Water pollution problems

The problem of water pollution has been known since ancient times, since stories of water pollution appear even in the Holy Scriptures. This problem is local, regional and global.

“A country with water problems is the beating of a heart that fights to exist”

Of the total amount on the planet, only 3% is fresh water. But of this percentage, the majority (79%) is in the form of ice (so it is not available for use) and the rest is found as liquid: in the form of groundwater (20%) and, only the remaining 1%, as surface water. But these resources are not inexhaustible. We must take into account that the capacity to use the scarce percentage of available water is significantly diminished due to the incessant changes in our civilization that inexorably lead to its deterioration and scarcity.

Fresh water is the most important renewable resource, but humanity is using and polluting it faster than it needs to replenish itself. Indeed, the agglomerations in large cities, the improvement in the quality of life, rapid industrial development, the increase in tourism and agriculture, leisure activities, among other actions. They cause this small percentage to be reduced naturally and its composition is noticeably altered. Compounding the problem, the hydrological cycle is becoming less predictable as climate change alters established temperature patterns around the world.

From all this follows the great importance of comprehensive use of available fresh water and the preservation of its quality, in optimal conditions, for its use.

Pollution in water

Pollution is the action and effect of introducing materials or forms of energy, or inducing conditions in water that, directly or indirectly, imply a harmful alteration of its quality in relation to subsequent uses or its ecological function.

This contamination in both surface and underground water (rivers, lakes, reservoirs, aquifers and sea) is a product of human activities; This adds substances foreign to its composition to the water, modifying its quality. This contamination has its origin in various factors such as:

1) Pathogens: Bacteria, viruses, protozoans, parasites that enter the water from organic waste.

2) Oxygen-requiring waste: Organic waste can be decomposed by bacteria that use oxygen to biodegrade it. If there are large populations of these bacteria, they can deplete the water of oxygen, thus killing aquatic life forms.

3) Inorganic chemical substances: Acids, compounds of toxic metals (Mercury, Lead), poison the water.

4) Plant nutrients: They can cause excessive growth of aquatic plants that then die and decompose, depleting the oxygen in the water and thus causing the death of marine species (dead zone).

5) Organic chemicals: Petroleum, plastic, pesticides, detergents that threaten life.

6) Sediment or suspended matter: Insoluble soil particles that cloud the water, and are the greatest source of pollution.

7) Radioactive substances: Which can cause birth defects and cancer.

Pollution in water is one of the most important factors that break the harmony between man and his environment, not only immediately but also in the medium and long term; Therefore, the prevention and fight against said pollution currently constitutes a need of priority importance.

All the contaminants contained in wastewater would cause serious environmental problems if they were directly incorporated into an unpolluted watercourse. For this reason, it is necessary that they be treated before being discharged, in order to reduce their polluting load as much as possible, and that they be within limits that are considered appropriate.

Water pollution problems focus on both quality and quantity. The community must know the importance of its "quality" and that same community must be responsible for its care and preservation.

Let's take the case of arsenic in water. Death looms in the form of arsenic for some 140 million people around the world who, unknowingly, drink water contaminated, to a greater or lesser extent, by the presence of arsenic.

According to a study presented by the Royal Geographical Society of the United Kingdom, it is stated that in more than 70 countries around the world, water intended for human consumption has high concentrations of arsenic, which represents enormous risks to the health of the population.

In fact, in those population centers in which higher levels of arsenic concentration have been found in water for human consumption, a considerable increase in pulmonary, cardiovascular and neurological, dermatological and – what is more serious – diseases has been observed. - various types of cancer.

Water springs up as the biggest geopolitical conflict of the 21st century

It is expected that by 2025, demand for this element so necessary for human life will be 56% higher than supply... and those who possess water could be the target of forced looting.

The problem is that water is a resource that is taken for granted in many places, it is very scarce for the 1.100 billion people who lack access to drinking water, to which another 2.400 billion people who do not have access should be added. to proper sanitation.

More than 2.2 million inhabitants of underdeveloped countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with the lack of drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene.

Furthermore, almost half of the inhabitants of developing countries suffer from diseases caused, directly or indirectly, by the consumption of contaminated water or food, or by disease-causing organisms that develop from contamination in water. With sufficient supplies of clean water and adequate sanitation, the incidence of some diseases and death could be reduced by up to 75 percent.

In most regions, the problem is not the lack of fresh drinking water but, rather, the poor management and distribution of water resources and their methods. Most freshwater is used for agriculture, while a substantial amount is lost in the irrigation process.

This resource is such a necessary good that it could become the subject of political fights, if seen only as a business: dams, irrigation canals, purification and desalination technologies, sewage systems and wastewater treatments. Water bottling should not be forgotten, since it is a business that surpasses the pharmaceutical industry in profits.

The origin of this commercialization of water must be sought in November 2001, when natural resources, as well as health and education, began to be the subject of negotiations at the WTO (World Trade Organization). The final goal is the liberalization of public services by 2005. What sounds dry and boring can be simplified: what until now was regulated by the states will become a free trade market. Within this context, there are two probable scenarios: Territorial appropriation: this could be carried out through the purchase of land with natural resources (water, biodiversity); a military conflict is not ruled out either.

This last hypothesis takes us to the last war in Iraq (March 2003) and the appropriation of Iraqi resources by the large American oil companies. It is not ruled out that with this war they wanted to control the water resources of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers... mighty rivers in one of the most arid areas of the planet.

Water is a gift that nature offered to life and to each of us. 70% of our body is made up of water. Because it is all of this, water constitutes one of the most significant metaphors of the Divine that is in us and in the universe and of the sacredness of all life.

How to take care of her and not fight for her? . www.ecoportal.net

* Cristian Frers – Senior Technician in Environmental Management and Senior Technician in Social Communication

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