Clean Water

Clean water is vital to life on Earth. We may not think much about water if we live in areas with good water treatment plants. But what about wildlife, they need to drink water where they can find it, some live in it, polluted or not. There are many people around the world that don’t have clean drinking water. Our oceans, lakes, rivers, and ground water; we are polluting them all. We have even created acid rain by emitting sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) into the air from factories and other sources, that react with water molecules to form sulphuric acid and nitric acid which then falls to the ground. There are many ways we are polluting our water:

Human waste has been dumped into waterways for hundreds of years, but as human populations grow the water becomes heavily polluted and kills many people every year. Human waste can be composted and spread out on the land to add nutrients back to the soil. This takes a dangerous pollutant and turns it into a beneficial soil amendment. Our World, UNU

We humans are also polluting our water from all the drugs we take, whether they are over the counter, prescription, or illegal drugs. These drugs leave our bodies down the toilet. Most treatment plants were not designed to screen out chemicals. Birth control pills alone are messing with the reproduction systems of fish and frogs. If you think about how many different drugs people are taking every day, what is this doing to our water? Drugs in the water – Harvard Health

We also have covered up a lot of our urban areas with pavement and concrete, not allowing water to filtrate down through the ground to become groundwater; lowering the levels of groundwater. All the pollutants from gas and oil from vehicles, pesticides and fertilizers we use on our yards, to washing our vehicles and other things; all get washed down storm sewers directly into our natural waterways.

Industrial farming practices and the use of pesticides and fertilizers don’t just stay in the field. They go into the soil and kill soil organisms that are beneficial and benign to us. The excess gets washed away into waterways where the pesticides can continue killing and eutrophication happens when fertilizers in the water create algae blooms. Then hypoxia happens when the algae die and sink to the bottom and get decomposed by bacteria which use up the oxygen in the water creating a dead zone, because most aquatic animals cannot survive without oxygen in the water. There is also pollution from industrial animal farms, caused by leaching from the mass amounts of manure, that end up in groundwater, creeks and other waterways. They also produce an incredible amount of methane that is 28 – 34 time greater than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.” sustainable development goals

Plastics have become a huge problem because we throw so much of it away and they are not biodegradable. They breakup into smaller and smaller pieces becoming microplastics not usable natural molecules. Just because we can no longer see the plastic doesn’t mean it is not there. Animals large and tiny are eating plastic pieces thinking they are food, and the plastic gets stuck inside the animals eventually killing them. Washing clothes has released tons of lint into the waterways and the synthetic bits don’t decompose. Polar ice has microplastics in it. “The oceans are becoming a plastic soup”. Reference: Plastic Soup

Industry has and still uses waterways to get rid of their toxic wastes. Our environment is paying a heavy price for our cheap and not so cheap products. We have been using a linear economic system of taking raw materials from the Earth, creating produces while releasing pollution into the environment from the processing, selling these products, and then throwing them away. We create so much cheap, throw away, non recyclable stuff. Industry has not been held responsible for the externalities of their businesses and wealth. It is time that they are held accountable. A circular economy means that the externalities are taking into account, that products are made to last and be recyclable, that pollutants are properly dealt with, and we reuse products to make new ones, and if we need raw materials we take care of the land and water so they can continue to produce and thrive. The gas and oil industries are a major polluter and they get away with it because “we need gas and oil”, they are also heavily subsidized. So we are paying them to pollute our environment?!? We should be putting that money into creating greener energy solutions.

Pollution from fossil fuel production and use creates carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane gas (as well as other pollutants). We all know that this is leading to climate change, but carbon dioxide is also absorbed by our oceans. This excess CO2 interacts with the water (H2O) to form carbonic acid (H2CO3). Various chemical reactions caused by the excess CO2 releases hydrogen ions which then bond with other molecules. The more hydrogen ions there are, the more acidic the ocean becomes. The shells of many marine animals and corals are made of calcium carbonate. They take calcium ions and carbonates from the surrounding seawater to make calcium carbonate. Hydrogen ions bind with the carbonates making them unavailable to be turned into calcium carbonate. The hydrogen ions also react with these organisms harming them. The ocean’s pH was 8.2 around the start of the industrial revolution but has dropped to 8.1 and expected to drop another 0.3 to 0.4 by the end of this century. The pH scale is like the Richter scale for earthquakes, it is logarithmic. So a pH of 4 is ten times more acidic that a pH of 5 and 100 times (10 times 10) more acidic than a pH of 6. This means a very small change is the pH is much larger than it appears. Many species in the ocean will not be able to survive if the pH keeps dropping. And again, we depend on nature for our survival. No ocean life and billions of people will die; many other species will also die. Life is intertwined – it is the web of life. Check out What is Ocean Acidification and the Smithsonian website Ocean Find Your Blue then search ocean acidification.

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