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Water Pollution and its Control – Definition, Types, Causes, Effects

Last Updated : 15 May, 2024
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Water Pollution is considered one of the most dangerous forms of pollution as water is the basis of all the forms of life on earth. Most of the deadly forms of water contamination are caused by man-made activities that result in death and diseases of many organisms.

It is very important to understand how water is polluted and then devise strategies for water pollution control. In this article, we will read about water pollution and its control, effects, and diseases due to water pollution.

What is Water Pollution?

Water pollution is defined as the contamination of water bodies by water pollutants. This makes the water unfit for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing, and other essential activities. Water pollutants or contaminants include chemicals, microorganisms, plastic, parasites, etc. All types of pollution in the environment gradually take their route to water in one way or another causing water pollution.

Water contamination is responsible for the devastating effects on aquatic life as well as terrestrial life and can contain harmful disease-causing elements such as bacteria and viruses. Toxic waste dumped into water bodies increase water pollution level, gradually kill animals and plant life, destroy biodiversity, and decrease the quality of oxygen in the water, leading to the death of living organisms.


Sources of Water Pollution

Human activities and their wastage account for the major cause of water pollution. Some of the sources of water pollutants are as follows: 

  • Industrial Activities: Industries discharge huge amounts of harmful chemicals like lead, mercury, and petroleum products.
  • Sewage Disposal: Sewage discharged into the water bodies causes water contamination as well increase in loads of disease-causing microorganisms.
  • Mining: Mining releases dust and different forms of chemical contaminants that can cause significant lake and stream contamination
  • Marine waste: Waste produced by communities living in coastal areas along with ships that sail in seas, and oceans contributes to the pollution of marine bodies.
  • Horticultural Activities: The fertilizers and pesticides runoff into the water bodies causing eutrophication and degradation of water bodies in a very short amount of time.
  • Radioactive Wastes: All the radioactive materials that are utilized for nuclear tests or as an energy source are generally dumped into water bodies or into glaciers that will promptly mix in with water bodies when the temperature elevates.

Types of Water Pollution

Different types of water pollution are:


Groundwater Pollution

When it rains, some amount of water seeps through the pores of the earth and fills the crevices, cracks, and pores and become groundwater. This groundwater is the main source of freshwater for the majority of the population. But when water pollutants from industrial activities, agricultural activities, sewage discharge, urban runoff, landfills, etc seeps through the soil to contaminate the water body, it makes the water polluted and unsafe for utilization.

Removal of contamination from groundwater becomes very hard, challenging, and expensive making the process slow and the water source unusable for many years. Polluted water contaminate other sources of water like streams, lakes, and oceans.

Surface Water Pollution

This type of pollution occurs above ground in water bodies such as oceans, lakes and rivers. Excessive use of fertilizer that adds nitrates and phosphates, is one of the main sources of surface water pollution in these freshwater bodies along with industrial, and rural wastes. It is estimated that currently almost 50% of river systems and 33% of lakes have become unsuitable for any form of use.

Chemical Pollution

Chemical contamination of water occurs when harmful substances, like pesticide run-offs, oil spills, and heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, etc., contaminate water sources. When these pollutants get into the water, they can harm aquatic life by disrupting ecosystems and affecting the health of plants and animals. Control measures to reduce chemical pollution of water involves minimizing the use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and proper waste disposal.

Microbial Pollution

Microbial pollution of water is usually a natural form of water pollution which is caused by microorganisms. Different types of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa live in water and cause health problems in fish, animals and humans. Microbes can enter water bodies through various sources, including untreated sewage, animal waste, and runoff from agricultural areas. When water becomes contaminated with these microorganisms, it can lead to the spread of waterborne diseases.

Nutrient Pollution

It is a type of water contamination that arises when too many nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, enter water bodies. They act as fertilizer, causing excessive growth of algae or algal bloom. The source of many nutrients are man-made including – fertilizers, wastewater, automobile exhaust, and animal waste. The algal bloom block out sunlight and inhibit the growth of other microorganisms.

