Examining Water Pollution in Europe: the State of Emergency

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Table of contents

  1. Some Factors That Can Render Water Unusable
  2. Notable Fields That Contribute to Water Pollution
  3. Argumentative Essay About Water Pollution in Europe

Water Pollution is the change in the quality of water such that it is no longer possible to use it for its primary purposes (drinking, irrigating fields, and being the environment for marine life). Even change in small factors, can lead to huge consequences, rendering life in water impossible and water unsuitable for drinking. The problem of water pollution is revealed in this argumentative essay because we cannot continue to live with our eyes closed. There is an urgent problem in Europe that will have a huge impact on most people.

Water is one of the essential components for survival of a living organism. Because of its importance, all early civilization were based around the availability of water. From Mesopotamia and Indus River Valley to more modern examples of London, Saints-Petersburg and Venice, humanity lived near a water source; but not just any water source – a river – a water source filled with fresh water. However, our ability to drink fresh water was only a secondary reason to settle near rivers; the primary reason was our ability to create canals to irrigate fields and use the artificial wetlands to grow plants.

Our close proximity to water made us study its properties and allowed us to use water to its full potential. We made snares, so we can fish; we taught ourselves how it flows, so we made watermills to do our work for us; we learnt how it displaces, so we built ships for transportation purposes. With each passing day, our reliance on water became stronger. However, with the advancement of technology, our reliance on water became less apparent. Electricity slowly replaced water when we needed force and oil replaced water as a necessity for transport. Today, the most important use of water is to fulfill our basic need to drink, irrigate the fields as well as create an environment for marine life. Which is why water pollution is a major, global problem, which we should take every measure to stop.

Some Factors That Can Render Water Unusable

Excess of Nutrients in water. Excess amount of nutrients in water allows for an abnormal amount of algae in water. Overgrowth of algae in water (algal blooms) cause water to be toxic (water drunk from such source can be lethal to humans and animals) as well as create dead zones (inhospitable environment for marine life). Dead zones in particular, can devastates entire food chains, destroying animal life in the affected area. 

Excess of biodegradable matter. Excess of biodegradable matter in water promotes reproduction of microorganisms. Increase in population of microorganisms leads to death of aerobic microorganisms and increase in population of anaerobic microorganisms (since the water source eventually runs out of oxygen to support the life of so many microorganisms). Anaerobic microorganisms create harmful toxins (ammonia), which makes water unsuitable for drinking. 

Spillage of Oil. Oil, in its pure form, is harmful when consumed for both animals and humans. Oil is the crucial ingredient of many aspects of our life (petrol, plastic and medicine). One of the methods of oil transportation are oil tankers. However, neither humans, nor machineries are invulnerable to failure; a mistake of a tanker’s captain or a malfunction in the ship can be a cause of a catastrophe – an oil bloom. Oil spills create dead zones, make water undrinkable and can have any number of unpredictable negative consequences. 

Excess of Chemicals. Many household items (dish liquid, shampoo, detergents, etc.) are made of toxic chemicals and are not safe for consumption and drinking, but can easily get into natural water sources, if proper sewer filters are not in place. With the huge amounts of such chemicals that a city can produce, this would have a drastic negative impact on the surrounding environment.

Groundwater Pollution. Fertilizers and pesticides are often applied to plants to increase their growth rate and to protect them from bugs. The rains later wash the chemicals used on plants into groundwater (water that is beneath the surface of earth). Groundwater can then find its way into other water reservoirs. 

Atmospheric Pollution. Water and air are closely interconnected. Because of the water cycle, pollution of air can easily decrease the quality of water and vice versa. Which is why it is important to understand that both problems should be solved in combination.

Water Pollution is caused by an anthropomorphic impact. It has started with the advent of industrial revolution and progressed over the last 200 years (last 60-70 years had a very large effect in particular). Most of the products we enjoy today contribute to water pollution in some way.

Notable Fields That Contribute to Water Pollution

Transportation. Cars, planes and ships all use oil as fuel; as it was mentioned above, oil spillage is dangerous for the environment. Not only that, air pollution that is caused by such vehicles can also have a negative effect on water through the cycle of water.

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Sewage. If the maintenance of sewers is not done correctly, the sewage, food waste, feces and sludge will spill into the water source. Food wastes can become the excess nutrients to start the spread of algae, or serve its purpose as biodegradable matter  and contribute to the increase of population in anaerobic organisms. Certain household items can also produce chemical pollution.

Industries. If the filtering of an industrial factory is not maintained correctly (due to mistakes or negligence), chemicals used in production can easily spread in the surrounding water environments causing chemical pollution. Waste outlets of steel mills, petroleum refineries, chemical plants, paper mill, metal processing and plating works, as well as coke plants can lead to chemicals being dumped into nearest water source. The chemicals dumped could include sulphur (harmful to marine life), asbestos, lead, mercury (can cause various health problems in both humans and animals), nitrates and phosphates (can lead to algal blooms).

Agriculture. As mentioned above, fertilizers and pesticides used to protect our plants cause groundwater pollution. Also sometimes, unconsumed and spoiled goods are disposed by dumping them in the water sources, which causes eutrophication (excess of nutrients). Also food processing plants as well as dairies use waste outlets that can also lead to eutrophication.

