We’ve already written a guide outlining a number of countries and cities in the world that are affected by water pollution and contamination.
Along with water scarcity also becoming a problem in the future, it’s important we place much more focus on preventing and solving water related issues in society.
In this guide, we outline some of the best ways to prevent, and also solve water pollution and contamination.
Treating Dirty Water vs Preventing Water Pollution & Contamination In The First Place
Firstly … why prevent water pollution/contamination when we can just clean dirty water?
In developed countries especially, we have water treatment plants to chemically and physically clean water for drinking and other uses.
But, water treatment infrastructure cost money and energy to set up and run in developed countries, and many developed countries can’t even afford them.
On top of that, not all contaminated and dirty water can be treated/cleaned. Water with trace particles and chemicals, and water with heavy or particularly hazardous chemicals in it fit this category.
With these factors being the case, it makes sense to prevent as much water from becoming polluted and contaminated in the first place.
What Are The Causes Of Water Pollution & Contamination
Secondly, knowing the causes of water pollution and contamination can help us understand how to prevent it and address it in a much clearer way
Read more about the causes of water pollution and contamination in this guide.
In that guide, you can also find the 7 biggest water polluting countries in the world, which can give us an idea of the countries that need to put extra focus on the quality of their water.
Why Water Pollution & Contamination Are Big Problems – Impact & Side Effects
Thirdly, it’s important to know why we need to prevent and solve water pollution and contamination.
Obviously we use water in society for various things such as:
- drinking water
- household water
- water for industry, factories, power generation
- water for agriculture and to grow food and fibres
- … essentially everything around you made by humans has a water footprint, and every living thing has a need to consume water
A lack of clean or high quality water leads to water scarcity for the social uses listed above, as well as health and mortality issues for people, animals and plants.
How To Prevent & Solve Water Pollution & Contamination, In General
From a wider perspective, we might introduce, improve, maintain or better enforce the following things in all countries:
- Water Quality Guidelines
Water quality guidelines can set a standard for what the quality of water has to be for a specific use.
For example, countries like Australia, the US, Canada and so on have drinking water quality guidelines.
Some countries also have resources to help those using water for agricultural irrigation to evaluate the quality of water they are using.
Some countries have no water quality guidelines at all, or very vague guidelines.
- Laws/Acts & Regulations
Laws/Acts and Regulations can give legal power to rules and guidelines around water management, and the pollution and contamination of water sources.
Some countries have very loose laws and regulations, whilst others have clear and strict guidelines.
- Environmental Plans Based On Laws & Guidelines
Governments, water suppliers, private companies and key decision makers can issue monthly or yearly reports around the pollution and contamination of water.
These reports can include data/stats on water already polluted/contaminated, future targets and action points/strategies for cleaning up water, as well as preventing future contamination/pollution.
This is similar to how we have climate change updates and reports.
- Enforcement Of Laws & Guidelines (on farmers, businesses, industry, and for people)
Guidelines, laws and plans mean nothing without their enforcement by enforcing authorities.
There needs to be official water pollution and contamination organisations and authorities who are able to monitor and maintain expectations and rule.
Some countries have a very poor reputation for enforcing water quality laws and regulations.
Other places like parts of Australia for example, have very good enforcement of drinking water quality guidelines on the drinking water supply.
- Penalties & Credits For Those Who Pollute & Don’t Pollute Water Sources
The biggest polluters/contaminators might be penalised, whilst those who pollute/contaminate might be rewarded or credited (in the form of finances, taxes or concessions).
- More Accountability & Transparency From Governments, Water Suppliers & Those Who Make Major Water Related Decisions In Society
Those who are responsible for ensuring water sources are clean and not polluted /contaminated need to be kept accountable, and the public needs to have a way of being able to monitor their activity and progress in a transparent way.
How To Prevent & Solve Water Pollution & Contamination, Specifically (Industries, Sectors & Problems/Causes To Focus On)
Specific ways to prevent and solve water pollution and contamination might be:
- Agriculture – reducing the use of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and managing animal waste properly. Consider sustainable farming practices and products that are more eco and water friendly
- Industry & Factories – proper treatment and disposal of chemical and hazardous waste. Finding ways to treat and re-use wastewater and grey water.
- Power Plants – move more towards green energy, and more away from fossil fuel based electricity generation (which contributes significantly to air pollution, acid rain, and carbon in the air)
- Transport – move more towards renewable green power vehicles, and away from fossil fuel based cars (as runoff from roads is an issue, and so is air pollution from vehicle emissions)
- Waste Management – improve hard rubbish waste management, but also sewage/plumbing waste management. Prevent waste from being dumped or discharged into water sources. Make sure sanitation, plumbing and human waste infrastructure is working safely. Make sure landfills are properly sealed and waste isn’t mismanaged from landfills sites.
- Water Infrastructure, Treatment & Piping – make sure drinking and tap water treatment and delivery infrastructure is modern, safe and well maintained. Developing countries in particular need dedicated water sources and waste infrastructure
- Mining – better managing and disposing of mining waste, or better still, finding more ways to recycle and re-use metals and minerals we often mine new out of the ground (so mining activities are reduced).
- Water Supply Management & Reduce Withdrawal Rates – over withdrawing from groundwater sources can lead to salinity issues. So, we need to withdraw from water sources more sustainably. Water restrictions could be a possibility
- Protection Of Freshwater Sources – in the event of natural disasters such as flooding and hurricanes contaminating them, and to prevent cross contamination between sources such as groundwater to streams or lakes or vice versa.
- Better Treatment Of Special Waste – like radioactive waste, or some types of medical waste.
- Safer Rainwater Catchment – in developed countries … watching out for things like lead based paints on tanks and rainwater catchment roofs.
- Improve Political Management Of Water – Corruption and poorly organised or incompetent governments can lead to pollution or contamination of water sources.
- Identify & Address Developed vs Developing Country Water Pollution Issues Separately – for example, basic sanitation, water and waste (sewage) infrastructure, as well as stricter enforcement of industrial waste disposal and dumping into freshwater sources in developing countries can be much more effective to address water issues in developed countries where the solutions might require more advanced strategies.
- Water Supply Capacity Augmentation – It doesn’t address water pollution directly, but if we can increase freshwater supply capacity in many areas, we have more water to use in case some gets polluted – which gives us a bigger margin for error with future pollution/contamination.
- Invest In Water Treatment Technology – to better clean water that is already polluted and contaminated. – Some researchers are adding technologies to deal with new and potentially harmful pollutants. Others are designing approaches that work with existing water systems. Still others aim to clean up pollutants at their source. (sciencenewsforstudents.org)
Examples Of What’s Being Done About Water Pollution & Contamination In Different Cities & Countries
You can read more about the current laws, regulations and practices in place to address water pollution/contamination and water quality in some of the countries guilty of polluting and contaminating the most: