What are the key factors that influence water quality?

Water quality is defined in terms of the chemical, physical, and biological content of water. The water quality of rivers and lakes changes with the seasons and geographic areas, even when there is no pollution present. There is no single measure that constitutes good water quality. For instance, water suitable for drinking can be used for irrigation, but water used for irrigation may not meet drinking water guidelines. Water quality guidelines provide basic scientific information about water quality parameters and ecologically relevant toxicological threshold values to protect specific water uses.

Water Quality Image

Many factors affect water quality

  • Sedimentation
  • Runoff
  • Erosion
  • Dissolved oxygen
  • pH
  • Temperature
  • Decayed organic materials
  • Pesticides
  • Toxic and hazardous substances
  • Oils, grease, and other chemicals
  • Detergents
  • Litter and rubbish

Substances present in the air affect rainfall. Dust, volcanic gases, and natural gases in the air, such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen, are all dissolved or entrapped in rain. When other substances such as sulfur dioxide, toxic chemicals, or lead are in the air, they are also collected in the rain as it falls to the ground. Rain reaches the earth's surface and, as runoff, flows over and through the soil and rocks, dissolving and picking up other substances. For instance, if the soil contains high amounts of soluble substances, such as limestone, the runoff will have high concentrations of calcium carbonate. Where the water flows over rocks high in metals, such as ore bodies, it will dissolve those metals.

Industrial, farming, mining, and forestry activities also significantly affect the quality of rivers, lakes, and groundwater. For example, farming can increase the concentration of nutrients, pesticides, and suspended sediments. Industrial activities can increase concentrations of metals and toxic chemicals, add suspended sediment, increase temperature, and lower dissolved oxygen in the water. Each of these effects can have a negative impact on the aquatic ecosystem and/or make water unsuitable for established or potential uses. We have to keep in mind that all these pollutions that we have done to Earth not only affect humans, it also severly impact all species in our ecosystem.

Another factor influencing water quality is the runoff from urban areas. It will collect debris littering the streets and take it to the receiving stream or water body. Urban runoff worsens the water quality in rivers and lakes by increasing the concentrations of such substances as nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), sediments, animal wastes (fecal coliform and pathogens), petroleum products, and road salts. Industrial, farming, mining, and forestry activities also significantly affect the quality of rivers, lakes, and groundwater. For example, farming can increase the concentration of nutrients, pesticides, and suspended sediments. Industrial activities can increase concentrations of metals and toxic chemicals, add suspended sediment, increase temperature, and lower dissolved oxygen in the water. Each of these effects can have a negative impact on the aquatic ecosystem and/or make water unsuitable for established or potential uses.

Good quality drinking water is not easy to produce given all the possible interference from the environment and man-made impediments. Good drinking water is free from disease-causing organisms, harmful chemical substances, and radioactive matter. It tastes good, is aesthetically appealing, and is free from objectionable color or odor. The guidelines for drinking water quality specify limits for substances and describe conditions that affect drinking water quality.

Nowadays we are hearing about more and more cases where the quality of water is not good enough for normal uses. The main cause of poor water quality is caused by human impacts so it is up to us to reduce these toxic impacts. Poor water quality is the reason why many of us need filtration systems to be able to feel safe about our drinking water. Municipal water is deemed safe but still has chlorine and traces of heavy metals. Drinking plenty of water is important and for better health it is even more important that the water you are drinking is purified water. While we are able to drink water from water filtration systems, other species in our ecosystem may not have the luxury to drink unpolluted water. We should keep our negative impact to our ecosystem at minimum to protect all living organism on Earth.

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