One of the first real steps regulating the environment goes back to 1868 with the Fishing Act. The law called for a fine for whoever would contaminate the water with chemical waste. Today, water contamination is still a very big problem.
We only hear about it when a big industrial ship such as the Exxon Valdez sinks or after radioactive waste has been dumped, but pollutants are regularly thrown into the water all over the world. Industrial waste is the biggest factor for the high levels of pollution. Oceans, seas and lakes have the ability to clean themselves naturally, but they are not able to do it fast enough to cover human waste.
We can pinpoint four types of contamination in water: bacterial, asphyxiating, fertilizing and toxic.
Bacterial contamination involves the presence of germs and virus in water. The Ganges in India, which is used as a sewer, is a good example of this kind of pollution.
Oil dumping blocks oxygen from circulating in the water, an essential element for life. Painting by Dave Todaro
Asphyxiating contamination is a problem that normally comes from oil dumping. It blocks oxygen from circulating in the water, an essential element for life. It has even happened that some rivers and lakes have been so polluted that they’ve caught on fire.
As for the fertilizing type, we can find them in areas were a strong population of alga has emerged. Since water plants feed themselves on pasture and phosphor, their population increase is due to an accumulation of fertilizer in the water.
Finally, toxic pollution comes from chemical waste such as mercury and pesticide. The population of Minamata, Japan, has had the misfortune of experiencing the horrific diseases associated with drinking mercury-contaminated water.
All these types of pollution kill life in the water and have consequences on its surroundings. Since water is the source of practically all life on this planet, contaminating an area can hardly be without consequences. Too much can be lost, and humans will be victims too.
Diseases, which can be deadly to humans, circulate in contaminated water. Although regulations are starting to be applied in developed countries, other less organized countries continue to contaminate water in order to give priority to short term income. This is especially tragic for the Third World where close to 25,000 deaths a day is related to water contamination. The death and destruction of ecosystems is a cost beyond measure compared to the profit made by polluting.