Oxygen Depletion Pollution

It is a decrease in concentration of dissolved oxygen in a waterbody due to increased uptake of oxygen by bacteria, fungi, and algae. The sewage disposal is rich in organic matter that encourages growth of microbes. They consume oxygen thereby reducing the content for other aerobic species, resulting in their death.

Suspended Matter Water Pollution

Waste such as plastics, rubber that are improperly disposed of and cannot be broken down easily, reach water bodies and settle there for a long time. Since they are difficult to dissolve water molecules, they float around on the surface blocking the sunlight and oxygen from penetrating below. Major source of primary particles are industrial processes, power plants, domestic burning (wood, coal etc.), and construction dust.

Point and Non-Point source Contaminants

A point source is when the contaminants of water pollution originate from a single source like wastewater from factories, oil refineries, chemical spills, oil spills, septic system, urban dumping points, etc. Non-point source is when the contaminants of water pollution originate from multiple sources like agricultural runoff, rainwater runoff, wastes blown into water bodies from land areas.

Effects of Water Pollution

Some of the most common effects of water pollution are;

  • Water pollution causes disruption of food chain. Heavy metals like Cadmium and lead are toxic and upon entering food chain through animals, continue travelling higher levels causing severe illness or death.
  • Eutrophication of water bodies degrades the quality of water for aquatic organisms as well as other organisms that use that source of water for survival.
  • Human health is affected by the degraded quality of water. It causes many diseases mainly diarrhoea, skin diseases, typhoid, cholera.
  • The water cycle that maintains the environmental conditions of the planet gets disturbed.
  • The major contributor to global warming.
  • Effect on groundwater system causing a shortage of drinking and other essential purposes of water.
  • Spread of many types of transmissible and non-transmissible diseases like hepatitis, typhoid, arsenic poisoning, cancer, etc.
  • Biomagnification and accumulation of different types of chemical substances in the bodies of different organisms.
  • Loss of many forms of life.

Diseases of Water Pollution

Water pollutants can cause infections or act as toxins. Microorganisms from untreated sewage disposal can easily enter the drinking water supplies and causes diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio. Harmful bacteria like Salmonella typhi, Shigella sp., hepatitis virus, etc. can survive within the chemicals in the water system, and when used for drinking, can make people sick, leading to harmful side effects.

Control Measures of Water Pollution

Water contamination can be controlled in many ways and methods by taking proper actions and introducing new technologies.

Water Treatments Methods

We must avoid dumping waste into water bodies. Water treatment plants should be used for sewage water and effluent removal plants for effluent removal. Industrial wastes should have a different dumping site or they should be properly treated before releasing into water bodies.

Minimize the Use of Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides must be banned and instead organic or eco-friendly fertilizers should be used. The better option is to switch to organic farming methods and use animal-based manure. These will keep the harmful chemicals away from water bodies.

Utilization of Less Water

We must save water as much as possible as only about 1% of the earth’s total water is available for the use of most aquatic and terrestrial organisms. It can be easily achieved by installing water-saving equipment like sinks, toilets, and showers. In our daily lives, we can help save water by taking short baths, and not keeping the tap running during brushing, shaving, etc.

Keeping Water Checks for Lead Contamination

When water pipelines made of lead or containing lead bring water into homes can cause lead poisoning resulting in severe health problems. So, it is required to do regular checks to determine if any lead is present in the water, and if found then either the pipeline can be changed or a lead filter should be installed.

Avoid Polluting Open-Air Water Sources

Littering of water bodies and their surroundings, oil spills, chemical disposal, dumping of fertilizers, pesticides, etc. should be avoided. So, it is required to stop littering wastes near the water sources or around them to avoid seeping the wastes into the water sources.

Use Environmentally Friendly Products

Water contamination can be reduced by using more and more organic, natural, and environmentally friendly products domestically as well as commercially. The fundamentals of reduction, reuse, and recycling will also go a long way to overcoming the impacts of water pollution.

