Water Pollution

Stephany Reyes & Karen Cazares

Dirty Unhealthy Water

Dirty water is the world's biggest health risk, and continues to threaten both quality of life and public health in the United States. When water from rain and melting snow runs off roofs and roads into our rivers, it picks up toxic chemicals, dirt, trash and disease-carrying organisms along the way. Many of our water resources also lack basic protections, making them vulnerable to pollution from factory farms, industrial plants, and activities like fracking. This can lead to drinking water contamination, habitat degradation and beach closures.

Common Sources of Pollution

Naturally Occurring:
  • microorganisms (wildlife and soils)
  • radionuclides (underlying rock),
  • nitrates and nitrites (nitrogen compounds in the soil)
  • heavy metals (underground rocks containing arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and selenium), fluoride
Human Activities:

  • bacteria and nitrates (human and animal wastes—septic tanks and large farms)
  • heavy metals (mining construction, older fruit orchards)
  • fertilizers and pesticides (used by you and others (anywhere crops or lawns are maintained))
  • industrial products and wastes (local factories, industrial plants, gas stations, dry cleaners, leaking underground storage tanks, landfills, and waste dumps)
  • household wastes (cleaning solvents, used motor oil, paint, paint thinner)
  • lead and copper (household plumbing materials)
  • water treatment chemicals (wastewater treatment plants)


Safe Drinking Water Act

  • Authorizes EPA to set enforceable health standards for contaminants in drinking water
  • Requires public notification of water systems violations and annual reports (Consumer Confidence Reports) to customers on contaminants found in their drinking water - http://www.epa.gov/safewater/ccr
  • Establishes a federal-state partnership for regulation enforcement
  • Includes provisions specifically designed to protect underground sources of drinking water - http://www.epa.gov/safewater/uic
  • Requires disinfection of surface water ­supplies, except those with pristine, protected sources
  • Establishes a multi-billion-dollar state revolving loan fund for water system upgrades - http://www.epa.gov/safewater/dwsrf
  • Requires an assessment of the vulnerability of all drinking water sources to contamination - http://www.epa.gov/safewater/protect

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Drawing on existing protections in the Clean Water Act, and working to ensure that the law's pollution control programs apply to all important waterways, including head-water streams and wetlands, which provide drinking water for 117 million Americans.Improving protections to reduce pollutants like bacteria and viruses, which threaten Americans' health and well being and establishing new pollution limits for top problem areas, such as sources of runoff and sewage overflows.


  • 750 million people around the world lack access to safe water; approximately one in nine people.
  • Every 20 seconds a child under five years of age dies from waterborne illnesses

United States' Water Quality

  • 35 percent of U.S. rivers and streams are too dangerous for fishing, or drinking
  • 60 percent of U.S. lakes are too dangerous for swimming or drinking because of massive toxic runoff from industrial farms, intensive livestock operations and the more than 1 billion pounds of industrial weed killer used through the country each year
  • Two-thirds of U.S. estuaries and bays are moderately or severely degraded
  • Four and a half percent of beaches are closed or under advisory at a given time
  • 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution are carried by the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico every year
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