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Causes and Effects of Water Pollution

Last Updated : 14 Jun, 2022
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Water is one of the most important natural resources on the planet, and it has been around for a very long time. In reality, the water we drink has existed in some form or another since the time of the dinosaurs. Water covers more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface. This equates to little more than 1 octillion litres of water spread throughout the seas, rivers, lakes, and streams.

Water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and more than 60% of the human body. That is a lot of water, but only around 0.3% of it is suitable for human consumption. Although water makes up a large percentage of the Earth’s surface as well as our bodies, humans continue to contaminate the different sources of water.

With the rise in population, India’s pollution level is rising at an alarming rate. The primary sources of water contamination are industrial effluents and chemicals, sewage, and other waste. We will explore the causes, consequences, and various methods for preventing water contamination in this section.

What is Water Pollution?

The poisoning of oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, aquifers, and groundwater is referred to as water pollution.

This is generally the result of human activity. Water pollution causes changes in the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of water that are harmful to any living creature. Drinking water is defined as water that is deemed safe for human and animal consumption. This water is often utilised for drinking, cooking, washing, agriculture irrigation, and other purposes. However, chemicals, germs, and other contaminants are already contaminating our drinking water. When water becomes contaminated, it harms all lifeforms that rely on it, whether directly or indirectly. The consequences of water pollution might be felt for many years.

Types of Water Pollution

  1. Ground Water Pollution: During the rain, pesticides and chemicals applied to crops and soil are washed deep into the earth. Pesticides combine with groundwater, polluting it.
  2. Surface Water Pollution: When hazardous chemicals come into touch with various sources of water, they pollute the surface water. Harmful pollutants from different sources combine or dissolve in lakes, lagoons, and seas, resulting in surface water contamination.
  3. Microbial Pollution: This form of water contamination is caused by microorganisms. Although the majority of microorganisms are innocuous, certain bacteria and viruses can cause significant health issues.
  4. Suspended Matter Pollution: Pollutants enter the water and do not interact with the water molecules in this pollution. As a result, the suspended particles in water settle to create silt on the waterbed. Because of this, nutrients from the water were lost, causing it to become contaminated.
  5. Chemical Water Pollution: Many companies and farmers rely on chemicals for a variety of functions. It pollutes the water. Pollutants used to manage weeds, insects, and pests leach into the water, causing pollution to spread. Metals and solvents from industry also pollute the water.

Causes of Water Pollution

Industrial Waste

Many industries dump industrial waste, such as hazardous chemicals, into bodies of water before treatment. It eventually pollutes the water. The dumping of hazardous substances reduces the oxygen levels in the water, resulting in pollution.


Pathogens, or disease-causing bacteria, are among the most serious contaminants. Bacteria, viruses, and protozoa are the most common pathogens. Although most bacteria are considered innocuous, if not beneficial, a few dangerous bacteria infiltrate water bodies via sewers and sanitation systems. Water-borne microorganisms cause a variety of illnesses, including diarrhoea, gastrointestinal sickness, and others.


One of the primary causes of water pollution is the disposal of sewage in bodies of water. Sewage discharged into the sea from both houses and industry can pollute the ocean. Sewage disposal causes a variety of water-related illnesses, including diarrhoea, which is a leading cause of death in children.

Radioactive Waste

Disposal of radioactive wastes into the sea is another major source of water pollution in today’s globe. Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, as well as solvents from industries, pesticide run-off, and oil spills from ships, are examples of chemical pollutants. They are toxic to aquatic life forms, causing infertility and death. Metal wastes are also hazardous to people when they are absorbed into our bodies. They can harm the brain system, kidneys, and other organs.

Dumping of Solid Waste

Human littering is another important source of water contamination. Dumping solid trash such as plastics, cardboard, and Styrofoam contaminates water and renders it unfit for human consumption. The dumping of solid trash in large quantities clogs water bodies and causes pollution.

Organic Waste

Food trash, detergents, leaves, grass, and other organic pollutants are examples of organic water pollutants. They are caused by residential sewage, discharge from food processing plants, and farm wastes, which pollute water sources by runoff. Bacteria do, in fact, convert complex organic stuff into basic organic matter. They eat oxygen that has been dissolved in water. The number of decomposers rises as the organic waste content of the water increases. They use a lot of oxygen, resulting in a decrease in the oxygen concentration of water. This harms aquatic life.

