Nature plays a role when it comes to toxins like mercury and other heavy metals, but humans are among the major causes of water pollution. We have always treated the planet with a certain level of disregard, as if we simply thought that nothing we could do would be of any consequence. Now though, the way we have treated our environment is coming back to haunt us.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution we have unleashed 80,000 chemical agents into the environment, and now traces of these chemical agents reside in our drinking water reservoirs. You may think that such miniscule amounts of these toxins cannot do you any real harm, but the truth is that even chemical traces can …show more content…
But the same amount of the same chemical can have a much bigger impact pumped into a lake or river, where there is less clean water to disperse it.
Water pollution almost always means that some damage has been done to an ocean, river, lake, or other water source. A 1971 United Nations report defined ocean pollution as:
"The introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the marine environment (including estuaries) resulting in such deleterious effects as harm to living resources, hazards to human health, hinderance to marine activities, including fishing, impairment of quality for use of sea water and reduction of amenities."
Fortunately, Earth is forgiving and damage from water pollution is often reversible.
Photo: Pollution means adding substances to the environment that don't belong there—like the air pollution from this smokestack. Pollution is not always as obvious as this, however. Photo courtesy of US Department of Energy/National Renewable Energy Laboratory (US DOE/NREL).
What are the main types of water pollution?
When we think of Earth's water resources, we think of huge oceans, lakes, and rivers. Water resources like these are called surface waters. The most obvious type of water pollution affects surface waters. For example, a spill from an oil tanker creates an oil slick that can affect a vast area of the ocean.
Not all of Earth's water sits on