Did you know that water contamination can travel hundreds of thousands of miles? Pesticides, fertilizers and animal waste from the agricultural industry are contaminating our rivers, lakes and oceans. This is in addition to the millions of tons of toxic chemicals and other pollutants from industrial and mining practices that end up in our waters.
The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations declares that "the biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems has degraded more than any other ecosystem". Water pollution affects all species and threatens their survival.
One thing that makes our freshwater ecosystems so special is how they are connected and flow into one another. Unfortunately, this means that when one waterway becomes contaminated it affects all other waterways that it is connected to. This makes the problem grow bigger and bigger as time goes on and more contaminates enter our freshwater ecosystems. Industrial infrastructures are responsible for pouring large quantities of toxic chemicals into water bodies. These chemicals are the byproduct of manufacturing everything: from clothes to electronic devices. What we receive in return is a product that may only last us a short amount of time but also contaminated water and air that we should not breathing nor drinking.
Abandoned mining operations are another source of toxic waste, creating acidic water with large concentrations of metals. As a result, the water surrounding these sites also have high levels of metals and pH imbalance. We are now learning that these polluted waters are unable to withstand aquatic life and vegetation.
On other hand, livestock also plays a leading role in this issue. Animal waste from farms contributes to water pollution when sewage is filtered or when runoff from farms is directed to lakes and rivers. Like pesticide and fertilizer contamination, animal waste can contribute to the proliferation of algae by introducing dangerous levels of ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus into lakes and waterways. Animal waste from factory farms also contains hormones that, when introduced into water systems, can cause reproductive problems in fish and other animals.
But what can you do to fight against this problem?
As it is not very feasible for you to decontaminate the water of the rivers by filtering it liter by liter, here is a series of little habits that can make a big difference:
- Reduce the consumption of meat and incorporate more vegetables into your diet.
- Do not buy products that use pesticides and opt for the organic ones whenever possible.
- If you like gardening or have your own crops, use methods that do not depend on the use of fertilizers and pesticides.
- Help prevent soil erosion and runoff by planting a garden or similar to filter out contaminants and prevent them from flowing into the sewers.
- Oil waste and products containing hazardous substances should be taken to a disposal site where it can be properly be taken care of.
- María Álvarez Pérez