Types of Water Pollution

Industry is a cause of water pollution.

There are many different types of water pollution with varying effects on the environment. Water is one of the most important world resources and is essential to all aspects of life.

Water covers 70 percent of the earth's surface and is important for both people and the environment. The pollution of water has wide reaching effects; it harms wild life and the environment, effects the availability of drinking water and many precious resources are used in the cleaning of polluted water.

Different Types of Water Pollution

Water pollution takes many forms. Although there are natural causes of water pollution, for instance that caused by volcanoes and other natural phenomenon, the pollution caused by man is of the greatest concern.

Biological Water Pollution

Some viruses and bacteria are water born. These can cause serious diseases in people in direct contact with this contaminated water. This might include people drinking, swimming or washing in the contaminated water and extremely serious and contagious diseases such as cholera and typhoid are spread in this manner.

Oxygen Depletion

Oxygen depletion destroys the natural balance of the water and ultimately bacteria thrive and fish and other wildlife die. Oxygen depletion is caused by the release of biodegradable matter into the water, such as sewage and the natural process of breaking this down uses the oxygen in the water. Once all the oxygen has been depleted, bacteria are able to take over making the water polluted.


Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are essential to plant growth. Fertilizers contain many nutrients and when these enter the water supply, perhaps due to water running off a field into a river, the nutrients cause an imbalance in the make up of the water. As nutrients are important to plant growth on land, the same applies to plants in the water. Therefore, too many nutrients in the water encourage the growth of weeds and algae. This can make the water highly polluted and result in oxygen depletion as mentioned above.

The growth of algae is also known as a bloom, and the bright green spread of an algae bloom in fresh water is easily recognizable.


Chemical water pollution is perhaps the type of water pollution that we are most familiar with. This term is used to describe the act of adding unwanted chemicals to the water and is done through the accidental spillage of substances into water, waste from factories or industry and through pesticides running off fields into water.

Chemicals in water are poisonous and harmful to wildlife as well as making the water too polluted to drink. The effects of chemical pollution are wide reaching.

Chemical water pollution is also used to describe the pollution of water by oil, for instance when an oil tank ruptures or a ship sinks. The photographs and images we see on the television of oil covered birds and dying wildlife gives some indication of the serious nature of this and other types of pollution.

Suspended Matter

Not all chemicals and pollutants are water soluble, and those that aren't are called suspended matter. The tiny particles of matter stay in the water and eventually fall to the bottom, forming a layer of silt on the floor of the lake or river. This is harmful to wildlife and causes long term problems due to an imbalance in the natural infrastructure of the water.

In addition to the problems caused by the suspended matter, the problem caused by pollution due to suspended matter is compounded by dead fish and wildlife decomposing in the water.

More Information on Water Pollution

There are many excellent sources of information about types of water pollution on the Internet. Some useful websites are:

Any form of water pollution is serious in its own way. It is important to ensure that water contamination is kept to a minimum. As individuals, we can do our part by ensuring that we carefully choose detergents and other chemicals that will enter the water supply to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

Types of Water Pollution