Kids drinking dirty water

Sources of Contamination like:

  • waste water
  • waste (plastic waste …)
  • agricultural impacts (fertilizer, erosion…)
  • farming/animals
  • industry
  • geogenic impacts
  • surface run off
  • atmosphere (NOx, SO2, fin dust, micro particles )
  • mining
  • ship industry

Kind of Water Bodies

  • Oceans
  • Seas
  • Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Groundwater

Water Contamination caused by:

  1. Consumer
  2. Agriculture
  3. Industry
  4. Marine

1) Contamination caused by the Consumer
Human activities generate
a. Waste
b. Wastewater
Other kind of environmental pollutions

a. Waste
Throwaway culture has spread packaging waste worldwide
Packaging – much of it single-use food wrapping – has created a rubbish problem that now pollutes every corner of the world. Manufacturers got us into this mess, but it’s up to us to dig ourselves out.

Activist Boyan Slat – collection of plastic from the ocean

Ocean clean-up technology

Plastic waste blocks rivers

  • no drainage
  • causing floods

Plastic breaks down into tiny particles

  • called micro-plastics
  • found on shorelines around the world
  • found in fish


  • particle size <5mm
  • mainly PS, PE, PET, PE

b. Wastewater
Wastewater Pollutants and its Effects

  • Suspended solids:
    • Sludge deposits
    • Pollutant adsorption
    • Protection of pathogens
  • Nutrients:
    • Excessive algae growth
    • Toxicity to fish, (ammonia)
    • Illness in new-born infants (nitrate)
    • Pollution of groundwater
  • Pathogens:
    • Water-borne diseases
  • Non-biodegradable organic matter (pesticides, detergents, drugs,…):
    • Toxicity
    • Foam
    • Reduction of oxygen transfer (detergents)
    • Accumulation
    • Bad odour (i.e. phenols)
    • Hormonal effects
  • Metals:
    • Toxicity
    • Inhibition of biological treatment
    • Accumulation in sludge – problems if agricultural use
    • Contamination of groundwater
  • Total (inorganic) Dissolved Solids (TDS):
    • Excessive salinity – harm to plantations (irrigation)
    • Toxicity to plants (some ions)
    • Problems with soil permeability (sodium)

Sources: WWAP (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme). 2017. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017. Wastewater: The Untapped Resource. Paris, UNESCO, page 49

2. Contaminations caused by Agriculture

Crop production
Water contamination:

  • If more fertilizers are applied than crops can absorb
  • If the fertilizers are washed off the soil surface before they can be absorbed into plants
  • Excess nitrogen and phosphates can leach into groundwater, or as surface runoff into waterways
  • Nitrates and ammonia are very soluble, organic phosphates are not

Water contamination:

  • Livestock production close to water banks
    • animal waste can be easily released into the watercourse
  • Solid waste can be collected for fertilizer
    • often it isn‘t stored in contained areas
  • Food and Medicaments
    • Release of emerging pollutants

3. Contaminations caused by Industry
Examples of Industries:

  • Pulp and Paper
  • Iron and Steel
  • Mines and Qaurries
  • Food and Drinks
  • Dairy
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Textile
  • Energy

Wastewater contaminants very different from municipal wastewater

  • Large volume
  • Partially highly contaminated streams depending on industry sector

all industries need water!!
The life-cycle of a T-Shirt

4. Contaminations caused by Marine (Source: Pro Sea 2019,

Shipping and the environment
- Shipping is one of the least environmentally damaging forms of commercial transport.
- Shipping is by far the most energy efficient mode of transport, in comparison to transport by road or by air.
- Disasters with oil tankers come directly to environment.
- Most harm is done by daily operational emissions of various substances, not by accidents. Intentional and unintentional discharges of oil, anti-fouling paints, ballast water and so on….

->The International Maritime Organization concludes that, without shipping, half the world would starve and the other half would freeze (grain and oil shipping).

90.00 cargo ships worldwide


  • Marine litter (solid waste)
  • Underwater noise
  • Air emissions
  • Sewage
  • Food waste
  • Oil spillage
  • Chemicals
  • Antifouling agents
  • Invasive species (ballast water& biofouling)
  • Residual charge (e.g. cleaning after transport)
  • Loading/uploading (loss through wind)

Chemicals/microplastics in the ocean lead to bioaccumulation in the food pyramid.


  • Cargo ships need ballastwater for stability
  • Exchange of ballastwater necessary while loading/unloading

Ballastwater - Impacts of invasive species

Direct impacts
- Preying on native species
- Competing with native species for food
- Competing with native species for space
- Altering habitats

Indirect impacts
- Changing food webs
- Decreasing biodiversity

All information about Marine see