Define Thermal Pollution: Man-Made Destruction? (Here’s What We Know)

Have you ever wanted to define thermal pollution?

Or have you wanted to learn more about this type of pollution that many people don’t think twice about?

Are you interested in getting involved in water pollution activism?

In this article, we’ll give you a quick rundown about thermal pollution and what it is. You’ll learn what causes it, what can be done to prevent it, and what it does to the environment.

By the time you finish reading, you’ll be ready to get out there and start making a difference in no time.

Read on to learn more.

Facts about Thermal Pollution

Understanding thermal pollution is more important than many people may realize. Below are some facts to keep in mind when you’re working to educate yourself on this lesser-known type of water pollution:

prevention of thermal pollution
  • Thermal pollution is caused by excess water from power plants being pushed back into the environment. Although this may not initially sound like a bad thing, it really is. When power plants use this water as a coolant to keep the plant from overheating, the water itself overheats instead. And when it’s sent back into the environment it came from, it is at a higher temperature than it originally was. So what does this mean? In short, it means that the temperature of the water is raising more and more and becoming dangerously warm for the animals and plants that live there. This causes the environment to go into thermal shock and often leads to the death of fish, plants, and other animals that rely on these fish and plants as food sources.
  • The highest rates of thermal pollution are located in areas where power plants are found. Industries and plants are the leading cause of this type of pollution, and so these urban areas are the most likely to experience it. However, as the problem carries on further throughout the environment, it is spreading to more suburban and even rural areas too. Currently, environmental activists are working to understand which parts of the world are the most heavily affected by thermal pollution so conservation efforts can be narrowed down to the places that need it the most. The United States is responsible for a lot of the thermal pollution going on in the world, but it’s also happening in other countries as well.
  • The leading contributors to thermal pollution are factories and power plants. Industrial wastewater is the most common culprit. However, urban runoff also makes a difference in the overall temperature of water in and around cities. This runoff comes from sidewalks and roads that heat up during the day. When it rains or storms, rainwater passes over those heated surfaces and gets warmer than it should be. When it returns to the environment or to water retention basins in the area, it’s several degrees hotter than the water that was already there, and so it works in much the same way as the industrial runoff does.
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    Thermal pollution affects water quality by heating it up and causing the animals and plants living in it to slowly die off due to thermal shock. However, there’s more to it than just this; as the animals and plants die, they cause bacteria to blossom in the water due to all the decomposing organisms present there. This, in turn, pollutes the water supply much more than it already was.
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    Thermal pollution affects wildlife by first killing the fish and aquatic plant life. From there, other animals that rely on those fish and plants as food die off too, including birds and some land animals as well. As these animals die, larger animals are affected, and the cycle continues. This type of pollution destroys entire ecosystems.
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    Thermal pollution affects humans by first affecting the environment around humans. Sure, slightly warmer water might not directly affect you, but if it changes the way the ecosystem you live in functions, you’re going to feel the results. With fewer animals in the area, local farms may be affected. When plant life can’t grow properly, even your own backyard garden is going to feel the difference. And if decomposing organisms in the water supply pollute your water with bacteria that makes you sick, you’re definitely going to notice.
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    Thermal pollution can be stopped by encouraging factories and industries to find other methods of cooling aside from using water straight out of the environment. Cooling towers need to be installed to allow water to cool down to the correct environmental temperature before it is put back into the source it came from. Air cooling systems can also be implemented, which don’t rely on environmental water supplies at all. This is even better for the environment because the water is not going to pick up any pollutants while it’s in use as a coolant. And, if all else fails, factories and plants could find other ways to use the heated water to cut back on how much of it is released back into nature. This would also conserve water use and make a big difference in the long run.


Did you learn something about thermal pollution today? This is a big issue and it’s one that many people don’t know anything about at all. By educating yourself and learning a little bit about what thermal pollution is and what it means for you as well as for the environment you live in, you’re already taking a big step toward making changes that will make a difference in the world.

thermal pollution solutions

But how serious is this problem worldwide? Is this something that only affects certain areas? While the problem is currently affecting water more in areas where plants and industries are common, this doesn’t mean other parts of the world are excluded entirely from it, either. The environmental changes that come from this pollution are eventually going to spread and reach even the most out-of-the-way locations if we don’t do something to stop it. This is why it’s so important to focus on identifying the sources of this type of pollution so we can fight back and make positive changes that will impact the environment for the better.

Remember that thermal pollution, like all types of water pollution, is a problem that affects all of us. You may not see the changes in your day-to-day life, but they’re out there, and one day you may look back and wish you’d done something to improve the situation before it got too out of hand. If you’re interested in getting started in improving thermal pollution on a small scale, learning more about it is a very important step to take.