How to Stop Water Pollution

Jared Skye
Water pollution

Water pollution is one of the biggest threats to the environment today. There are several sources of water pollution ranging from sewage and fertilizers to soil erosion. The impact of water pollution on wildlife and their natural habitat can be immense. While it may seem like preventing water pollution can be an overwhelming subject to tackle, there are also a number of things that the average person can do to help stop water pollution.

Tips on Preventing Water Pollution

The best solution for water pollution is prevention. While pollution that has already occurred is a current threat to all life on Earth, attempts to clean it up may cause even more harm.There are several steps that can be taken to help prevent water pollution from getting worse.

Conserve Soil

The link between soil and water is absolutely intrinsic. The link is so integral that in the United States, water conservation districts are classified as "Soil and Water Conservation Districts" with names based upon where they exist within their specific watershed. One of the most important ways in which soil conservation directly impacts water pollution is through erosion.

soil erosion

As soil is eroded by water, it transfers sediment from the land to the eroding body of water. Along with this sediment comes a number of nutrients and chemicals that exist within the soil, which are then transferred to the water. Naturally-occurring chemicals like phosphorus and industrial chemicals like glyphosate are just two of the many foreign molecules that can be dragged into water through soil erosion. When phosphorus levels in water become too great, they can lead to algae blooms that can cause massive fish deaths and make waterways unsafe for human use.

The best way to combat soil erosion is to keep the banks of waterways well-covered with soil-retaining plants. Planting trees and certain herbaceous plants can have a significantly positive impact on the mitigation of soil erosion. Some great plants to use when trying to control soil erosion are sage, buckwheat, Apache plume, oak trees and holly.

Dispose of Toxic Chemicals Properly

The average person would likely be shocked to learn just how many toxic chemicals they use around their home on a daily basis. These chemicals can be bad enough when used all over your home, but they can also wreak havoc on waterways when they are not disposed of properly. Chemicals such as ammonia, bleach, paint and many other cleaning products belong to a series of compounds known as "Volatile Organic Compounds" (VOCs). These chemicals are a major danger to waterways when they are not disposed of properly.

When you need to get rid of these chemicals or the containers that house the chemicals, it's smart to look into local chemical recycling resources around your area. In some states, you are legally required to properly dispose of these chemicals. However, a lack of laws does not relinquish the impetus on responsible individuals to dispose of these chemicals in an ethical, safe way. There are many local resources you can use to discover local disposal facilities, and you can learn more about the disposal requirements through the EPA.

Keep Machinery in Good Working Order

oil change

The oil used to lubricate engines in all types of machines needs to be changed regularly. When the oil is changed, it presents a number of environmental hazards if not disposed of properly. As oil moves throughout the crankcase of an engine, it breaks down into many different types of carcinogenic and even mutagenic compounds. When a leaky engine releases this oil into the street, it runs to the sewer and from there it becomes part of a laundry-list of contaminants that makes its way into waterways. Even a small drip of oil can turn into a disaster when you consider the fact that there are more than 250 million cars on the road in the United States alone. Even if all of these vehicles were in perfect working order, the disposal of the used oil would still be a huge issue.

When it comes time to ethically dispose of used oil, Mobil has an excellent online resource for finding disposal facilities near you. The EPA and The Water Consortium have also come up with a very handy guide to keeping your vehicle and other machines in good working order to help lower the risk of recurring oil leaks.

Clean Up Beaches and Waterways

Wherever you have waterways that see a lot of human recreation, you will almost always see lots of evidence of human use. Wrappers, bottles and other trash are unfortunately a common site at many well-used beaches and rivers around the world. It should be fairly obvious that the trash from these places often ends up in waterways and can cause pollution. Plastics are an especially big issue when it comes to water contamination at beaches and waterways.

  • Pick Up Litter

Picking up litter wherever you find it is honestly the best, fastest way to do your part to stop this type of water pollution. While it may not sound very extravagant, the simple act of not passing by this pollution is a pretty powerful one.

  • Organize Cleaning Parties

Organize cleaning parties with local people to make the reach larger. Get businesses involved as sponsors who will donate prizes to the person who collects the most trash if you're having a hard time finding people to sign up to help. Once you get the ball rolling, you might be surprised at just how many people are willing to step up to help you clean up your local waterways.

Avoid Plastics When Possible

Many estimates place the consumption of plastic by humans to be somewhere between 250 and 300 million tons a year. About 80% of the plastic in the oceans came from the land. The ubiquitous nature of plastic in modern society could be attributed to a number of causes, but their versatility and affordability make them obvious choices for many. Using alternatives to plastics or using "less disposable" plastics whenever possible can have a surprising impact on ocean pollution.

  • Use Reusable Bags

Plastic bags in the ocean is a well documented water pollutant. Keep this problem from getting worse by changing to reusable grocery bags whenever possible.

  • Opt for Glass Over Plastic

Instead of using plastic bins to store food, try opting for glass alternatives. Glass is not only more sustainable of an option than plastic, but it also doesn't retain food smells and is easier to clean.

Eat Sustainable Meat if You Eat Meat

grass fed cattle

Large commercial factory farms have an enormously negative impact on water quality. In "factory farm" livestock operations, livestock is kept close together in very cramped conditions. As the animals produce waste in high concentration, they produce a number of toxins that can overwhelm water purification systems and leech into local waterways or aquifers. The antibiotics and hormones being put into these animals also comes out in the animal waste, which then contaminates the water further.

This doesn't mean that you can't eat meat without contributing to this problem. You can purchase meat from sustainable grass-fed livestock operations that have a manageable amount of livestock on a reasonably large tract of land. The fact that the animals are not so spread out and are allowed to roam means that the waste is not concentrated to one area where it can cause massive damage.

Dispose of Prescription Drugs Properly

One major problem facing waterways throughout the world is the improper disposal of prescription drugs. Many people feel like they can simply dump old drugs down the toilet and flush them away as a safe method of disposal. However, the truth is that these chemicals have a major impact on water health and they can be terrible for the environment.

Disposing of prescription drugs or other personal care products is different for people in different parts of the world.

  • In some places, these products can simply be dropped off at the local police station.
  • In other places, they are disposed of at the fire department or at the local Soil and Water Conservation District office.
  • Look at the local government website for your town or city and look up water quality to discover how to properly dispose of the drugs.

Get Active and Get Involved

Is there a company near your home that releases heat, coolants or chemicals into a nearby waterway? Do you know of a large area of land where soil erosion has been spotted? Have you noticed an oil leak or spill? There are always ways for you to get involved and do something about it.

  • Contact the EPA, local authorities or write letters to the heads of companies.
  • Joining local conservation organizations is also a great way to get involved with solving these issues. National organizations like the Sierra Club have very active local chapters that you can get involved with.
  • Spreading an awareness of problems is a big first step toward combating them. Thanks to the organizational power provided by the Internet and social networking, the biggest obstacle toward getting involved with these issues is your own desire to do it.

You Can Make a Difference

While water pollution solutions may seem like too little, too late when viewed in the light of major oil spills and floating plastic bag islands they are necessary to prevent these problems from growing worse. Simply slowing down the rate of pollution can give the environment and scientists time to find long-term solutions to the very real problems of water pollution. If you do your part to prevent pollution in your area, then you'll be helping to protect water for both yourself and everything else that relies upon this precious resource.

How to Stop Water Pollution