Water Pollution Facts That You Should Know

Water pollution is a global problem that negatively impacts our water sources, environment, and people’s health. There are several different kinds of contaminants found in water that can be detrimental to people and the environment. Here are some water pollution facts that you should know.

Types of Water Pollution

Water pollution happens when harmful or dangerous substances, such as microorganisms or chemicals, contaminate a water source, causing the water to be hazardous and toxic to humans and the environment. There are several different types of water pollutants that cause bodies of water to be unsafe.

Ground Water

Aquifers are underground water storehouses that naturally collect runoff and rainwater within the crevices of rocks and sediment. This process is how we get what we call “groundwater.” Groundwater is pumped from underground to the earth’s surface to use as drinking water. However, fertilizers, pesticides, and waste from septic systems can pollute groundwater. Once an aquifer is contaminated, it can take years to become usable again as a water source for human use.

Surface Water

Surface water refers to lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans. Surface water makes up more than 60 percent of the water people use in their homes in America. But a significant amount of our rivers, lakes, and streams are unsafe due to pollution. The most common contaminant in these water sources is nutrient pollution that comes from phosphates and nitrates.

Ocean Water

The ocean accounts for approximately 97 percent of the earth’s total water. Unfortunately, the ocean contains many pollutants that negatively affect the environment. Chemicals, nutrients, oil spills, carbon pollution, heavy metals, and marine debris such as plastic all contaminate the ocean. Ocean pollution increases every year.

Point Source

Contamination that comes from one original source is called point source pollution. Oil and chemical spills, leaking septic systems, and wastewater are all examples of point source pollution that negatively affect bodies of water. There are specific regulations on what companies and facilities can legally discharge into bodies of water in an attempt to control point source pollution.

Nonpoint Source

Contamination from multiple sources over a wide area is called nonpoint source pollution. This kind of contamination is America’s leading cause of water pollution. Nonpoint source pollution occurs when rainfall, snowmelt, and runoff carry debris and various pollutants and deposit them into bodies of water. Because there is no single source, it can be difficult to identify and regulate the pollution.


Transboundary pollution is essentially pollution that originates in one particular country but ends up causing damage and contamination to another country’s environment. This can occur when one country’s polluted water spills into another country’s water body. Transboundary pollution can also happen with a disaster like an oil spill or the downriver discharge of industrial, agricultural, and municipal industries.

Types of Water Contaminants

There are several different kinds of water contaminants that contribute to water pollution. Various sources pollute water in different ways, but they are all part of the problem.

Sewage & Wastewater

Any water that people have used is considered wastewater. For example, the water from our sinks, showers, and toilets is sewage, and water from agricultural, industrial, and commercial activities is wastewater. In addition, human waste contains nitrogen and phosphorus that contaminates bodies of water. Chemicals and heavy metals from industrial activities also contaminate water sources.


Oil spills are major disasters that pollute water on a large scale, but there are smaller-scale forms of oil pollution as well. Oil, gasoline, and diesel drip from millions of cars all over the world every day and can end up in our waterways. All of these factors contribute to water pollution worldwide. There are also fractures in the ocean floor that naturally allow oil to seep into the water, causing contamination.

Agricultural Products

Agriculture is the leading cause of water quality degradation worldwide. Pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste from the agricultural industry get washed into bodies of water when it rains. This process causes dangerous pathogens like viruses and bacteria to make their way into our water sources, resulting in contamination. In addition, agricultural pollution causes water to be unsafe for humans to drink and can also cause environmental damage.

Radioactive Waste

Any pollutant that emits a higher level of radiation than is natural to the environment is considered radioactive waste. This form of pollution comes from nuclear power plants, uranium mining, weapons testing and production, and the use of radioactive substances by hospitals and colleges for research. Disposing of radioactive waste is incredibly challenging because it can exist for thousands of years.

Effects of Water Pollution

All types of water pollution have detrimental effects. Contaminated water can negatively impact humans, animals, and the environment as a whole. Water sources that contain pollutants can cause viruses, diseases, and in some cases, even death.

Human Health Effects

Pathogens found in drinking water can cause diseases through viruses and bacteria from animal and human waste. Some of these diseases include giardia, cholera, and typhoid, which all negatively affect human health. Swimming in contaminated water can cause rashes, respiratory infections, pinkeye, and hepatitis. The lead contamination in Flint, Michigan is an unfortunate example of the widespread effects water pollution can have on a community’s health.

Environmental Effects

It takes many factors for a healthy ecosystem to exist successfully. Plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria work together to create a thriving ecosystem. If anything happens to one of these organisms, the whole ecosystem is affected by a chain reaction. For example, algae is a form of water pollution that can suffocate plants and animals, which can cause whole populations of marine life to die. In addition, industrial wastewater contaminates waterways with chemicals and heavy metals that are toxic to aquatic animals and can kill them or give them problems reproducing. Marine debris, such as plastic bottles, cans, and bags, also pollute large bodies of water and can suffocate and strangle animals.

Now that you’re aware of the water pollution facts that you should know, you can help take steps to cut down on pollution. Check out NuManna Foundation’s selection of bucket water filter kits to purify your drinking water.

Water Pollution Facts That You Should Know

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Amber Butler