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What is Polluting Our Freshwater Resources?

written by: Raunekk•edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 3/16/2010

The increasing pollution of the freshwater resources around the world is drastically depleting the total amount of freshwater available for use.There are several reasons responsible for the pollution of freshwater resources and the following article enumerates the main ones.

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    More than 90% of the water on Earth is unfit for use because of the high proportion of salt present in it. Of the rest which is present in the drinkable form, around 2% is actually frozen, while some is unobtainable. Some is in the form of vapor or moisture as well. However, the little that is left in liquid form and stated “consumable", is suffering from rising pollution. Some of the main reasons for freshwater resource pollution are mentioned below.

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    Freshwater Nutrition Imbalance

    Any freshwater body on earth constitutes producers like plants, consumers like marine life, and decomposers like bacteria and fungi. Contact of these constituents with non-living elements such as light, current, dissolved fluids, etc., form an ecosystem. The process of photosynthesis releases oxygen that is used by all the constituents, which then release carbon dioxide. The level of oxygen in any freshwater body depends on the amount of pollutants present in it. This means that the more pollutants there are, the less there is of oxygen in water, resulting in more problems faced by the aquatic life and freshwater consumers. One of the main reasons for this imbalance, is the release of nutrients in freshwater bodies due to excessive use of fertilizers, resulting in the formation of algae. Algae obstructs the oxygen available in freshwater.

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    Changes in the Characteristics of Freshwater

    The fact that destructive activities by human beings have been the main source of pollutants is widely known. These activities have ultimately led to various changes in the characteristics of freshwater, such as an increase in the ph levels, rising salinity, depleting oxygen levels, temperature variations, a changing hydro-cycle, etc. In many places, freshwater resources act as solvents, dissolving pollutants from sources such as chemical waste factories and sewage plants, attempting to wash them away. Sometimes, it so happens that water is incompetent in dissolving or diluting these “unwanted" materials, resulting in more than thousands of elements which are classified as pollutants today.

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    Becoming Toxic from the Industries

    Industries, the main culprit behind freshwater resource pollution, release boiling water directly into freshwater bodies causing a sudden increase in the temperature of the water, while decreasing the amount of oxygen available to marine organisms. This ultimately harms the entire ecosystem. Heavy rainfalls as well as release of chemicals like toxic wastes also affect the freshwater environment. Among the kinds of toxic waste, nuclear and radioactive waste are some of the most dangerous pollutants that are degrading the freshwater resources today. These toxins disable marine organisms from performing basic functions like respiration and movement. Even the vapors that are produced following evaporation are acidic in nature and result in acid rain, harming both marine life and humans. In addition, a major accident like that of an oil tanker leaking, causes considerable damage to the freshwater resources, more than all other causes put together.

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    Pollution from Recreational Activities

    The increasing demand of water sports has also set a challenge for the freshwater bodies. People arrive in groups to river banks and other natural freshwater resources to enjoy water activities. However, they leave behind a mess by strewing their garbage around. Materials such as plastic and rubber, which forms the main part of this garbage, take several years to decompose and thus pollute the closest water resource. Moreover, these materials are insoluble in water and hence, float on the surface, blocking the sunlight available to water organisms and hampering the food chain.

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    Global Warming - The Main Culprit

    The major cause of freshwater pollution that has no competition to date, is that of global warming. Pollution by vehicles, use of excessive fossil fuels and industrial wastes, release carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that warm the surface of the earth. The outcome is unbalanced seasons, depleting resources and endangered species. In this whole process, even our freshwater resources become drastically polluted, along with other natural resources. Thus, everything boils down to a single fact - that unguarded activities by humans need serious consideration or it will result in the changing of the color of our freshwater resources and dying aquatic life.