What is Water Pollution?

According to Wikipedia, “water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater). This form of environmental degradation occurs when pollutants are directly or indirectly discharged into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds” [2]. It’s pretty safe to say that water is a necessity for human life. It covers seventy percent of the earth’s surface. Meanwhile, an equal amount of waste is getting dumped into our clean drinking water each year. This pollution isn’t something new though, it’s been prevalent in human society for quite sometime now.

“For centuries, humans unknowingly contaminated sources of drinking water with raw sewage, which led to diseases such as cholera and typhoid” [1]. This pattern of contamination only increased quite heavily with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Factories soon began dumping their waste directly into rivers and streams which in turn would flow into oceans, harming marine life.

There are many causes of water pollution, including but not limited to: marine dumping, radioactive waste, oil pollution, and underground storage leakages. The causes of water pollution are described more in detail on our page, “Causes of Water Pollution.

Water pollution also has many effects on humans and the environment. Fertilizers, heavy metals, and solid waste all come together to harm our environment. These pollutants, along with pesticides that make it into our drinking water, can damage our nervous system and even cause cancer. These issues are described more thoroughly on our page, “Water Pollution Effects.

One thing we, as a society, need to focus on is the way the problem of water pollution is communicated to one another. According to Anja Kollmuss and Julian Agyeman, it is believed that the more people know and understand about environmental issues, such as water pollution, the more likely they will be to help solve the problem.

Within experiments done on this webpage, we take a look at whether or not the language of a paragraph matters when trying to communicate risk to an individual. This was followed through two ways; first simple and technical language paragraphs were given to individuals and then were rated (on a scale 1-5) on how severe the risk and issue of water pollution was. Secondly, the two paragraphs were given again, but this time, people were asked to complete questions about the passage to see if they fully understood the material.  The results of these studies can be found on the two pages of this website, Experiment 1 and Experiment 2.


1. “Water and Air Pollution.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/water-and-air-pollution>.

2. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2015. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_pollution>.

3. Anja Kollmuss & Julian Agyeman (2002) Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior?, Environmental. Education Research, 8:3, 239-260