Water is a liquid substance of vital importance for every human being, since 65% of the human body weight is water. It is the largest part of our entire blood system and is responsible for cleaning our kidneys of toxic substances, among other functions. In the same way that water keeps us alive and afloat, it is also responsible for many human activities, such as industry or mining. It is important for all kinds of life and therefore care must be taken with its use and maintenance, since there are contaminating agents, both artificial, caused by human beings, and natural ones that can put it at risk.
What are natural water pollutants
Although it may not seem like it, all kinds of components are present in the water. For this reason, it is not surprising that even the most natural components also intervene in the contamination of the water of rivers, seas and lakes, for example.
We understand by natural contaminants of water all those natural phenomena or elements that contaminate nature and that are caused by humans. Even so, many times these natural pollutants are aggravated by our activities. The main natural contaminants of water are:
- Global warming
- shoreline erosion
- Volcanic activity
Next, we are going to explain one by one, and in more detail, the contaminants in water so that you can learn how water is naturally polluted.
The effect of global warming on water goes from one extreme to another: from floods to droughts. About 93% of global warming on Earth is due to heat trapped and stored in the oceans, which has consequences on water temperature and circulation. This fact has been taking place since the 1950s, but now is when we are seeing its effects the most.
The increase in temperatures is causing the ice caps to melt, thus increasing the water level and changing the water cycle. In addition, its quality also decreases since sediments are dragged. Another collateral effect of rising temperatures is the loss of biodiversity , as marine animals are forced to move in order to survive, or some of them even die.
Related to the contaminant of the previous water, we also highlight the floods generated by the rains. When floods occur, the excess water carries with it all kinds of toxic substances (such as fertilizers or pesticides), dead animals and all kinds of waste that devastate the area. This contaminant can affect people’s hygiene and even trigger diseases caused by contaminated water , such as cholera or typhoid fever, since pathogenic microorganisms end up in the water. On the other hand, there is also damage to infrastructure and the economy, for example.
Another way of naturally polluting water is coastal erosion. It is a natural phenomenon caused by the combination of meteorological, climatic, hydrodynamic and sedimentary processes with the shape of the coast. This interaction between processes causes a modification in the coastline . This natural phenomenon pollutes the water, since the wear of the soil, the sediment and the dust from the coast end up in the sea water. In the case of erosion in areas where there is no water, the elements that are released reach channels and the contaminated water infects drinking water.
Perhaps when we think of the ash released by a volcano when it erupts, we relate it more to air pollution, but we must not forget that the ash that falls into the water also pollutes it. Therefore, we are facing a form of contamination of the sea and contamination of fresh water, depending on how far the ash reaches. When the ash falls into the water, what it causes is that the oxygen in it is reduced. Basically, the ash is biodegraded by bacteria that consume the dissolved oxygen. When this decrease in dissolved oxygen occurs in the water, the aquatic fauna that needs it to live may be in danger.
With the presence of ash, lava and other entrained elements in the water, it becomes much more cloudy. In addition, contact between lava and water can lead to acid rain .
We find bacteria in almost every part of the planet: the earth, living things, the air and the water. In fact, they are the oldest known life form. It should not surprise us that there are bacteria in the water and that some of them can contaminate the water and cause damage to health .
An example of this is the bacterium E. coli ( Escherichia coli ), which is only present in the intestine of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Due to floods or heavy rains, as we have explained before, this bacteria can sneak in through sewage overflows. The water contaminated by this overflow can contaminate drinking water sources and cause fever and vomiting or abdominal pain.
Current state of the water
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), it is estimated that one in five developing countries will experience problems due to water scarcity before 2030. In fact, currently there are 2.2 million people who do not have access to safe drinking water and another 4.2 million people who also lack safe water sanitation systems. This fact is just one of the many consequences of water pollution . Some of these consequences are:
- Destruction of biodiversity.
- Contamination of the food chain.
- polluted seas.
Unlike human contamination, natural water contamination is not as harmful or dangerous, since it does not usually cause high concentrations of pollution. When talking about natural pollutants, we know that it is more complicated to control them, so the situation is aggravated. For this reason, we have to become aware and try to reduce the human contamination that is in our hands.
In fact, if we continue with the same rate of consumption of this natural resource and do not stop water pollution, by the year 2050, it is estimated that approximately half of the world’s population will have problems due to water scarcity .
How to avoid water contamination
After having explained how water is naturally polluted, we are going to talk about how to avoid water pollution. Although natural water contaminants are the result of natural phenomena and elements, we cannot ignore that a large part of the responsibility for not contaminating water falls on humans. Therefore, we are going to mention some recommendations to reduce water pollution:
- Avoid throwing polluting products (cleaning, paint or cooking oil) down the drain and dispose of them in an appropriate place.
- Use natural products to care for your garden, orchard or plants.
- Avoid phosphates , present in some detergents and soaps.