Water pollution is a global challenge that threatens the health, food security, economy, and ecosystems of communities everywhere. The first step toward positive change is to learn more about how and why water becomes contaminated. Here are some water pollution facts, and tips for what you can do to save the environment:

1. Only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh water, but less than 1% is available for drinking from all freshwater sources.

Water pollution in China

Polluted water in China, photographed by Ber van Dijk.

Solution: You can start to reduce overconsumption of natural resources, including freshwater, by becoming more mindful of your water consumption at home.

2. According to dosomething.org, as much as 46% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.

North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) eating fish

A North American river otter having a snack, photographed by Heather Paul.

Solution: Connect with community members through websites like Creeklife to mobilize action and clean up watersheds, lakes and rivers together.

3. The EPA lists the leading causes of U.S. water pollution as “air deposition, agricultural runoff, and hydrologic modifications such as water diversions and channelization of streams.”

Solution: In layman’s terms, this means that water pollution is due greatly to air pollution, chemical treatment and fertilizers used in agriculture, and manmade constructions that divert water. Using organic, chemical-free alternatives to fertilizers, reducing carbon emissions (by driving less), and reversing channelization through political action can help reduce pollution.

4. Something practical and concrete: washing your car at home creates runoff pollution of water that does not get treated.

Most Versatile, Senior Superlatives, Hickory High School, 1961

Vintage car-washing via North Carolina Digital Heritage Center on Flickr. These kids look like they’re having fun, but it’s still bad for the watershed.

Solution: Wash your car at commercial sites, where water is properly treated and does not run off into storm drains or ditches, directly to streams.

5. In urban areas with impervious surfaces, 15% of rain water is absorbed by the ground, 30% is evapotranspired, and 55% runs off into streams, lakes, and rivers. This increases runoff pollution.

Solution: If you live in the suburbs or have paved, cemented driveways, consider removing it completely or replacing it with a more porous asphalt or permeable cement to allow water to seep through the ground. Creating rain gardens can also reduce the water in your yard from becoming runoff.

Rain Garden in December

Rain Garden in December by Ellen F on Flickr.

6. Pet waste contributes to polluting our waters.

Solution: There are reasons why you should pick up after your pet (besides angering your neighbors if it’s found in their yard). Pet waste that washes down into storm sewers can contribute to contaminating water with bacteria. You should dispose of pet waste in double bags, in the garbage. Or, if you have pets like rabbits, use their dung as fertilizer in your garden!

Rabbits in the wonderland

Bunny nuzzles! Photo by Nha Le Hoan.

Small, daily actions add up to help reduce water pollution. With such a limited amount of water that must shared by all, it’s everyone’s duty to protect local watersheds. Green living just requires a little extra attention and effort. For more resources and to become more involved with water cleanup, browse Creeklife!

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Posted by Mark Contorno.

One Response

  1. I had no idea that washing your car at home could harm the environment! I’m glad that I always go to a professional car wash every time. Thanks for sharing!

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