How to Avoid Water Pollution: 15 Effective Solutions
Are you worried about water pollution?
Do you find yourself wishing you knew more about how to get involved fighting it?
Are you looking for simple but very effective ways you can work to prevent water pollution in and around your home and community?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re in the right place.
In this article, you’ll be introduced to the topic of water pollution with a crash course in its definition and sources. You’ll learn what to look out for in your area, and you’ll be better equipped to notice problem areas that might be affecting your water as soon as they happen, rather than when it’s too late.
You’ll also be given plenty of tips on how to prevent the water pollution of your drinking water, as well as how to prevent pollution of water from industries that might exist in your community. With fifteen helpful tips to get you started on the road to water pollution prevention, you will soon become an active part of the fight against this widespread, global problem. In the end of the article, you’ll be given a few suggestions for how to minimize water pollution, too, just in case you live in an area where it’s already too late to stop it completely.
Learning as much about water pollution as you can is a very important first step toward making a difference in your community as well as the world itself. This is a big issue that almost all of us face at some point in our lives, and so it is very necessary for you to do your part in cleaning up water sources and helping to keep them clean. Read on to learn more about how to prevent pollution in water sources in your part of the world.
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What is Water Pollution?
When learning how to prevent water pollution in rivers and other sources of drinking water, it’s a good idea to first learn what water pollution is and what it isn’t. You might think the term “water pollution” just refers to any type of dirty water, and this is partially true. However, there’s a lot more to it than that, and understanding the differences between water pollution and water contamination is a good place to get started learning.
- Water pollution is the term used to describe an event in which water becomes too dangerous for human consumption. When water is polluted, this means that it has a very high potential to cause damage to human beings if it’s ingested, used for washing, used in cooking, or all three. Depending on the severity of water pollution, you might still be able to use polluted water for washing clothes. However, in most situations, water that has been seriously polluted is not safe to use for anything without being treated, boiled, or a combination of the two first.
- Water contamination refers to water that has been exposed to a substance other than the water itself. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it often does lead to water pollution anyway. Water can be contaminated with natural elements, for example, that don’t necessarily mean it’s polluted. When freshwater sources are contaminated with high levels of sodium, they aren’t usually referred to as polluted water. However, the end result is more or less the same: these water sources cannot be used for human drinking water without first being filtered or boiled for safety purposes. Basically, not all contaminated water is polluted, but all polluted water is contaminated with something.
- Water pollution is a problem namely because of the amount of damage it can potentially cause to humans as well as to the environment surrounding it. At a minimum, polluted water usually chokes out fish and insect life in that particular source of water, which in turn leads to dwindling numbers of birds and animals in the area that feed on those fish and insects. Water pollution also often causes plant life to suffer and die without adequate nutrients. At its worst, however, polluted water can cause serious health concerns in humans and animals both who are exposed to it. It may cause allergic reactions, digestive upset, poisoning, serious disease and illness, and even death depending on the severity of the pollution. Water that has been polluted with disease bacteria, for example, can quickly spread terrible illnesses that may become epidemics in some communities.
Common Sources of Water Pollution
Water pollution has many sources, and each one is more common than the last. It’s unfortunate that there is so much water pollution in the world, but it’s a sad truth that many people aren’t entirely aware of. You may have heard throughout your life that water sources are getting more and more polluted, but you might not think this is something that can happen in your area. However, the chances are pretty good that the water in your area is already polluted, and you just don’t realize it because you have treated water from the county or city. Check out this list of the most common sources of water pollution, and see for yourself if you think any of them apply to the place where you live.
- Dumping – When people dump waste and garbage in and around water sources, whether on purpose or accidentally, this illegal dumping paves the way for serious water pollution down the line. Garbage that decays or otherwise seeps into the water can pollute it with bacteria, chemicals, and more that spread to humans who drink from that source.
- Sewers and septic systems – When improperly installed or not maintained or cleaned correctly, sewers and septic systems can cause human waste to leach into groundwater sources and sometimes directly into surface water as well. This can spread serious illness and cause widespread disease when it isn’t caught early.
- Factories – Factories cause runoff that pollutes groundwater, but they also often dump wastewater directly into surface water sources. They also contribute to air pollution, which in turn further pollutes water sources and sometimes causes acid rain.
