Water covers over 70% of the Earth's surface and is a very important resource for people and the environment. Water pollution affects drinking water, rivers, lakes and oceans all over the world. This consequently harms human health and the natural environment. Here you can find out more about water pollution and what you can do to prevent it.
Pollution. You can't miss it, can you? It's everywhere... all over our planet. It makes people, other animals and plants sick or even kills them. It's even making the climate change. Humans are the cause and humans will have to try and stop it!
What is pollution? Well, what is it? Stinky stuff? Muck? Poison? Yes, all those things... and more. Some is obvious like smoke which you can see but much of it is not obvious at all. Yet you're eating it and drinking it and breathing it most of the time. And what is worse is that all this muck affects all other life on Earth. You can find pollution made by people just about everywhere on the planet. Even remote places like the Arctic are badly polluted by nasty chemicals made by people. The polar bears and seals there have poisonous chemicals made by people in their bodies and so do the Inuit people who live with them. These nasty things kill many animals and make others sick -- including penguins in the Antarctic. They also kill people and make them ill too. There's nowhere on the planet left with no pollution; not even the bottom of the sea or high up in the air. This is bad news and I'm very sad about it.
One of the best-known types of pollution - the sort that we all hear about - is when an oil tanker runs onto the rocks. These huge ships can carry hundreds of thousands of tons of oil. Almost every year, somewhere a tanker runs aground and the oil flows out into the sea, doing terrible damage to all the creatures that live in that area. Thousands of my beautiful seabird friends get covered in black oil and die of poisoning or starvation. More damage is done along the shoreline and under the sea. The area takes many years to recover. Also you can drive about in cars... You don't hear so often about the spills on land when pipelines break - or are blown up in wars.
Things you don't see so easily which comes out of factories, farms and cities is the liquid pollution. This is the stuff that gets dumped into streams, into rivers, into lakes and into the seas. Here's the sort of stuff I mean: sewage waste chemicals from factories waste oils from industry, cars, road run-off, service stations toxic heavy metals spills and run-off from industrial farms (pesticides, manure slurry, fertilizers) oil from tanker accidents at sea
I'm not saying people always do this dumping on purpose, although many do because it's the 'cheap' option. Some of it is accidental and some because people don't know any better. The 'thinking' (if any) goes like this: " If I pour something nasty I want to get rid of into a river, that's okay because it's quickly flushed away by the flowing water... umm, isn't it?" Flushed away, yes, but where to? This is a huge problem for humans. Because people make so much waste, they have to dump it somewhere. Up to now, as long as no-one could see the waste (Not In My Back Yard, shortened to NIMBY), everyone thought it was okay. "Out of sight, out of mind." The planet is only so big and people make so much mess that the whole planet gets dirty. The transport that the flowing rivers, tidal seas and ocean currents provide for human pollution means that it really does get everywhere. The same applies to the air which is why factories have big smoke stacks to dump smoke and fumes into the flowing wind. Then it blows away... but where to?
Most farmers spray poisonous chemicals on their crops to kill off pests or disease. Many of these poisons remain in small quantities in the food you eat. Some people believe that this may cause cancer and other illnesses. The poisons also pollute both water and air and can kill lots of animals by accident. They also kill a lot of humans by accident every year.
But humans have made thousands of new types of poisons, called toxins, which living things have never seen before. Most of these new poisons have been made with good intentions. But they have quite unintended side-effects, and pollute much of the air we all breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink or swim in. The best known nastiest are persistent organic pollutant (POP). These include the pesticides farmers spray on food crops. POPs are very stable. They don't go away. Almost no life can break them down and make them harmless. Instead they tend to build up inside animals' bodies. This can mean they can't have babies or it can make them ill or even kill them. Perhaps you've also heard of CFCs? These chemicals are not toxic but they do damage the atmosphere. They destroy a gas called ozone which shields the planet from the strong radiation of the sun. People sensibly agreed to stop making them at a meeting called the Montreal Protocols but the agreement is not working very well. The 'hole' in the ozone shield gets bigger every year, especially over Europe.
If you want to help keep our waters clean, there are many things you can do to help. You can prevent water pollution of nearby rivers and lakes as well as groundwater and drinking water by following some simple guidelines in your everyday life.
Conserve water by turning off the tap when running water is not necessary. This helps prevent water shortages and reduces the amount f contaminated water that needs treatment. Be careful about what you throw down your sink or toilet. Don't throw paints, oils or other forms of litter down the drain. Use environmentally household products, such as washing powder, household cleaning agents and toiletries. Take great care not to overuse pesticides and fertilizers. This will prevent runoffs of the material into nearby water sources. By having more plants in your garden you are preventing fertilizer, pesticides and contaminated water from running off into nearby water sources. Don't throw litter into rivers, lakes or oceans. Help clean up any litter you see on beaches or in rivers and lakes, make sure it is safe to collect the litter and put it in a nearby dustbin.
Before raw sewage can be safely released back into the environment, it needs to be treated correctly in a water treatment plant. In a water treatment plant, sewage goes through a number of chambers and chemical processes to reduce the amount and toxicity of the waste. In Malta it is treated in the Sant Antnin Treatment Plant. Here, sewage is treated in various stages. First it is cleaned from objects such as stones, etc and then disinfected to destroy harmful bacteria. After several stages of treatment you will have: Clean water- which is safe for farmers to re use to water their fields. Sludge-a fertiliser for fields and gardens.
I am less sad now because I warned you and because I know you kids can help. It's not your fault. It's grown-up people who made all this mess, often because they didn't even realise what they were doing. Sadly some adults certainly do know, but carry on messing up the planet anyway because they are making lots of money or just don't care. They don't care about the future. And, hey, that's your future! So take care of your future and your planet.