Water Pollution & Discharge

Key takeaways

  1. Contaminants - from pesticides, household products, fashion, to waste - can cause water pollution when making their way into an aquifer.

  2. In your analysis, it’s essential to assess what contaminants are released from the company and where, even though the contamination can spread far from the original polluting source.

  3. The breadth, depth, and persistence of the impact need to be evaluated in terms of the harm caused.

What it is?

Because water can dissolve substances, it is particularly vulnerable to pollution. Water pollution “occurs when harmful substances - often chemicals or microorganisms- contaminate a [body of water], degrading water quality and rendering it toxic to humans or the environment”.

Water pollution often occurs when toxic substances from farms, factories and households make their way into an aquifer.

Categories of water pollution

  • Groundwater

  • Surface water

  • Ocean water

  • Point source

  • Nonpoint source

  • Transboundary

Common sources of water pollution

  • Agricultural

  • Sewage and wastewater

  • Oil pollution

  • Radioactive substances



SDG choice

✅ SDG 6

✅ SDG 14 (see aquatic ecosystem pollution)

Impact assessment

In your analysis, you should mention where the pollution is coming from, its substance/type, and the quantity.

Describe the scale of the impact by taking into account:

1/ The breadth of the impact

  • Is the impact local, national, or global?

  • How many water bodies/ areas are concerned?

2/ The depth of the impact

  • Is the water source profoundly affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?

  • Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?

3/ The persistence of the impact

  • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

  • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?

Help readers rate the company’s impact by linking studies to the chemical/element discharged by the company and making comparisons with competitors and industry average, when relevant.

If there is a clear impact on the local aquatic ecosystem, SDG 14 is more relevant. In that case, you should head to aquatic ecosystem pollution.

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