasing to consume.

Some of the entity mineral salts that build up TDS can cause an assortment of health hazards. The most problematic are Sodium, some Nitrates, Sulfates, Copper, and also Barium.

Dirt and Sediment or Turbidity — Most waters have some suspended elements which may be made up of clay, fine and sometimes rough sand, different grades of soil, and precipitated salts in general. Turbidity is nasty to see, and it can also be a source of food and place to stay for microorganisms, and can get in the way of effective disinfection.

Radioactivity – As much as trace amounts of radioactive elements can be obtained in almost all drinking water, intensities that pose serious health hazards are reasonably rare. Radioactive wastes percolate from mining processes into groundwater supply. The maximum threat is posed by nuclear processing plants, nuclear mishaps, and radioactive waste discarding sites. As containers having these wastes weaken with time, the risk of contaminating our aquifers grows by the day.


Herbicides and Pesticides — The growing use of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture can be seen in our drinking water. Irrigation and Rain bring these fatal chemicals down into the groundwater and also into surface waters. There are approximately 100,000,000 inhabitants in the US who depend on groundwater for supply entire or part of their drinking water. The way our dependence upon groundwater is increasing, so is its contagion. Our own domestic use of herbicide and pesticide substances also adds to real contamination. These same chemicals can bring about respiratory, circulatory and nerve disorders (Parks, 2007).

Tastes and Odors — If the water you use has a disagreeable taste or odor, there is a chance that it is due to one or even more of numerous unrefined substances ranging from rotting vegetation to algae; phenols to hydrocarbons. It can also be TDS or a host of other items.

Effects of water pollution

Water borne diseases

Human communicable diseases are some of the gravest effects of water contamination, particularly in growing countries, where hygiene may be insufficient or non-existent. Waterborne diseases come about when parasites or other disease-causing microbes are transmitted through contaminated water, particularly water tainted by pathogens starting off from excreta. These may include intestinal vermin, typhoid, and even most of the enteric and diarrhea diseases that are caused by parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Some of the gravest parasitic diseases are ascariasis, amoebiasis, and even hookworm (Parks, 2007).

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Even developed countries are not resistant to the crisis of infectious waterborne diseases. In the year 1993, there was a high cryptosporidium level in Milwaukee’s drinking water delivery that sickened more than 400,000 people. It was an extreme case, but diffusion of infection agents such as bacteria and cysts through contaminated but poorly treated public water is even more regular than it should be. Each year, approximately seven million Americans are made sick by tainted water. This is just partly because of drinking water-pollution of recreational water, like the beach water and swimming pools, is also a predicament.

Nutrient pollution

The emancipations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients that come from waste disposal, agriculture, coastal expansion, and fossil fuel application. Once the nutrient contamination reaches the coastal zone, it encourages harmful overgrowths of algae, which can have straight toxic effects and in the end result in low-oxygen conditions.

There are certain types of algae which are poisonous. Overgrowing of these algae may result in “risky algal flourish,” which are frequently referred to as “red tides” .Zooplankton eat the poisonous algae and start passing the toxins up the food series and affect edibles like clams, and eventually working their way up to seabirds, aquatic mammals, and humans. The result can be sickness and sometimes death (Agarwal, 2005).

Urbanized countries have started checking for toxic algal blooms, shutting fisheries as necessary. This has been able to reduce the frequency of related human illness but has also had the obvious economic charge of lost income for fishers and other related businesses-and it does nothing to solve the trouble for the oceanic life stuck in the center of the red tide.

Lastly, nutrient pollution can set off unusual outbreaks of fish diseases. For instance, experts have found out that Pfiesteria, a tiny aquatic pathogen, can prosper in nutrient-polluted waters. In the year 1991, it is estimated that at least a million menhaden fish in North Carolina, were swiped out in a Pfiesteria epidemic. Again in 1997, numerous tidal creeks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed got a Pfiesteria epidemic, and grave fish kills occurred creating a huge dent in the economy. Nutrient pollution is believed to have played a role in the two cases.

Chemical pollution.

In the years, several types of chemicals have gotten into our watercourse -and still continue to do so to date. Chemical pollution of water usually occurs because…

the chemicals were discarded into the water deliberately;

the chemicals oozed into streams, groundwater, or rivers because of weakening pipes or storage containers;

the chemicals disastrously tainted waterways because of industrial accidents;

The pollution developed out of polluted air or was brought on out of polluted air.

Chemicals were leached out of polluted earth.

The kinds of chemical contamination above are regarded as “point sources” of pollution of water. On the other hand Non-point-source chemical contamination also happens through pesticide runoff from farm lands and homeowners’ lawns, as well as overflow of vehicle fluids and other different chemicals from parking bays, tarmac roads, driveways, and many other surfaces (Burk, 2005).

In regard to general human wellbeing effects, pesticides can…

Distress and injure the nervous system;

Cause injury to the liver;

Damage DNA and be the root of a assortment of cancers;

Cause reproductive damage;

Cause additional severe toxic effects.

Petroleum and Oil Chemicals

As oil contamination gets into water, some of the compositions are tarnished and detached by photochemical processes, evaporation, and even bacterial degradation, while others can be more challenging and may persist on for many years, especially in low waters with muddy sediments. Experts know that oil or the chemical components of it can seep into marshland and sub-tidal sediments and stay there for decades, harmfully affecting marine worms, marsh grasses, and other marine life that live around or in the sediment.


The tap water quality is synchronized, and almost 100% of communal water systems in the United States are meeting the set clean drinking water standards. But this is not good enough because many people are still persuaded it’s worth buying water that is bottled. Even when the Environmental Working Group did tests on tap water from a number of urban areas, it found around 119 allegedly normal chemicals-some of which the EPA has put health-based restrictions-and another 141 totally unfettered chemicals. If tap water has those many chemicals in it but can still be classified as meeting water quality values, one might say that the standards not up to date.

In all regards, it is fair to say that tap water usually has a some what strong chlorine taste. Chlorine and its disinfecting byproducts are known to be health threats, and no one wants to be the casualty of the next cryptosporidium-in-drinking-water crisis or some similar horror (Tripathi & Pandey, 2009).

Therefore it is no wonder that many of us go to the extra expenditure and trouble of buying bottled water or filtering tap water, even if there are no set of laws that guarantee those approaches will be able to offer water which is safer.

People should not agree to this situation passively. It is costing us a lot of money. The income for bottled water is approximately $12 billion in a year-in the United States alone. And on top of that, you can add the money for filters for the kitchen-sink water. Put in the additional fuel use associated with built-up, packing, and transportation of these goods, and we find that the cost of avoiding tap water that is polluted is rather soaring. We had not even counted the health costs connected to waterborne ailments and other health complication because of water pollution.

What if we as a people were to spend just half of this money as an alternative to addressing the basis of water pollution? It could go a extensive way toward putting in place old water treatment plants; funding the restoration wetlands and efforts of monitoring watershed; and tightening the enforcement laws that govern clean water.


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