The Refreshing Drink of Death

What's vital is what's killing us.

The Initial Taste

Imagine a tropical beach, bright blue ocean with twinkling sand and tides rolling over the edge, not daring to touch any further than the previous. You may have been to a beach like this before, maybe in Hawaii or the Carribean. You probably have great memories of said place, taking pictures with the family during the sun-blazing day and splashing water in your siblings face, or stealing an exciting kiss under the stars and the light breeze of night with a crush you just met.

Now, imagine returning to that blissful place, only to find it polluted beyond control. That twinkling sand you remember so vividly under your feet is littered with garbage upon garbage upon garbage. The bright blue ocean is so muddy you couldn't even see your own hand if you stuck it in, but you wouldn't dare in fear of catching something, and there are dead animals and waste floating in the water along with more endless garbage. You take a quick wiff of the old sea-air, only to find the pungent smell of chemicals stinging your nostrils, most likely coming off of the water. And the friendly, gives-you-a-hope-of-actually-getting-a-tan sun is no longer shining, the sky gloomy and gray and helpless, almost as if it was inquiring why it's precious memory-making people let his happen. You stare at this place, this horrid, awful place, and question whether you were reminiscing about the same venue and how this could possibly happen.

Well, unfortuneatly, the answer is us.

What's Causing That Precious Gift of the Grim Reaper?

Now the description above may have been a little exaggerated, but not much. Here are a few causes to try on for size:

  • Agricultural and industrial runoff is a leading cause. In 2002, in the National Water Quality Inventory report to U.S. Congress, the states reported that agricultural pollution is the leading cause of river and stream pollution and the second leading cause of pollution in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. Surfaces that don't let water seep through them and into the ground like roads, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, decks, rooftops, and even turf grass cause runoff, and let this runoff seep into the ground, disturbing the water cycle and contaminating the water we use. This runoff can contain harmful chemicals and pollutants from crops and plants and etc.
  • Keep in mind water pollution isn't just about runoff. 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually. Plus, in developing countries, 70% of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply.
  • Improper use/disposal of plastic and garbage is another major cause of water pollution globally, accumulating in all bodies of water and contaminating the water and harming the living things that depend on it. Jenna Jambeck, an engineer at the University of Georgia, is exploring this topic. "In 2010 there were 8 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean globally," she says. That's plastic bottles, candy wrappers, laundry baskets, synthetic rope, and syringes. According to Jambeck's calculations, that's like putting five bags of plastic trash on every foot of coastline.

That's great does it affect US physically?

There are many health hazards linked to water pollution. People who eat fruits and vegetables that are contaminated with bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Toxoplasma, norovirus, and hepatitis A virus, from poor-quality water can get foodbourne illnesses and irrigation of foods imported from international locations can spread these and other microbes. Also, useable and drinkable water are scarce in developing coutries, and many become ill or die because of contaminants in these waters, including human waste. But since it's the only water they have, they have no other choice but to use it. Annually, safer water could prevent: 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhoea; 500,000 deaths from malaria; 860,000 child deaths from malnutrition; and 280,000 deaths from drowning. In addition, 5 million people can be protected from being seriously incapacitated from lymphatic filariasis and another 5 million from trachoma.

Water pollution not only affects us, but it affects animals and other life forms. They too have to use and drink this water which can harm them and kill them. In addition, animals that live in the ocean are dying because of the polluted water and their habitat is slowly being ruined because of us.

Not only is our physical health damaged by the choices we make, but our visual and emotional health are too. Do you really want to raise your children in a world where water is heavily polluted? Do you want them to get used to the sight of animals and people dying? Do you want them to follow your poor example and not care about our water? Do you want them to get so used to it that they don't even care or try to make an effort to change? Let's face it. By the rate we're going, there may not be much of a world, whether good or not, left to bring children up in.

What can we do to help?

Personally you can:

  • not throw garbage away unless in a trash can, including places where there isn't one, especially next to a body of water;
  • recycle plastic and other materials properly and in the right container;
  • not leave water running when you don't need it to reduce the amount of water used in your household, and reduce the amount of water you "need";
  • not pour anything down the drain you shouldn't (like harmful chemicals) and if you ever need to, run water prior to dilute the substance;
  • buy safer and greener cleaning products that are healthier for the environment or use less of ones that aren't;
  • not overuse pesticides and fertilizers and look into more organic options instead;
  • and, if you live close to a water body, try to plant lots of trees and flowers around your home, so that when it rains, chemicals from your home do not easily drain into the water.
Also think about joining a group or organization out there that helps educate people about the impact their actions have on our water supply.
As for cities and governments:

  • Have city planners think about incorporating things into urban areas that help the community's water quality, therefore reducing/preventing the amount of runoff from impervious surfaces and leaving more of nature intact.
  • Things like sanitation of human wastes in communities, frequent hand-washing, and safe storage of drinking water are all good measures to take in fighting water pollution, so try to instill these things and make them more easily accessible.
  • Stop neglecting the fact that our water is in trouble for your own selfish reasons. Besides, our businesses and economy would be better off going greener, as every dollar invested leads to up to eight dollars in benefits. US$ 84 billion a year could be regained from the yearly investment of US$ 11.3 billion needed to meet the water and sanitation targets under the Millennium Development Goals.
Just think if water pollution didn't exist, what kind of world would we live in? A good one, that's for sure. If we all take measures to stop this national and global issue, we can slowly reverse the damage we have done, and the earth and its creatures can live healthy again and stop suffering. Help keep that beach you once loved have that same bright blue ocean, twinkling sand, happy, shining sun, and those cherished memories.
Works Cited:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Mar. 2010. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

"How Does Safe Water Impact Global Health?" WHO. Elsevier Sceince, 25 June 2008. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Joyce, Christopher. "8 Million Tons Of Plastic Clutter Our Seas." NPR. NPR, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

"Prevention and Solutions to Water Pollution." ESchoolToday. WHO, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2015.

"Water Quality." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

All images from iClipart for Schools.