We are all aware of the problem that pollution is causing in our waterways. From algal blooms that grow disproportionately in nutrient rich water, to chemical changes brought about by plastic waste and industrial runoff, our waterways are affected by a huge variety of different pollutants. It is massively important that we can identify what these pollutants are and work on addressing the issues that they cause.
In this blog, we want to give you the run down some of the most crucial forms of water pollution that are affecting our waterways and address what needs to change in order to protect them for future generations.
Surface water pollution
Our entire planet’s water network is made up of vast, interconnecting surface water sources, such as seas, oceans, rivers, lakes, and other types of waterway. They are most often contaminated by point sources, which are single, identifiable sources of pollution, such as pipes or drains. Point sources that can contribute to surface water pollution are industrial effluents and any faulty wastewater management systems.
However, pollution can be caused inadvertently, through non-point sources, such as agricultural runoff, precipitation, or seepage. Non-point sources of pollution can still have drastic effects on marine environments, particularly in making water unsafe for both human beings and animals.
A significant portion of the naturally occurring water deposits on Earth are stored in underground reservoirs, or aquifers. The water stored in these deposits is known as groundwater. Groundwater is the water present beneath Earth's surface in rock and soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. About 30 percent of all readily available freshwater in the world is groundwater, which is why wells are dug into these aquifers, in order to provide a fresh water source.
When contaminants like pesticides, fertilisers, heavy metals, or wastewater are allowed to pollute soils, the contaminants can penetrate deeper into the water table, rendering groundwater supplies unusable. Groundwater can be brought to the surface naturally through a spring or can be discharged into lakes and streams. It’s important to keep these streams and sources of groundwater unpolluted. 64 percent of groundwater is used for crop irrigation and provides a vital resource to other water sources such as rivers and lakes, which may need to ‘recharge’ after dry periods.
Chemicals are widely used in a huge variety of human activities, from protecting agricultural crops from pests and disease to the manufacturing, transportation, and consumption of fossil fuels.
Much of this chemical runoff and any associated wastewater finds its way back into the natural and marine environments, either through heavy rainfall, accidental spillage, or the improper disposal of waste products.
This type of pollution is caused by microorganisms within the water. Changes caused by increased levels of viruses, protozoa, and bacteria can occur naturally, and many of these bacteria are either harmless or even beneficial to the marine habitats that they inhabit.
However, this is not always the case, and some microbiological pollution can disrupt the delicate balance found in marine ecosystems, which can disrupt the growth or even kill aquatic flora, which affects wildlife and massively increases the risk of disease in any animal that consumes the water.
Suspended matter pollution
Most pollutants are too large to mix with water molecules and form chemical bonds, which means that they often form a layer of floating silt and debris or else it sinks to the floor in a thick mud. Either way, suspended matter can inhibit the growth of marine life beneath the waves and compromise the quality of water, posing a risk to both humans and animals.
Suspended matter pollution is perhaps the most recognisable and observable form of direct pollution from human beings, with most plastic and floating waste fitting under this classification.
How can we tackle water pollution?
With devices like Jellyfishbot, our ability to combat the effects of water pollution are vastly increased. By removing the element of human risk from clean-up efforts, hazardous substances can be tackled easily and safely.
Ordinarily, organisations rely on volunteers to pick litter from the areas surrounding the water way. This approach, while useful in preventing some plastics and other pollutants travelling into the ocean on a small scale, doesn’t address the huge effect that polluted inland waterways are having on the ocean’s biosphere.
In order to ensure that we are maintaining our waterways as both areas and habitats in a safe fashion, we must consider other ways to clean them up without any risk to workers or wildlife.