Effects of Water Pollution

  1. Affects Aquatic Life: Water contamination has a significant impact on aquatic life. It affects their metabolism and behaviour, as well as causing disease and death. Dioxin is a toxin that causes a variety of issues, ranging from reproductive issues to uncontrolled cell development and cancer. This chemical accumulates in fish, poultry, and meat. Chemicals like these make their way up the food chain before entering the human body.
  2. Affects Food chain: Water contamination may have a significant influence on the food chain. It upsets the food chain. Cadmium and lead are two hazardous chemicals that enter the food chain via animals (fish when ingested by animals and people) and can continue to disturb at greater levels.
  3. Groundwater contamination: Pesticides and fertilizers used in agricultural production pollute groundwater as well as our ecology. If this groundwater is directly delivered to our home via bore-wells or tube-wells, it will cause a multitude of health issues. 
  4. Affects Human Health: Pollution affects humans, and faecal matter in water sources can cause illnesses such as hepatitis. Poor drinking water treatment and contaminated water can always lead to an epidemic of infectious illnesses like cholera.
  5. High TDS(Total Dissolved Solids) in water: Water is the best solvent since it quickly dissolves a wide range of compounds. TDS in drinking water should be less than 500 mg/litre. The presence of a high level of TDS in water can cause a variety of health issues in humans.

Pollution of the Ganges

Some rivers, lakes, and groundwater have been made unsuitable for human consumption. The Ganges River in India is the world’s sixth most polluted river. This is unsurprising given that hundreds of local companies discharge their effluents into the river. Furthermore, religious events like funerals and cremations along the coast contribute to pollution.

Apart from the environmental consequences, this river offers a major health danger since it may spread illnesses such as typhoid and cholera. Pollution in the Ganges is also causing some of the unique species to become extinct. The Ganges River shark is a severely endangered species in the Carcharhiniformes order. The Ganges River dolphin is another endangered species found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers’ tributaries.

According to a report, about 4 billion people would experience water scarcity by the end of 2026. Currently, over 1.2 billion people worldwide lack access to clean, drinkable water and appropriate sanitation. It is also estimated that over 1000 children die in India each year as a result of water-related concerns. Groundwater is an essential supply of water, but it is also prone to contamination. As a result, water contamination is a critical societal issue that must be addressed as soon as possible.

Control Measures of Water Pollution

Water contamination may be managed to a greater extent using several ways.

  1. Precipitation, the ion exchange process, reverse osmosis, and coagulation are some chemical techniques that aid in the management of water pollution. Individually, reusing, reducing, and recycling whenever feasible will go a great way toward mitigating the consequences of water contamination.
  2. Rather than discharging sewage waste into bodies of water, it is preferable to treat it first. By doing so, the original toxicity can be reduced, and the residual chemicals can be destroyed and turned harmless by the water body itself. Water that has undergone secondary treatment can be reused in sanitary systems and agricultural areas.
  3. The Water Hyacinth is a highly unique plant that can absorb dissolved hazardous substances such as cadmium and other similar elements. Establishing them in areas prone to such pollution can greatly decrease the negative impacts.

Sample Questions

Question 1: What exactly is sewage treatment?


Wastewater treatment, also known as sewage treatment, is the process of cleaning or eliminating all contaminants from wastewater, treating it, and making it safe and acceptable for drinking before releasing it into the environment.

Question 2: What are the major processes in the treatment of sewage?


The wastewater treatment process is divided into four major phases, which are as follows:

  1. Screening
  2. Primary treatment
  3. Secondary treatment
  4. Final treatment

Question 3: What are the most common sources of water pollution?


The primary sources of water contamination are as follows:

  • Industrial activities
  • Urbanization
  • Religious and social customs
  • Runoff from agriculture
  • Accidents (such as oil spills, nuclear fallouts etc)

Question 4: What are the consequences of pollution in water?


Water contamination has the potential to devastate the ecology. Furthermore, harmful substances can enter our bodies through the food chain, causing illnesses and death.

Question 5: What are some of the most important preventive measures for controlling water pollution?


The primary measures that can be taken to control water pollution are as follows: 

  • Stop dumping trash straight into bodies of water.
  • Always use correct techniques to safeguard rivers, lakes, and oceans.
  • Penalties should be imposed on companies that dump trash into natural water.
  • Spread the word to ensure that people are aware of the dangers of water contamination.
  • Educate the public on the need of developing a culture of accountability in order to reduce trash dumping.

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