What is water pollution?
Water pollution is the contamination of streams, lakes, underground water or the sea by substances harmful to living things. The major water pollutants are chemical, biological or physical materials that degrade water quality.
Water pollutants can result from many human activities, for example:
- Residential communities contribute mostly sewage, mixed with traces of household chemicals
- Industrial pollutants may enter water sources from the outfall pipes of factories or may leak from pipelines and underground storage tanks
- Sometimes industries discharge pollutants into city sewers, increasing the variety of pollutants in urban areas
- Polluted water may flow from mines where the water has leached through mineral-rich rocks or has been contaminated by the chemicals used in processing the ores
- Pollutants from farms and pastures contribute animal wastes, agricultural chemicals and sediment from erosion.
Who is responsible for water?
The Environment Agency is the environmental regulator for water and is responsible for maintaining or improving the quality of fresh, marine, surface and underground water in England and Wales.
Its aim is to prevent or reduce the risk of water pollution wherever possible and to ensure that pollution that might affect ecosystems or people is cleaned up. In addition, the Water Resources Act 1963 places a duty on it to ensure the proper use of water resources in England and Wales. Further information can be obtained from the Environment Agency website.
The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is responsible for assessing the quality of drinking water in England and Wales, taking enforcement action if standards are not being met and appropriate action when water is unfit for human consumption. Further information about drinking water can be found on the DWI website.
water-pollution.org.uk contains useful information about the sources of water pollution and the potential dangers it causes. It also gives a number of tips on preventing it and ways to help keep our waters clean. The website is educational and a source for both adults and children to learn about water pollution.