- Mining – In areas where mining takes place, sediments and minerals normally found within the earth’s surface are exposed to water sources, leading to an overabundance of nutrients in some instances and poisoning from materials like arsenic and lead in others. Mining also causes a lot of toxic runoff not unlike factory operation does.
- Agriculture – Agriculture is another source of runoff problems, but it also contributes to water pollution through pesticide use. Pesticides seep into groundwater or are carried to surface water by runoff and can cause poisoning and illness in humans and animals who drink them. In some agricultural areas, animals with diseases may die or defecate in water sources and spread illness in this way.
- Home chemical use – Using pesticides on your lawn or in your home garden can contribute to water pollution, and so can using harsh cleaners to wash the outside of your home. Using chemicals inside your home and not disposing of them properly is another common source of water pollution in residential areas.
- Power plants – Power plants are a major source of water pollution that causes a lot of problems. In areas where nuclear power plants are present, water becomes polluted with radiation very easily due to runoff and dumping. Fish and animals in this water become unsafe for human consumption, and drinking water in these areas has been known to cause cancer in the surrounding communities.
- Oil spills and leaks – Of course, oil spills and leaks are some of the most well-known sources of water pollution, and they always pose a potential threat. Even when a spill isn’t a huge one, it can still cause a lot of damage and take years to completely remove from water sources.
Ways to Prevent Water Pollution
If you are wondering how to prevent water pollution at home or how you can get involved with your community and help stop water pollution, check out this list of fifteen suggestions to help you get started. This list encompasses a lot of things you can do in your own home and yard, but it also gives some suggestions for how to prevent water pollution from industries as well. No matter how you are looking to get involved in the world of water pollution prevention, you can easily find the right way to make some changes by following one or more of the tips on this list.
1. Do not dump in or around rivers.
Dumping is one of the leading causes of water pollution, and you can keep freshwater sources from becoming contaminated by refraining from dumping in them. No matter what you might be dumping, whether it’s solid or liquid waste or even something you feel might not be all that harmful, you’ll be introducing a new substance into the water supply. This automatically contaminates it and starts it on a fast path toward full pollution. Keep trash and waste out of rivers in order to keep drinking water sources safe.
2. Clean up rivers that have a lot of trash in and around them.
If you notice a lot of dumping going on in and around rivers in your area, it’s not too late to prevent full-on pollution of these water sources. Get involved and start cleaning them up right away to have the best possible chance of preventing long-term effects from setting in. If you see litter on the banks of rivers, stop and pick it up. A few pieces of litter may soon escalate into a lot of dumping that can’t be reversed so easily, but you can do a lot to prevent pollution by picking up trash when you see it, whether it’s big or small.
3. Clean and maintain septic systems appropriately.
This may not be entirely up to you, depending on your city or county, but if you have a septic system try to do your part to keep it as clean and well-maintained as possible. Septic systems have a tendency to get too dirty or to start leaking, and when this happens, human waste is exposed to groundwater almost immediately. If you live near freshwater sources, this can also further pollute the surface water easily. You can prevent human waste pollution in water by making sure your septic system is fully functional and in good shape at all times. Call for maintenance checks at least twice a year.
4. Follow all water laws and regulations given out by your municipality.
These regulations and laws are in place for a reason, and they’re usually there to protect your water supplies. When you break these rules, you’re putting the water at risk by participating in activities that are frowned upon or sometimes completely illegal. If you know of water regulations in your area, be sure to keep them in mind when it comes time for you to do anything around your home such as treat your lawn, wash your car, or even water your plants or grass.
5. Talk to your city or county about how their water supplies are being treated.
If you have city or county water instead of a well, you aren’t in charge of the way the water is treated for contaminants. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to find out. Regular water quality reports should be made available to the public upon request in most municipalities, and you can also ask for more information about what contaminants and pollutants are being treated for in your water supply. If you’re concerned about a specific potential pollution problem, you can contact your water company and find out if they’re doing anything to combat it, or if it’s something you can take care of in your own home.
