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Practical solutions by which water pollution can be reduced

Despite the wide scope of water pollution, we have many options that enable us to control this phenomenon.

How can we prevent water pollution?

 The water cycle in nature

In the previous topic, we presented the extent of water pollution and how human activities negatively affected various water bodies on Earth, whether fresh or salt water bodies, surface or groundwater, which represents an environmental, social, and economic challenge for humanity and beats the drums of "water wars".

All water on Earth has probably been recycled countless times, through nature's water cycle (the hydrological cycle). Rain falls on the ground and then flows into rivers, lakes, and oceans, and some seeps into aquifers. Then the water evaporates from these bodies of water, rises to the sky, condenses in the form of clouds, and then falls back to the ground, to continue the cycle. So, many of the water molecules you drink have likely passed through the bodies of humans or other animals.

But during this process, water can be contaminated by any kind of solid, liquid, or gaseous toxic substances. However, there are several practical solutions through which water pollution can be reduced. In this article, we will divide these solutions into two main types: community solutions implemented by states, governments, and local communities, and individual solutions that each of us can apply if we want to contribute to reducing water pollution.

First: What can states do?

  • Wastewater treatment and recycling: Domestic wastewater and industrial wastewater are some of the most prominent water pollutants. Wastewater through a number of chambers and chemical processes at water treatment plants to lessen its toxicity. Improving and maintaining wastewater treatment systems can prevent contamination from seeping into water systems and turn wastewater into a valuable clean water resource.

This process has become an accepted and reliable technical solution to address the problem of water scarcity all over the world. The World Bank highlighted one of the successful Arab experiences in this field. In a report published in 2018, under the title “Wastewater: From Waste to Resources – The Case of New Cairo,” the bank explained that Egypt resorted to the method of a partnership between the public and private sectors (PPP) to establish the New Cairo Wastewater Plant, which can treat up to To 250,000 cubic meters of wastewater per day, explaining that the treated water is directed to agricultural operations, which reduces the demand for freshwater needed for agriculture. The natural fertilizer produced from the water is also sold to cement factories to be used as fuel instead of coal, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Improve irrigation and agricultural practices: The US Environmental Protection Agency warns that excessive irrigation affects water quality by causing soil erosion and transporting nutrients, pesticides, and heavy metals into streams and rivers. It can also cause the buildup of selenium, a toxic metal that can be Harmful to the reproduction of waterfowl.

Agriculture - which consumes more than 70% of the freshwater supply - also plays a major role in water pollution, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Farmers discharge large amounts of agrochemicals, organic matter, veterinary drug waste, sediment, and saline wastewater into water bodies. Agriculture is the main cause of river and stream pollution, the second biggest cause of wetland contamination, and the third biggest cause of lake pollution in the United States.

Agricultural practices that contribute to reducing the risk of water pollution include identifying and improving the quality, quantity, and timing of fertilizers and pesticides, and establishing protection zones along water courses within farms, as well as the application of irrigation systems that reduce the flow of water returning to rivers.

Additionally efficient at lowering the concentration of pollutants entering waterways are plant barriers installed along rivers.

  • Reducing plastic waste: Plastic, which takes decades or centuries to decompose, poses a serious threat to water resources. Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans from coastal countries. Microplastics have been detected in waters around the world, including rivers, lakes, and oceans. Indigestible microplastics end up in the water we drink and the marine organisms we eat.

The best solutions in this area are to enact legislation that bans the use of single-use plastic products, and mandates the use of reusable bags and bottles, in addition to improving waste management and recycling systems.

How can we prevent water pollution?

One of the recent attempts to improve this situation came from the Coca-Cola Company, which announced last month that it would conduct a practical test to sell its products in paper bottles, as part of a long-term strategy aimed at completely stopping the use of plastic in its bottles, after it was widely criticized for continuing to occupy the first place. Globally, for several consecutive years, it has ranked among the companies that contribute the most to plastic pollution.

  • Rainwater management: When rainwater flows along sidewalks and streets, it picks up harmful pollutants and carries them to storm drains, streams, and rivers. Rainwater can be treated through a range of different processes, most notably sand filtration, electrocoagulation, and advanced oxidation processes.
  • Wetland reclamation: The Netherlands experience is among the successful international experiences for managing and improving water quality by restoring the physical, chemical, and biological properties of wetlands.

Water expert Mahitab Al-Ramal says, "The rational management of water between the public and private sectors and civil society, and the existence of elected and independent regional water councils to decentralize barriers and watercourses, have contributed to the success of the Dutch experience in water quality management."

Al-Rimal, a master's researcher at the Delft Institute for Water Studies of the United Nations, indicated the Netherlands' interest in reclamation and rehabilitation of wetlands - which is called the "college of the world", given that it purifies water before it is thrown into the seas and oceans - through the policy (Room for the river), which aimed to transform agricultural lands adjacent to the Rhine into natural lands again, in order to raise the efficiency of the natural sedimentation and filtration process, as well as the bioremediation and decomposition processes of pollutants.

The United States is also implementing a long-term plan to reclaim the “Everglades” wetlands, which are located in southern Florida, and whose area previously amounted to more than three million acres, but it has lost more than half of this area since the nineteenth century as a result of its conversion to agricultural land. Or residential and the implementation of many flood control projects. The plan, which is the largest hydrological restoration project ever undertaken in the United States and passed by Congress in 2000, has an initial cost of $10.5 billion, with a timeline of more than 35 years.

Second: What can you do?

Confronting the problem of water pollution does not depend only on governmental procedures and measures. Each of us is responsible in some way for this pollution, and each of us is also responsible for preventing it, based on the idea that the best way to reduce pollution is to control it from the source. So, here are some simple things we can do ourselves to reduce pollution:

  • Dispose of oils and chemicals the right way: Every day, millions of people throw cooking oil, used motor oil, pesticides, toxic chemicals, grease, and cleaning materials down the drain or down the toilet. Although it disappears before our eyes, it accumulates in other places and causes clogging of sewage pipes or pollution of waterways for a long time.

  • Using reusable plastic products, or replacing them with paper or cloth products.

– Use the least amount of detergents and bleaches when washing clothes or dishes, and avoid using detergents that contain phosphates, as phosphates lead to algae growth and kill fish by reducing oxygen in the water.

  • Reducing meat consumption: Although this may sound strange, raising animals and livestock consumes large amounts of water and is also one of the most important causes of global warming. Oftentimes, the antibiotics you get and the waste from them end up in groundwater and rivers.

Avoid throwing trash next to bodies of water: If you are near a lake, river, or ocean, try not to throw any kind of trash in or near water; Because even if you throw a candy wrapper on the beach, the tide will eventually catch it and wash it into the water.

Of course, there are many other practices that cannot be mentioned here that may help reduce water pollution, such as joining water protection associations, helping to clean beaches and rivers, and others.

In the end…

We started the first article in this series with the words of Benjamin Franklin: “When the well runs dry, we shall know the value of water.” We can conclude this article with the words of the British poet Westin Hugh Auden: “Thousands have lived without love, and none without water.”