How water pollution affects the environment

Water is an essential element for life, just like the air we breathe. And yet it seems that it is sometimes given more importance to issues such as the ozone layer or global warming than to the pollution of our rivers, seas, lakes and aquifers, which can be equally deadly. If you want to know how water pollution affects the environment, we tell you in this article.

Water, a precious commodity

The human being is made up of 70% water and we live on a planet whose three quarters of its surface are in the aqueous medium, although only 2.5% of the total is fresh water (and much of it in the form of ice at the poles). No plants or animals can live without water, and people die earlier if they stop drinking than if they do not eat. That is, we have to take care of our water reserves for what they are, a precious treasure for life. If we fill them with pollution and make them unusable for consumption, we will be causing enormous damage to the ecosystem and ourselves.

Causes of pollution

The water can be contaminated by accumulations of common garbage, either accumulated by the currents that are dragging waste for kilometers or by spills of large quantities at specific points. Some objects such as cans and plastic bottles tend to accumulate on the surface, causing real floating islands of garbage.

The pollution produced by wastewater discharges causes the water to be filled with bacteria and highly polluting toxic elements, both for the soil and for consumption. For this reason, it is necessary to regenerate them through purification stations that avoid contamination of the environment and also allow reusing those waters, for example for irrigation of crops.

Very important is also the pollution produced by the uncontrolled dumping of industries into the water courses. Although it is a problem that is trying to regulate and entails strong sanctions, the truth is that since the origins of the Industrial Revolution there have been discharges to rivers and seas that have caused havoc, and even today it still exists. Sometimes the pollution of the rivers is caused by runoff, when the rainwater drags chemical compounds as fertilizers into the river bed.

Nor should we forget the accidents of ships and large freighters at sea, such as the Prestige on the Galician coast a decade ago, which caused the dumping of tons of fuel into the sea with the consequent serious damage to the surrounding marine ecosystem for years.

Likewise, water can also be contaminated naturally, following its own cycle. Sometimes it can come into direct contact with mineral and organic substances that contaminate it, both in the earth's crust and in the atmosphere.


The accumulation of plastic and other debris can become very detrimental to marine wildlife. Animals can accidentally eat it or get injured. Even the plastic rings of the can packs can be a deadly trap for some animals, which can be trapped.

A direct consequence of the contamination of waters, both rivers and lakes and seas, is the entry of toxic elements into the food chain . The human being, being at the end of the chain, may end up ingesting large quantities of heavy metals that accumulate from one animal to another, and therefore it is recommended not to abuse the consumption of tuna or shark fin, for example. On the other hand, the more polluted the water is by said toxic compounds, the more likely it is that said elements evaporate and cause acid rain.

A contaminated water can lead to the elimination of complete species due to the lack of oxygen, becoming a totally hostile environment for the life of aquatic plants and animals.

The garbage island of the Pacific

Also known as "toxic soup" or as the great garbage patch of the Pacific, it is a huge accumulation of marine debris located in the North Pacific, between the coordinates 135 ° to 155 ° W and 35 ° to 42 ° N. It has almost a million and a half square kilometers of surface occupied by plastics and other types of solid waste floating in the water, trapped in the currents of the North Pacific turn. There is also another large spot, although smaller, in the Atlantic Ocean.