6. Talk to your city or county about maintaining and cleaning sewer lines regularly.
This is very similar to the problem of septic systems, but in this situation, you aren’t able to do much about it if you suspect your sewage system is in need of repair. However, if you believe there is a real potential for contamination from your sewage system—especially if you’re noticing a strange smell from your tap or waste is coming up through your water pipes—be sure to get in touch with your local water company right away. They can help you reach the right people to take care of this problem as soon as possible and prevent you and your water from becoming polluted.
7. Always dispose of pesticides and other harsh chemicals appropriately.
Never pour these substances out in your yard, and never pour them down storm drains. Do not pour them down the sink or in the toilet, either. Eventually, all of these pipes and drains will lead to water sources, and if they’re carrying harsh chemicals, those chemicals will enter into the water supply as well. This is a vicious cycle, and the chemicals are sure to get back around to drinking water eventually. If you empty pesticides and cleaning chemicals into your yard, you run the risk of polluting groundwater that eventually reaches surface water as well. This is also true of medication and pills. Much like pesticides and chemicals, they shouldn’t be disposed of down the toilet or sink either.
8. Never bury animals in the backyard.
Although it can be difficult determining what to do with a beloved family pet after it has passed on, burying it in the yard can have dire consequences for the whole family. If you absolutely must bury an animal, be sure to place it in an environmentally-friendly box that won’t allow bacteria to escape into your soil and potentially reach your groundwater. The best way to handle the body of a deceased family pet is to contact your veterinarian or even animal control to discuss what to do.
9. Never dispose of cooking fats and oils by pouring them down the sink.
Not only can this seriously clog up your drains, but it can also cause disease and illness to spread in your local water supply. This is a big problem with groundwater contamination in yards, so if you have a well you should be doubly concerned with properly disposing of fat, grease, and oil. If these substances get stuck in pipes, they can leach into the surrounding soil easily. They attract bacteria almost right away, and those bacteria contribute to the spread of disease in water sources.
10. Set up a composting pile and do not use a garbage disposal unless you absolutely have to.
Although many homes are fitted with garbage disposals, they can cause a buildup of bacteria in groundwater around your home much like disposing of fats and oils down the drain can. This is a big problem in largely residential areas, but you can do your part to prevent this type of pollution by throwing solid waste on a composting pile and using it in your yard or home garden instead. By recycling this waste instead of just chopping it up and washing it down the drain, you’re doing a lot for the environment, and you’re also keeping unwanted materials out of water supplies further down the line.
11. Never pour oil or fuel down the drain or into storm drains.
These substances can cause a lot of trouble when disposed of incorrectly. Not only can they clog up your water pipes like cooking fats and oils can, but they can also eat away at those pipes and eventually cause serious leaks underground. These leaks can then contaminate the groundwater in your area and quickly cause pollution in surface water sources as well. Always dispose of fuel and oil properly, and take care not to work on your vehicles in your yard to keep from accidentally spilling these substances onto the ground or down storm drains.
12. Refrain from using bleach when washing dishes and laundry if at all possible.
Sometimes bleach is necessary, so it may not be possible to completely cut it out of your life. However, only use it when you absolutely have to in order to prevent contamination in nearby water supplies. When bleach is present in wastewater, it is washed into water sources that eventually lead to drinking water supplies. Bleach can be very damaging to humans, animals, and plant life when it’s present in large enough quantities in water sources. It can cause internal burning as well as poisoning, and it can seriously damage the environment surrounding water sources.
13. Encourage factories, construction sites, and agricultural sites in your area to use safe runoff practices.
Toxic runoff is present in all of these locations, but it doesn’t have to be a huge problem if these industries take care to prevent it from reaching surface water sources. Groundwater pollution is a huge problem that absolutely must be taken into consideration as well, but runoff may also reach fresh surface water, especially when these industries are near sources of fresh water. The more environmentally friendly all of these sites are, the better off the water in that area will be. It’s impossible to prevent industries from operating in any area, but it isn’t impossible for those industries to prevent water pollution at one of its biggest sources.
14. Clean up your yard regularly, and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Don’t let garbage items like cigarette butts or stray pieces of trash sit around in your yard for too long. Some neighborhoods help to eliminate this problem, but others don’t, and it can sometimes be a huge issue. If you notice your neighborhood getting very dirty over time, organize a cleanup day and get people in the area involved. This is a great community effort to help cut back on water pollution.
