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Chapter 21: Water Pollution. Sustainably Managing a Renewable Resource. FIGURE CO: Water pollution in rich and poor countries of the world affects our health and economy. © Rubberball/Alamy Images. Point and Nonpoint Sources.

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Chapter 21 water pollution l.jpg

Chapter 21:

Water Pollution

Sustainably Managing a Renewable Resource

Figure co water pollution in rich and poor countries of the world affects our health and economy l.jpg
FIGURE CO: Water pollution in rich and poor countries of the world affects our health and economy

© Rubberball/Alamy Images

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Point and Nonpoint Sources world affects our health and economy

  • Point sources, such as factories, and from Nonpoint sources, such as farm fields and streets.

Courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes National Program

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FIGURE 2: Major sources of U.S. stream pollution world affects our health and economy

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Infectious Agents streams

FIGURE 7: Cryptosporidium, an infectious waterborne protist that can cause diarrhea in humans


Fecal coliform bacteria

© A. B. Dowsett/Photo Researchers, Inc.

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Toxic Organic Water Pollutants streams

  • Organics

    Sources: factories, homes, farms, lawns, and gardens.

  • Inorganic (acids and heavy metals, such as lead and mercury)

    Sources: Industry

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Other Types of Pollution: Sediment streams

  • Sediment washed from the land has profound effects on the chemical and physical nature of ecosystems.

  • Such changes have large impacts on aquatic organisms and humans who depend on them.

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21.2 Groundwater Pollution streams

  • May be heavily contaminated in numerous industrialized nations by:

    • industrial waste pits

    • septic tanks

    • oil wells

    • Landfills

    • agricultural chemicals, notably pesticides and fertilizer.

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Effects of Groundwater Pollution streams

  • Thousands of chemicals may be found in a nation’s groundwater.

  • Many of them are potentially harmful to human health, causing problems for:

    • unborn children:

      • miscarriage

      • birth defects

      • premature infant death

    • adults:

      • rashes

      • neurological problems

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Cleaning Up Groundwater streams

  • Groundwater moves slowly and takes many years to cleanse itself.

  • Preventing groundwater pollution is essential to creating a sustainable water supply.

  • Equally important are efforts to clean up groundwater supplies already contaminated by potentially toxic chemicals.

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21.3 Ocean Pollution streams

  • The oceans are polluted by:

    • chemicals spilled

      into them directly

    • pollutants washed

      from the lands and

      transported to

      them by rivers


An oil-covered duck

Courtesy of John S. Lough/Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council

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FIGURE 12: Oil spills from 1970 to 2006 streams

Data courtesy of International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd., ITOPF

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Plastic Pollution streams

  • Millions of tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year, killing hundreds of thousands of marine

    mammals, fish,

    and birds.


A young hawksbill sea turtle is caught in a plastic fishing net

© Jeff Rotman/Alamy Images

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Plastic Pollution streams

  • Many steps have been taken to reduce the disposal of plastic into the ocean, but huge amounts are still being disposed of each year.


Trash on Imperial Beach, California

© T. O’Keefe/PhotoLink/Photodisc/Getty Images

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Medical Wastes and Sewage Sludge streams

  • Millions of gallons of sewage enter the sea each year from coastal sewage treatment plants.

FIGURE 15: Sewage treatment plant

© Graham Prentice/

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FIGURE S01_1: Algal blooms in the Great Lakes streams

© John Sohlden/Visuals Unlimited

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21.4 Water Pollution Control streams

  • Reducing water pollution requires efforts on two levels:

    • those that capture wastes emitted from various sources (the so-called end-of-pipe solutions)

    • those that prevent waste production and pollution

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Legislative Controls streams

  • Legislation to address water pollution has focused on point sources—primarily factories and sewage treatment plants.

  • Gains made in controlling such sources have often been offset by increasing levels of pollution from nonpoint sources such as:

    • city streets

    • lawns

    • farm fields

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Controlling Nonpoint Pollution streams

  • In the United States, efforts to control nonpoint water pollution are still in their infancy.

  • They are gaining popularity because they are often economical solutions that offer other benefits as well.

  • The United States has focused more on groundwater pollution than nonpoint water pollution because groundwater is an important source of drinking water.

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Sustainable Solutions for Water Pollution streams

  • Measures that will collectively serve to reduce our production of water pollutants include:

    • reducing consumption

    • recycling materials

    • reducing industrial waste and municipal sewage

    • using renewable resources

    • stabilizing population growth