Water Pollution

Globally, approximately 2.2 billion people have no access to clean drinking water, resulting in infant mortality of over 290,000 children under the age of 5 annually (40 Water Pollution Facts & Statistics, 2020). Access to clean water is essential for the well-being of people. Developing and developed countries face environmental issues to ensure the provision of safe drinking water. For example, Globewater (2019) states that about 40 percent of China’s water supply is contaminated to extreme levels. Water pollution is an environmental issue that affects the social and economic domains. Water pollution is associated with an imbalance in the ecosystem. Therefore, this paper assesses the sources, causes, and effects of water pollution.

Sources of Water Pollution

            Sources of water pollution are classified into various sources based on the contamination location. Water pollution sources include surface water, ocean water, groundwater, point source, non-point source, transboundary, and surface water (Thyagaraju, 2016). Groundwater pollution is one of the environmental issues that pose a threat to aquifers. It is caused by the infiltration of contaminated water into the ground caused by the application of fertilizers and pesticides that infiltrate the soil. Groundwater pollution might spread into surface water or ocean water and spread contamination in other water sources. For example, in the mid-1980s, groundwater pollution was an environmental issue that affected Iowa (Environmental Protection. (n.d.). The level of nitrate in the municipal and private wells was above the recommended rate. Therefore, the sources of water pollution assist in exploring the causes of water pollution.

Causes of Water Pollution

            Causes of water pollution are categorized into human-based and natural-based. Human-based water pollution include: agriculture, industrial, wastewater, disposal of radioactive substances, and rapid urban development (Thyagaraju, 2016). Natural causes of water pollution are attributed to water and air.


            The agricultural sector is the biggest consumer of freshwater resources, characterized by livestock production and farming. However, agriculture is one of the leading causes of water pollution in the world. The use of fertilizers and pesticides during farming affects the water quality in the ground and surface water (Thyagaraju, 2016). For example, agricultural pollution is the leading cause of river and stream contamination. For example, the formation and spread of toxic green algae in Copco Reservoir, north California, indicated surface water pollution (Denchak & Strum, 2020). Thus, water pollution affects terrestrial and aquatic organisms.

Rapid Urban Development

            Urban development is a significant aspect of a country’s economy. However, rapid urban development causes expansion of the urban area into areas planned for other land use activities such as riparian zone (Thyagaraju, 2016). Rapid urban development causes the destruction of riparian zones that aid in improving water quality. Moreover, rapid urban development results in urban sprawl. The development of the informal settlements exerts pressure on the existing sewage system. Improper disposal or management of waste leads to water pollution.


Industries are the leading generators of waste in human activities. Industrial wastes contain toxic pollutants and chemicals that have adverse effects on humans and the environment. For example, the use of a harmful chemical in industrial processes, such as sulfur and nitrate, affects water quality once the industries’ wastewater is discharged (Thyagaraju, 2016). Failure by the industry to adequately treat wastewater from industrial processes causes water pollution in rivers and canals. Thus, toxic chemicals from industries might result in eutrophication, which affects water quality.

Surface water runoff

            Natural processes can contribute to water pollution. Heavy rain results in flooding, which increases the rate of surface water runoff. The occurrence of flooding carries surface pollutants and other material into water bodies. Moreover, flooding might lead to sedimentation on rivers and lakes, which affects the quality of water.


40 Water Pollution Facts & Statistics. (2020, November 11). Retrieved March 27, 2021, from https://www.trvst.world/foa/environment/water-pollution/water-pollution-facts-statistics/

Denchak, M. M., & Strum, M. (2020, September 24). Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms 101. Retrieved March 27, 2021, from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/freshwater-harmful-algal-blooms-101

Environmental Protection. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2021, from https://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Air-Quality/Air-Pollutants

Globewater. (2019, June 25). Water Pollution Statistics 2019-2018 – Ocean Pollution Facts: Globe Water. Retrieved March 27, 2021, from https://www.globewater.org/facts/water-pollution-statistics/

Thyagaraju, N. (2016). Water Pollution and Its Impact on Environment of Society. International Research Journal of Management, IT and Social Sciences3(5), 1-7.

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