15. Work to educate your friends, family, and the community about water safety and water pollution.
Although you might be a little nervous about bringing it up with people in your area, chances are you can make a big difference in the prevention of water pollution by simply educating the people around you about this very real problem. Some of them might not know about the small steps they can take to prevent water pollution, and even some industries might be more inclined to work toward prevention of this problem if they know there are concerned people living in the areas where they operate. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people in governmental positions in your county or city and let them know about the ways you’d like to see water pollution prevention taking place, too.
There is a lot to keep in mind when it comes to water pollution prevention, and there are tons of different ways you can get involved if you so choose. Whether you prefer to talk with the higher-ups in your community about safer practices relating to water pollution prevention in various industries or you’re just looking for ways to keep from polluting the water in and around your home, there are plenty of ideas that can help you get started on a long journey of water safety.
However, it is unfortunately true that, in many areas across the United States and around the world, water is already very badly contaminated and polluted, and it’s too late to worry about prevention. Remember, though, that even in these places, all hope is not lost. There are still things you can do to help cut back on the amount of water pollution in your area, and you can always make some changes in your home to ensure that you and your family always have access to clean, fresh drinking water. Check out this list of a few tips for how to limit water pollution in your community if it’s already taking place.
- Organize or participate in cleanup days at local water sources. Many communities already have some water cleanup days planned, so if yours does, be sure to give them a hand during the next one and work to pick up trash that has been dumped or left in or near rivers, ponds, and streams in your area. If you don’t know of any clean up days in your community, don’t be afraid to get out there and start one! You’d be surprised at how many people you can recruit for your cause just by spreading the word a little bit. If you have several rivers in your area, you might want to spread the cleanup days across them to give them all plenty of attention.
- Hand out information about water pollution to give your neighbors some tips for safer water practices. Part of the water pollution problem in your area could be a lack of readily available information on the subject. Your neighbors might not even realize some of the things they’re doing are harmful to the environment and to their own water sources, and they might be willing to change their practices if you help gently teach them about the subject. Never be too overbearing or negative about this, however. If possible, send out emails about water safety practices instead of handing out flyers that might contribute to garbage buildup.
- Encourage your city or county to offer recycling pickup if they don’t already. While a lot of larger cities and counties offer free or very affordable recycling pickup along with regular garbage pickup, many still haven’t gotten on board with this practice. If your neighborhood doesn’t have recycling pickup, you can usually get it instated pretty easily by having your neighbors sign a petition and submitting it to the people in charge where you live. You can also make some phone calls to the mayor to get things started. If you aren’t getting anywhere trying to start a recycling program, offer to pick up recycling for your neighbors once a week and take care of it yourself.
- Don’t let anyone you know dump chemicals or other waste in their yards, down sewage drains, or in water sources. And of course, don’t do this yourself either! Be sure everyone in your neighborhood makes use of regular garbage pickup or takes their garbage to designated landfills.
- Do not store chemicals on your property. Keeping harsh chemicals stored on your property is a recipe for small leaks, and this can lead to bigger problems down the line. If only a few people experience a handful of small chemical leaks in your area, this can build up and seriously pollute groundwater sources by seeping through the soil in yards across the community. Pretty soon, the drinking water supply will be contaminated thanks to these supposedly small spills.
- Use a home water filter to keep water safe for your family. If all else fails and you can’t make a difference in your community or don’t seem to be getting anywhere with your neighbors, you can always take some precautions against polluted water in your own home. Install a whole house water filter to provide plenty of clean drinking water to the whole building at all times, or put in an under the sink water filter to keep the tap water in your kitchen sink clean and fresh for drinking. You can also use a pitcher-style water filter if you’re only worried about drinking water, but keep in mind that this won’t make a difference for the water you use for washing.
Now that you know how to lessen water pollution and how you can help prevent it completely in some areas, the next thing you have to do is get out there and get started. You can begin by helping to educate the people in your community about safer water practices at home and work, and you can also get in touch with the people in power in your neighborhood to talk to them about safer water practices. The sooner you get involved, the sooner you and your community will have access to cleaner drinking water that will be safe for generations to come.
Click the link to download the How To Prevent Water Pollution PDF file.