How do companies' impact aquatic ecosystems through Water Pollution?
Companies can cause water pollution in a variety of ways, from the disposal of toxic chemicals, food waste products, and toxic sludge to the leakage of metals and oil spills. Furthermore, pollutants such as fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural activities, animal waste, and excess nutrients can also harm water quality. Finally, heat pollution - which is caused by a company's impact on the temperature of water bodies - should not be overlooked when assessing related impacts.
At Impaakt, we capture the related impacts through the topic of Water Pollution.
👉Note: Impact topics are a set of social and environmental impacts identified by the Impaakt Team to provide an additional layer of complex insight into measuring current impact. They range from general themes like Greenhouse Gas emissions and Job Creation to industry-specific topics such as Gentrification and Water Pollution. Check our Frameworks section for more information.
The main causes of water pollution are:
Agricultural runoff 🚱
Agricultural practices such as the use of pesticides and fertilizers can lead to water contamination. Furthermore, organic livestock waste, antibiotics, silage effluents, and processing wastes from plantation crops can also adversely affect water quality.
Industrial discharge of untreated wastewater
Despite the presence of environmental laws and regulations, many industries - particularly in emerging countries - are still illegally discharging untreated wastewater into water bodies or exceeding the established limits.
Dumping of industrial waste into landfills 🗑
Industrial effluent, which may contain toxic substances and sludge, is often disposed of in landfills. This practice can lead to leaching into waterbodies, resulting in serious damage to aquatic ecosystems.
Oil leaks and Oil Spills
Accidental oil spills and leaks are one of the main causes of water pollution, with just one liter of oil capable of contaminating up to a million liters of water. This type of contamination can have severe repercussions on aquatic ecosystems, including damage to fish habitats, disruption in food webs, and reduced biodiversity.
The main impacts of water pollution include:
Excess nutrients from agricultural runoff, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can lead to an algal bloom. This process involves an overgrowth of algae which blocks out sunlight from reaching the bottom layers, leading to the death of aquatic plants due to lack of light. Subsequently, the algae will die and be decomposed by bacteria. However, this process further depletes oxygen levels in the water which can ultimately result in the death of marine animals.
Bioaccumulation/Loss of Species/Destruction of Aquatic Ecosystems 🧪
The introduction of contaminants into aquatic ecosystems can have several detrimental effects. For example, certain substances may block the respiratory pathways of marine animals, while others contain persistent components which accumulate in their bodies and lead to reproductive impairments. This can also reduce their ability to adapt to other environmental stresses, leading to mass mortality in some cases.
Oil spills are particularly damaging for underwater habitats as the oil floats on the surface and prevent sunlight from reaching the bottom layers, causing plants to die due to lack of light. Furthermore, these spills can drain oxygen from the sea and cause harm through inhalation or ingestion by aquatic species.
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