The Different Types of Water Pollution

In today’s article, find out the different ways that water pollution is caused. We list the reasons and terminology to describe this huge problem in modern society.

pollution seaWater pollution is becoming an ever increasing problem in today’s society. Our over reliance on chemicals and a rapidly increasing population are just two of the reasons why.

In today’s article we take a look at the different types of water pollution that affect us all around the world.

Water pollution can be classified according to its source. There are 3 main categories that describe the source of water pollution.

  1. Point-source pollution – this is emitted from a single source like a factory or an oil spill.
  2. Non-point source pollution – this comes from multiple points. Examples of this would be rainfall and snowmelt that carry pollutants over large areas and deposit them in lakes and river.
  3. Transboundary pollution – this is pollution on the largest scale and involves crossing borders and countries. This type of pollution travels vast distances by way of ocean currents and strong winds.

Next, let’s take a look at the different types of water pollution. Each of these 3 categories we just described can be caused by a different method of pollution. Here are the most common ones:

Surface Water Pollution

This is the type of pollution that is most common to us as it is the most visible. This is what we see floating in rivers, oceans, and lakes in the form of plastic bottles, trash, oil, and other chemicals. Fracking is a more recent contributor to surface water pollution in our local waterways.

surface water pollution

Microbial Pollution

Microbial pollution relates to viruses, bacteria, and protozoa found in water. These are naturally occurring organisms that can be very dangerous. Examples of these are E.coli, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. Microbial pollution is a particular problem for those in developing countries that don’t have water treatment plants or any form of water sterilization.

Microbial pollution is commonly caused by:

  • Landfill
  • Animal waste
  • Sewage that isn’t properly dealt with
  • Industrial sources like paper and food processing factories and slaughter houses

Water chlorination and ultraviolet light filters are ways to disinfect water and kill these viruses and bacteria. You can find out more about UV and well water filters in our guide.

Groundwater Pollution

Groundwater pollution is commonly caused by chemical pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture. It is caused by these pollutants being washed away and leaking into underground aquifers and wells from which we source drinking water. This kind of pollution is becoming more commonplace due to our reliance on more “productive” farming techniques that give greater yields.

These chemicals are particularly problematic for those with private well water supplies. A good water filter is highly recommended for those whose water isn’t tested by local authorities.

Chemical Pollution

Chemical run-off from farms, factories, and industrial plants is flows into rivers, lakes, groundwater, and seas. Many of these chemicals are just emerging as being hazardous to our health and are particularly hard to identify and protect against.

chemical pollution

Local animals are killed by these chemicals and their habitats destroyed. A further consequence is that the toxins that they ingest can be transferred to humans when we consume them as meat in the supermarket.

Pesticides, metals, solvents, and petroleum are all common chemical run-off that can be detected in water ways across the country.

The most recognizable form of chemical pollution to us would be oil spills, which are never far from the media. But, this type of pollution goes on every day on a smaller scale much closer to home.

Oxygen Depletion Pollution

In order for a natural water habitat to remain healthy and self sustaining it requires a certain level of oxygen to be present. When excessive levels of biodegradable substances are present in a body of water, the number of microorganisms that feed on this waste increases too. In turn, they use up the available oxygen in the water. When oxygen levels drop, the harmless aerobic microorganisms die and more harmful anaerobic microorganisms start to take over. These can produce things such as ammonia and sulfide which can be hazardous to our health. A lack of oxygen in water can also be dangerous for animals like fish.

Nutrient Pollution

Nutrient pollution is caused by fertilizers and wastewater which contain nutrients that promote the growth of plants. By increasing the amount of water plants like algae, the oxygen in the water can be severely depleted. Oxygen depletion can be really harmful to an ecosystem. Take a look at the last section to find out why.


Suspended Matter Pollution

This happens when pollutants don’t mix or dissolve into the water. It results in large particles that form a layer on the waterbed. This layer prevents plants and animals that live on the seabed or at the bottom of lakes and rivers from getting nutrients. It also changes the landscape and environment that they are so used to.

Well that’s the end of our post on the kinds of water pollution affecting us. Check back soon to read more on the environment, water filtration, and pollution. If you don’t want to miss out on any new posts then make sure you ‘Like” us on Facebook or join our mailing list.

Looking for an environmentally friendly way to solve your hard water problems? Check out our guide to water softeners where we mention some great salt-free and environmentally friendly systems too.

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