Human Negligence. When taking a vacation on a beach, it is not an uncommon behavior for some to dump their garbage in the water, or leave it the beach. While in a single case, it is not really that dangerous, a thousand of people taking a part in the problem will have its effect.

The effects of water pollution are severe. The dead zones from water pollution has caused an extinction of numerous species of marine and animal life, as well as destroyed and rebuilt entire food chains. For humans, water pollution is responsible for various health problems diseases that can affect every part of your body, be it your digestive track, brain or heart. Over the years of research, many links have been made between water pollution and cancer. In 2017, a study found that around 9 million deaths every year are caused by pollution.

Importance of solving water pollution cannot be overstated. Currently there are several ways to reduce water pollution available. Laws and regulations to protect water sources were implemented first all the way in 1948. Since then we came a long way in improving the condition of water supplies, however more work needs to be done to prevent pollution. The laws and regulations should include:

  1. Increase in taxes for industries that go over a certain acceptable amount of waste disposal
  2. Fines for companies that are negligent in the maintenance of their filtering systems
  3. Increase in taxes for electric companies that use coal and oil as the primary source of electricity
  4. Decrease in taxes for industries that use clean, “green” energy.
  5. The money from the increased taxes should be used to create water-cleaning facilities.

Further advancement of “Green” technology. As technology that produces renewable energy becomes more and more efficient, clean energy will slowly over take oil as the primary source of fuel. This will allow electric cars get an edge over petroleum cars, making them less expensive as well as more comfortable to use. With petroleum cars, being used less and less, oil would become less desired. The carbon emissions from cars would become non-existent, helping protect both air and water from pollution. Oil leaks would become less common as well, since transportation of oil between countries would become less desired. Another factor that should be considered is recycling. With recycling of paper and plastic, the problem of biodegradable and chemical waste shoulddecrease drastically.

Improvement of disposal technologies. Sewers as well as factories would benefit from improvements in filter technology. With the overall improvement of filters, their efficiency in cleaning water from waste should become more apparent and reduce the problem. Factories as well might benefit from the technology becoming cheaper and more accessible.

Improvement of Agricultural Sector. With improvement of technology used to grow plants, the fertilizers and pesticides might become less toxic for the environment, or even be replaced by some new, cleaner technology. This would reduce the amount of groundwater pollution drastically, which would make water in the wells a lot cleaner.

Better Education on the Problem of Water Pollution. The problem of water pollution has been discussed in public a lot, however many people are still unaware of the problem and we can go a long way to educate everyone of the problem. If people are more educated, they would learn to limit the use of plastic bags, detergents, shampoos and other household items that contribute to the problem of water pollution, as well as reduce the amount of garbage that is left outside.

Argumentative Essay About Water Pollution in Europe

Now that we understand the problem from all its facets, let us discuss the problem of water pollution in Europe. Europe’s consumption of oil is relatively low when you compare it to other regions. In 2017, Europe was responsible for using 587 megatons of oil products, or about 18% of all of the world’s consumption. This statistic is rather good, but can be improved with integration of more electric cars and decrease in use of plastic. Europe is also good when it comes to renewable energy. The Europe’s target goal for 2020 is 20% of all energy being produced by renewable sources. Which is a lot, when considering that in 2004 the amount of energy produced by renewable sources was around 8.5%. This is a growth rate of 11.5% in 16 years. However, more work needs to be done, to protect the environment from air and water pollution. By the year 2030, Europe 2020 plan estimates that the total amount of renewable energy would rise to 27%, which is good.

However, the situation is very different when it comes to the state of water sources in Europe. A study by European Environmental Agency (EEA) shows grim results. In the study, EEA has evaluated 130000 water sources and have found that over 60% of lakes, rivers and coasts have not met ecological or chemical pollution standards. The worst performing parts of Europe were Germany and Hungary (around 90% of water sources were not up to standards). The best performing regions were Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

The paper sites agriculture, industrial sites, mining areas, waste storages, poor wastewater treatment and habitat degradation as reasons for such poor state of the waters. A solution to this problem was proposed by European Parliament, with a large directive called “Water Framework Directive”. It encompasses in itself smaller directives such as:

  • Groundwater directive. Groundwater directive has an objective of finding all the groundwater sources, monitoring them for trends in pollution and then fixing the problem if any arise.
  • Drinking Water Directive. The goal of the directive is to sample waters that are intended for human consumption and use the data to improve water standards, so they are up to par with the latest recommendation of World Health Organization. Another benefit of this directive would be a reduction in production of plastic water bottles.
  • Bathing Water Directive. Bathing Water Directive aims to inform public of bathing water classification, as well as monitor the water for specific bacteria that could be a threat to health of the citizens of Europe. If the bacteria is found, necessary action would be taken to purify the water.
  • Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. The idea of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is to negate the effect of urban wastewater discharges as well as industrial wastewaters. It promotes the control and disposal of sewage sludge.
  • Nitrates Directive. Nitrates directive addresses the problem of nutrient excess by monitoring the vulnerable nitrate zones and taking action in case of an increase in the nitrate in the waters.

As you can see from the report by the European parliament, most of the problems that are described in the paper such as excess of nutrients, biological matter and chemicals are addressed in their directives. However, those directives would not be enough to solve such a problem of such complexity. To solve water pollution, we would have to address economic, political and social problems as well. However that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try and Europe at the moment is doing its best to solve the problems.

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