Chemical Methods

Chemical processes such as precipitation, reverse osmosis, and coagulation, and ion exchange method will help to reduce the level of water pollution. Use chlorine for disinfection, add lime to adjust pH, and use bleaching powder and alum for arsenic removal.

New Technologies to Prevent Water Pollution

With advancing technologies, scientists have found new technologies which can be used to prevent water pollution:


The utilization of microorganisms to debase the natural contamination into a less poisonous form is called bioremediation. Microorganisms can be explicitly intended for bioremediation utilizing genetic engineering technologies.



It is the utilization of plants to eliminate impurities from soil and water. Normal phytoremediation is completed by mangroves, estuarine vegetation, and other wetland vegetation.


Riparian Buffers

A riparian buffer is a vegetated region, a buffer strip close to a stream, typically forested, which helps as shade and acts as a shield to the stream from the effect of neighboring area uses.

Effective Strategies for Controlling Water Pollution

Introduction to Water Pollution Control

Water pollution poses significant risks to both environmental health and human well-being. Addressing this pressing issue requires comprehensive strategies involving advanced technology, community action, and stringent regulatory measures. Ensuring effective water pollution control enhances water quality and ecosystem health.

Industrial Wastewater Treatment

Industries are major contributors to water pollution. Implementing advanced industrial wastewater treatment solutions such as reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, and biological treatment can significantly reduce pollutants in wastewater before discharge into natural water bodies. This critical step helps in reducing industrial water pollution.

Agricultural Runoff Management

Pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural lands can severely affect water quality. By integrating sustainable farming practices such as precision farming, the use of organic fertilizers, and contour plowing, farmers can control agricultural runoff effectively. These sustainable farming practices help minimize runoff and its detrimental impacts on nearby water sources.

Urban Runoff Reduction

Urban areas contribute to water pollution through runoff that carries pollutants from roads, roofs, and other surfaces. Implementing green infrastructure solutions like rain gardens, permeable pavements, and green roofs can effectively absorb and filter runoff, preventing it from polluting water bodies. These measures are crucial in urban runoff management and promoting green infrastructure for stormwater control.

Enhancing Water Legislation and Policies

Robust legal frameworks and consistent enforcement of water pollution laws are essential for sustainable water management. Governments can enhance water pollution laws by setting stringent water quality standards and ensuring compliance through regular monitoring and penalties for violations. This firm legal foundation supports the enforcement of water quality standards.

Public Education and Community Involvement

Educating the public about the sources and effects of water pollution and promoting community involvement in water conservation efforts can lead to significant improvements in local water quality. Initiatives like community clean-up days and educational campaigns raise awareness and encourage proactive protection of water resources, crucial for public education on water pollution and fostering community water conservation.

Essential Health Tips for Environmental Protection

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is crucial, especially in areas with high pollution levels. Staying hydrated helps your body naturally flush out toxins. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water a day to support detoxification processes, ensuring you reap the benefits of staying hydrated.

Maintain Indoor Air Quality

Ensure that your living space has clean air, which is vital for good health. Use home air purifiers, especially those with HEPA filters, to remove pollutants from indoor air. Regularly ventilating your home by opening windows and using exhaust fans also helps improve indoor air quality.

Choose Anti-Pollution Skincare

Protect your skin from the damaging effects of pollution with anti-pollution skincare products. These products can provide a barrier against environmental pollutants and free radicals that contribute to skin aging and irritation, effectively protecting skin from pollution.

Exercise Indoors on High Pollution Days

When the air quality is poor, opt for indoor workouts to avoid exposure to harmful pollutants. Indoor exercise benefits include preventing the inhalation of pollutants that can exacerbate respiratory issues or lead to other health problems, making it a safer option during high pollution days.

