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What is the Clean Water Act?

Understanding the Clean Water Act

In the United States, the Clean Water Act is the primary legislation governing water safety issues. To really understand the relevant facts about water pollution and how this issue can impact your life, it's important to understand some of the basic tenets of this important piece of legislation.

Passed in the 1970s, the Clean Water Act has been amended over the years as circumstances dictate. This legislation has had a major impact on reducing water pollution and setting the stage for improved environmental conditions in the waterways under the jurisdiction of the United States. For example, this law provided the Environmental Protection agency with the authorization to set and enforce industrial wastewater standards.

The main purpose of the Clean Water Act is to prevent the direct discharge of pollutants into the waterways, to manage contaminated runoff, and to provide much needed funding to wastewater treatment cities located in municipalities around the country. While the law doesn't deal directly with issues of water quality or groundwater pollution, it's initiatives have given municipal treatment facilities the capability to strengthen and improve their efforts.

Is there really a widespread problem with water pollution?

Startling Water Pollution Statistics

Not sure if water pollution is a serious problem that impacts you? These startling water pollution statistics will help you understand just how significantly the issue can impact your life and the lives of future generations.

On an annual basis:

  • 14 billion pounds of garbage, sludge, and sewage are dumped into the oceans.
  • 19 trillion gallons of various types of waste finds its way into the bodies of water around the globe.
  • More than 70 percent of the rivers and lakes in China are polluted.
  • Oil rigs and tankers spill or flush 900,000 metric tons of oil into the earth's water supply.
  • Some countries still allow chemicals to be dumped directly into the oceans.

Is there anything I can do to help prevent water pollution?

How to Help Prevent Water Pollution

Everyone can make an important difference in preventing water pollution. Keeping contaminants out of the water supply is much easier than removing them once they are already there. Since everyone needs water to survive, it's certainly correct to state that each person has a responsibility to play an active role in water pollution prevention in his or her community.

Tips for Water Pollution Prevention

  • Avoid dumping any type of waste in storm drains, or in their vicinity.
  • Do not pour any chemicals or hazardous materials down the drain.
  • Immediately report illegal dumping practices you observe to the proper authorities.
  • Keep your car in good working order and regularly inspect for leaks.
  • Make sure to pick up your pets' waste.
  • Minimize the use of chemical lawn and plant fertilizers.
  • Properly maintain your home's septic tank system.
  • Recycle antifreeze, motor oil, and other automotive fluids.
  • Reduce your usage of insecticides and pesticides in your home and yard.
  • Take steps to minimize soil erosion around your home.
  • Use a drinking water filtration system to keep your family from consuming harmful chemicals.
  • Utilize organic plant food in your vegetable gardens and flower beds.
  • Additional environmentally responsible activities.

Are there any serious health effects of water pollution?

Health Effects of Water Pollution

Since the human body is made up primarily of water, humans must consume water in order to survive. Our food supply is also dependent on water. In the absence of water, human beings would dehydrate and starve. Simply put, human beings need water to survive. Even though there is a large amount of water on the planet, the widespread problem of water pollution poses a serious threat to the health and survival of mankind.

The effects of water pollution are serious, far reaching, and life threatening. One of the most dangerous problems posed by water pollution is that of infectious diseases. When water cannot be adequately treated, infectious diseases can spread very quickly through the water supply. Bacteria, parasites, and viruses can live in polluted water, allowing for the spread of dangerous illnesses such as typhoid, intestinal parasites, and many other diseases.

Many people associate problems with waterborne disease as being isolated to developing nations, but this is not always the case. The images you saw on television following Hurricane Katrina of people and animals trudging through streets flooded with canal water mixed with sewage, oil, and all types of substances prove that the devastating effects of water pollution can strike in even the most developed parts of the world. Each year, millions of Americans are made sick as a result of swimming in or drinking polluted water.

Where does water pollution come from?

Primary Sources of Water Pollution

What causes water pollution? That question can be quite difficult to answer, because so many different factors contribute to water supply contamination. The three primary sources of water pollution are: (1) municipal, (2) industrial, and (3) agricultural.

Municipal: Waste water from residential and commercial facilities is sent to municipal wastewater facilities for treatment. The process of treating water for reuse is a very complex and costly undertaking, and the stresses placed on treatment facilities increases as populations grow and industrial waste products become more complex and dangerous.

Industrial: Wastewater resulting from industrial activities contributes directly to both the increased stress placed on municipal wastewater treatment facilities and to direct pollution of the water supply itself. Pollution types vary by industry, based on the types of organic and synthetic substances used during the manufacturing process and the byproducts present in the resulting wastewater.

Agricultural: Both surface and groundwater are subject to pollution from agricultural waste. Agriculturally based water supply contamination can result from animal waste, the use of chemical fertilizers, and sedimentation that occurs due to the erosion of farmland.

What are the most common causes of water pollution?

Common Causes of Water Pollution

When you consider the many different causes of water pollution, it's not difficult to understand why drinking water contamination is such a widespread problem. Water pollution occurs both when harmful substances directly enter the water supply, as well as through changes that occur in the environment as a result of pollution causing activities. When you realize how many different types of water pollution there are, it's easy to see why water filtration systems are a necessity for every home.

Common Causes of Water Pollution Include:

  • Air Pollution
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Chemical Manufacturing
  • Fuel Additives
  • Increased Water Temperature
  • Industrial Development
  • Landfills
  • Mining Activities
  • Fertilizers
  • Gasoline
  • Household Cleaning Products
  • Oil
  • Personal Care Products
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Plastics
  • Sediment
  • Sewage
  • Many Additional Causes

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Christina Chan