Environmental Studies Sample Paper

Water Pollution


Introduction. 1

The Meaning of Water Pollution. 1

Causes of Water Pollution. 2

Possible Solutions. 4

Conclusion. 5

Works Cited. 6


            Water is one of the most vital natural resources. Indeed, it is necessary for the existence of life on Earth as it helps to sustain humans, animals, and plants. It covers over two-thirds of the earth’s surface. The implication is that water bodies cover more space than land. However, rapid population increase has seen people encroach water bodies, including rivers, oceans, and lakes. Such practices have not only threatened the global water supply, but they have also increased water pollution. Although there are many factors that contribute to this problem, human activities, including industrialization, urbanization, and unsustainable agricultural practices are the main causes. Therefore, human beings have a significant role to play in reducing water pollution to protect the current and future generations.

The Meaning of Water Pollution

            Essentially, water pollution refers to the negative change in the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of water. In addition, it comprises the contamination of both ground and surface water sources (Wagner 3). Sometimes, natural events such as volcanic eruptions may cause water pollution, but the environment is usually able to cope with such pollutants. However, water pollution caused by human activities places so much pressure on the environment that it cannot adequately recover naturally. Its magnitude depends on the number of pollutants. For instance, a gallon of chemical spillage in the ocean would have a negligible effect, while the same quantity may have a significant impact on a small marsh (Goel 10).

Causes of Water Pollution

            Water pollution may occur because of biological, physical, or chemical pollutants (Wagner 4). Biological pollutants include microorganisms that cause diseases among people and animals. On the other hand, physical pollutants include radiation and heat, which can destroy or affect the health of organisms living in the water. Notably, physical and biological pollutants account for a small percentage of water pollution. Water pollution mainly occurs because of chemical pollutants (Alloway and Ayres 30).


            One of the largest causes of water pollution is sewage. Theoretically, sewage is harmless, since 90% of it is water (Wagner 20). However, in practice, it contains various harmful chemicals and plastics, which, when left untreated, flow into water bodies and cause diseases, for example, cholera and typhoid. Safe treatment of sewage remains a huge challenge in many countries around the globe. In addition, informal settlements around the world lack proper sewerage systems, meaning that they let raw sewage flow into water bodies. Fortunately, many countries, including the United States, have invested heavily inefficient sewerage systems to curb the trend.

Another notable source of chemical pollutants in water is unsustainable agricultural practices. In modern agriculture, farmers use many chemicals, which include pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides, to improve productivity. According to Horrigan, Lawrence, and Walker, some of these chemicals end up in water bodies, thus, causing pollution (445). Unfortunately, preventing water pollution caused by agricultural practices has proven to be a formidable hurdle in many countries because of the sensitive nature of the industry.

            In addition, discharge from factories has become a significant cause of water pollution in recent times. According to Alloway and Ayres, industries generate over 7 billion tons of waste annually, which they pump into oceans, rivers, and other water bodies (12). If the system of disposing of this waste were efficient, pollution would be minimal or even nonexistent. However, the cost of disposing of such wastewater safely is high. Consequently, some firms dispose of untreated wastewater haphazardly, meaning that it ends up in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Although there are laws to prevent the industrial discharge of raw wastewater, their implementation has been a significant challenge globally. Some of the legislation meant to protect water bodies from pollution in the United States include the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1976 and the Clean Water Act of 1977 (Wagner 3). On its part, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has invested heavily in protecting water bodies in the country. However, its achievement in this regard is debatable.

            Further, water pollution may occur because of contamination by such heavy metals as lead, mercury, and cadmium (Goel 3). Unfortunately, people have used many of these heavy metals for many years without knowing the dangers they pose to the environment. For instance, the use of lead in the processing of petrol has been a common practice in the past. Additionally, many battery manufacturers have traditionally used mercury and cadmium as raw materials. Unfortunately, the poor disposal of these heavy metals can contaminate water bodies with serious implications on human and animal health (Wagner 45).

Moreover, water pollution can also incur because of the poor disposal of radioactive materials. In the recent past, there have been cases of irresponsible disposal of nuclear waste, for example, at the Sellafield and Cap La Hague nuclear plants in Britain and France respectively (Wagner 50). Some of the industrialized nations take advantage of poor legal and regulatory frameworks in developing countries to export nuclear waste. Unfortunately, these poor countries lack the capacity to dispose of it in a proper manner, leading to environmental pollution.

 Lastly, plastics and natural oils have become a significant cause of water pollution in recent years. Although the public usually focuses on oil leaks, the majority of oil pollution occurs from normal piping and shipping processes (Wagner 52). Additionally, the popularity of plastics for domestic and commercial use has created a significant environmental hazard in modern society. They can easily float on water, be transported long distances by environmental agents, and last for hundreds of years without decomposing. When disposed of in water bodies, they can chock marine life and poison the water.

Possible Solutions

            Water pollution has many harmful effects, meaning that it is imperative to stop it. Unfortunately, discussions on how to curb it tend to focus on corporate responsibility, but fail to consider the role of individuals (Spangeberg, Pfahl, and Deller 66). Environmental conservation efforts may not work if ordinary people continue to cause pollution through their daily activities. Indeed, anything from small household chemicals, washing detergents, spilled brake fluids, and discarded plastic containers can pollute water bodies (Goel 11). Therefore, one of the ways to stop water pollution is through public education. When people understand the dangers of water pollution, they are likely to take individual measures to stop it. Secondly, the enactment and implementation of environmental protection laws can help to curb water pollution. Unfortunately, the lack of political will to implement the existing laws has been a major hindrance in the efforts to protect the environment (Spangenberg et al. 70). Thirdly, sustainable agriculture can help minimize cases of water pollution. In this regard, farmers should reduce the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers which often end up in water bodies. Fourthly, governments should develop a pollution-pay system, where polluters pay for the cost of cleaning pollutants and rehabilitating the environment. For instance, it is not enough for oil suppliers to pay for cleanup exercises after oil spillage; rather, they should also rehabilitate the environment. Lastly, people should start practicing such green initiatives as car-pooling, the use of hybrid or electric cars, and the safe disposal of plastics and other household wastes.


            Evidently, water pollution is a significant hindrance in achieving environmental sustainability. In recent years, human activities have been the main cause of water pollution. Some of these activities include unsustainable agricultural practices and the irresponsible disposal of harmful chemicals and materials in water bodies. Fortunately, it is possible to curb water pollution by enacting and implementing the necessary laws, promoting public awareness campaigns, engaging in sustainable agriculture, and adopting green initiatives.

Works Cited

Alloway, Brian, and Ayres, David C. Chemical Principles of Environmental Pollution. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1997. Print.

Goel, P. K. Water Pollution: Causes, Effects, and Control. New Delhi: New Age

            International, 2006. Print.

Horrigan, Leo, Lawrence, Robert S. and Walker, Polly. “How Sustainable Agriculture Can Address the Environmental and Human Health Harms of Industrial Agriculture.” Environmental Health Perspectives, 110.5 (2002): 445. Print.

Spangenberg, Joachim H., Pfahl, Stefanie, and Deller, Kerstin. “Towards Indicators for

Institutional Sustainability: Lessons from an Analysis of Agenda 21.” Ecological Indicators, 2.1 (2002): 61-77. Print.

Wagner, Travis P. In Our Backyard: A Guide to Understanding Pollution and Its Effects.

Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 1993. Print.

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