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Water Pollution: How Big A Problem Is It?

by Andrew Ciccone August 22, 2018

Unsafe water kills more people each year than war and all other forms of violence combined.

Meanwhile, our drinkable water sources are finite: Less than one percent of the earth’s freshwater is actually accessible to us. And unless we start protecting our water, we will have to pay much more for clean, pure drinking water in the future. In fact by 2050, the demand for fresh water is expected to be one-third greater than it is now.  

As shocking as it may sound, every state in this country has cities with harmful contaminants in the drinking tap water.

Every day our water supply is exposed to harmful substances that leach into the soil, potentially contaminating the streams, rivers, lakes, oceans and other bodies of water. Many of these natural sources of water are accessed for your drinking water. Nearly 40 percent of Americans rely on groundwater, pumped to the earth’s surface, for drinking water.

Surface water from freshwater sources (that is, from sources other than the ocean) accounts for more than 60 percent of the water delivered to American homes. The most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency surveys report that nearly half of our rivers and streams and more than one-third of our lakes are polluted and unfit for swimming, fishing, and drinking.


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Nutrient (nitrates and phosphates) pollution from farm waste and fertilizer runoff is a major water pollutant.. Municipal and industrial waste discharges dump directly into our waterways further polluting our water.

Eighty percent of ocean pollution (also called marine pollution) originates on land from contaminants such as chemicals, nutrients, and heavy metals are carried from farms, factories, and cities by streams and rivers into our bays and estuaries — from there they travel out to sea.

Additionally, plastic debris blown in by the wind or washed in via storm drains and sewers pollutes our oceans. Plastic bags and soda cans, gets swept into sewers and storm drains and eventually out to sea, putting the sealife at risk. Turtles, birds and many other marine life can be strangled, suffocate or starve from the marine debris.

Our seas are constantly soaking up carbon pollution from the air and absorb as much as a quarter of all man-made emissions. We need to start taking better care of our planet.  

The agricultural sector is the biggest consumer of global freshwater resources, with farming and livestock production using about 70 percent of the earth’s surface water supplies. agriculture is the leading cause of water degradation. In the United States, agricultural pollution is the top source of contamination in rivers and streams, the second-biggest source in wetlands, and the third main source in lakes.

Nutrient pollution is the number-one threat to water quality worldwide and can cause algal blooms, a toxic soup of blue-green algae that can be harmful to people and wildlife. That’s got to change. The farming industry needs to begin filtering out the waste and processing the contaminants so the water supply is not polluted.

More than 80 percent of the world’s wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused, according to the United Nations. That’s got to change. In the United States, wastewater treatment facilities process about 34 billion gallons of wastewater per day.

These facilities reduce the amount of pollutants such as pathogens, phosphorus, and nitrogen in sewage, as well as heavy metals and toxic chemicals in industrial waste, before discharging the treated waters back into waterways. Most facilities are outdated and the demands to process wastewater continue to increase. More needs to be done to protect our waterways.

Without access to fresh, clean water, life itself can not exist. Waterborne pathogens, in the form of disease-causing bacteria and viruses from human and animal waste, are a major cause of illness from contaminated drinking water. Diseases spread by unsafe water include cholera, giardia, and typhoid.

What Can You Do to Protect Our Water?

  • Reduce, reuse or recycle your plastic consumption.
  • Properly dispose of chemical cleaners, oils, and non-biodegradable items.
  • Maintain your car so it doesn’t leak oil, antifreeze, or coolant.
  • If you have a yard, consider landscaping that reduces runoff and avoid applying pesticides and herbicides.
  • If you have a pet, be sure to pick up its poop.

Support the Clean Water Rule

Tell the federal government, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and your local elected officials that you support the Clean Water Rule which clarifies the Clean Water Act’s scope and protects the drinking water of one in three Americans. And get involved in the policymaking process. Our public waterways serve every American. We should all have a say in how they’re protected.

Andrew Ciccone
Andrew Ciccone


Andrew Ciccone, VP Branding & Media Strategy - Andrew's long strange marketing trip began after graduating from Syracuse University with a BS in Marketing. Andrew then developed his marketing prowess when he moved to Madison Avenue big boys Young & Rubicam, Backer Spielvogel, and Grey Advertising. He went on to get a Masters in Corporate Communications from Baruch College, then went on to start his own agency in 2011 - Hudson Valley Public Relations. Andrew has earned a reputation for creative, smart, innovative campaigns that get results. Andrew's spare time is devoted to sailing regattas, family fun and film. To date he has penned four screenplays.

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