Water pollution includes
the accumulation in oceans, lakes, streams, and groundwater of substances
that are either directly harmful to life or that have harmful secondary or
long-term effects. The principal sources of water pollution are sewage,
industrial waste, garbage and refuse, and agricultural fertilizers,
pesticides, and herbicides. Any body of water
has the capacity to absorb or break down introduced materials, and sewage
and some organic industrial wastes are broken down naturally by
microorganisms into forms in which they are useful to aquatic life. But if
the capacity of a body of water to dissolve, disperse, or recycle is
exceeded, all additional substances become pollutants. The major sources
of water pollution are untreated sewage from cities and towns, chemical
fertilizers and pesticides that have run off farmland into rivers and
streams, and chemicals from industrial plants located along waterways.
The domestic waste water in
sewage systems can be artificially treated and purified to remove its
pollutants before the water is discharged back into the environment in a
process called water treatment. Industrial waste water can likewise be
purified, or else production methods at the plant can be changed to
minimize the production of wastes or recycle them for further industrial
use. Agricultural wastes are generally less concentrated and take longer
to produce aggravating effects than industrial and municipal sewage wastes
originating in or near cities.
Nonpoint Source (NPS) Pollution?
Questions and Answers
(taken from EPA's Polluted brochure
Q: What is nonpoint source pollution?
A: Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution
from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse
sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and
through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away
natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes,
rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of
drinking water. These pollutants include:
Excess fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides from
agricultural lands and residential areas;
Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from urban runoff
and energy production;
Sediment from improperly managed construction sites,
crop and forest lands, and eroding streambanks;
Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainage from abandoned
Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes, and faulty
Atmospheric deposition and hydromodification are also sources of
nonpoint source pollution.
Q: What are the effects of these
pollutants on our waters?
A: States report that nonpoint source pollution is the
leading remaining cause of water quality problems. The effects of nonpoint
source pollutants on specific waters vary and may not always be fully
assessed. However, we know that these pollutants have harmful effects on
drinking water supplies, recreation, fisheries, and wildlife.
Q: What causes nonpoint source pollution?
A: We all play a part. Nonpoint source pollution
results from a wide variety of human activities on the land. Each of us
can contribute to the problem without even realizing it.
can we do about nonpoint source pollution?
A: We can all work together to reduce and prevent
nonpoint source pollution. Some activities are federal responsibilities,
such as ensuring that federal lands are properly managed to reduce soil
erosion. Some are state responsibilities, for example, developing
legislation to govern mining and logging, and to protect groundwater.
Others are best handled locally, such as by zoning or erosion control
ordinances. And each individual can play an important role by practicing
conservation and by changing certain everyday habits.
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