Follow a Diet Rich in Antioxidants

Consuming foods high in antioxidants can help counteract the effects of pollution on your body. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables like berries, nuts, and greens in your diet. These foods help strengthen your immune system against the oxidative stress caused by pollutants, fulfilling a diet that’s rich in antioxidants and ideal for fighting pollution.

Use Protective Gear

Wear masks, especially N95 respirators, when you’re outdoors on days with high pollution levels. These masks can filter out most of the harmful particulates from the air you breathe, serving as essential protective gear for pollution.

Regular Medical Check-Ups

Regular check-ups can help detect and mitigate the adverse effects of environmental pollutants. Monitoring your health can guide necessary adjustments to your lifestyle or treatments to address any issues early on, highlighting the importance of regular health check-ups.

Conclusion: Water Pollution

It is estimated that around 6 billion kilograms of waste materials are dumped in the water bodies every year, especially in oceans. Water bodies are mainly contaminated by toxic chemicals, industrial effluents, untreated sewage, domestic wastes, bottles, tin cans, plastic bags, etc. resulting in severe water pollution that affects not only human health but also other organisms and the whole ecosystem.

Also Read:

Water Pollution – FAQs

What are the Main Causes of Water Pollution?

Water pollution primarily results from industrial discharge, agricultural runoff containing pesticides and fertilizers, untreated sewage, and pollutants from urban runoff. These sources introduce harmful substances into water bodies, adversely affecting water quality and ecosystem health.

What are the Major Effects of Water Pollution on the Environment?

Water pollution can lead to the destruction of aquatic ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and the disruption of natural aquatic processes. Polluted water can harm aquatic life forms by depleting oxygen levels and introducing toxic substances that accumulate in the food chain.

How Can Water Pollution Be Controlled?

Controlling water pollution involves several strategies including treating industrial wastewater before discharge, managing agricultural runoff through sustainable practices, restoring wetlands to filter pollutants, and enforcing strict regulations on pollutant discharge into water bodies.

What are the Health Risks Associated with Water Pollution?

Water pollution poses significant health risks including waterborne diseases such as cholera and hepatitis, chemical poisoning from contaminated water, and long-term health issues like cancer from exposure to toxins. Ensuring water quality through regular monitoring and treatment is essential to mitigate these risks.

How Can Individuals Help Reduce Water Pollution?

Individuals can contribute to reducing water pollution by properly disposing of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, using environmentally friendly detergents and pesticides, conserving water to reduce wastewater generation, and participating in community clean-up events to keep local waterways clean.

What are the 5 Sources of Water Pollution?

The 5 main sources of water pollution are – sewage disposal (waste water), industrial waste, synthetic soaps and detergents, agricultural activities (fertilisers, pesticides), and oil spillage.

What are the most common Effects of Water Pollution?

The most common effects of water pollution are; increased rates of water borne diseases, increased risk of respiratory infections, increased rates of digestive tract problems, increased rates of heart diseases, increased incidence of lungs cancer, etc.

What is Water Pollution?

Water pollution can be defined as the contamination of water by addition of water pollutants and degradation of its quality making its less desirable and unsuitable for living system due to various reasons.

What are the 5 Ways to Stop Water Pollution.

Water pollution control can be done by effluent sewage treatment, minimizing the use of pesticide and fertilisers, reusing water, removal of non-biodegradable wastes, and use the minimum amount of detergent preferably phosphate free soaps and detergents.

What are the 7 Types of Water Pollution?

The 7 types of water pollution are – Chemical Pollution, Groundwater Pollution, Microbial Pollution, Nutrient Pollution, Oxygen-Depletion, Surface Water Pollution and Suspended Matter Pollution

Why Should we Control Water Pollution?

Water pollution should be controlled as water is the basis of all life forms present in earth. All living organisms including humans need continuous source of clean and usable form of water for their survival.

What is Sewage Treatment?

A type of wastewater treatment that aims to remove contaminants from sewage to produce an effluent that is suitable to discharge to the waterbodies is called sewage treatment.

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