One of the most significant resources that every individual necessitates is fresh water. Due to this reason, when the clean water is polluted, it becomes harmful to individual's health. Moreover, it also becomes devastating to the environment. Most of the time, before such water is delivered to homes it has to be treated in order to remove some chemicals, for instance, silt and soot. Current paper aims at analyzing and evaluating how to maintain clean water supplies. In addition, it also explores the challenges that make it difficult to maintain clean waters, for example, climate change, untreated sewage and toxic and wetland degradation. The essay also points out direct and indirect environmental values that affect maintenance of clean water and the policy analysis and recommendation of the issues.
Protecting water resources does not only mean protecting the waters, but also the animals and plants whose habitat is in the water. Countries depend on clean waters that are collected from lakes, estuaries and rivers (Massoud et al., 2010). Therefore, it is significant to ensure that such water source supplies are always protected and kept clean. Clean and affordable water is very critical to the well-being and the health of every individual. Human beings require clean water for consumption. As a result, all water sources must be kept clean always. With much concern, water is outgrowing the capacity of most water supply systems.
Challenges to Maintaining Clean Water Supplies
First, climate change greatly affects weather patterns, as well as the world ecosystem. In particular, it poses serious challenges and problems when dealing with water supply. Climate change has profound effects on societies and their access to clean water. In general, climate refers to the changes that occur in precipitation, temperature, as well as weather intensity (Wei et al., 2014). According to climate experts, global warming increases the levels of greenhouses especially in the atmosphere. Although certain levels of greenhouse gases are significant in terms of maintaining earth's temperature, while higher temperatures cause climate change. There are many ways regarding how global warming interferes with water sources.
Second, is a change in the annual rainfall. Some areas experiences lower precipitation followed by an increase in the frequency of drought. Oppositely, other areas experience higher precipitation which leads to increase in the frequency of floods. Nevertheless, variations in stream flow also result from changes in the rate and amount of snow that melts in areas around the mountain. Besides, sea levels also rise (Wei et al., 2014). Global warming contributes much to the melting that occurs in polar ice caps leading to a rise in sea levels. When the sea levels rise, saltwater interferes with fresh water supplies, making it unsafe for human consumption. In addition, floods cause problems to water infrastructure systems, therefore, rendering them inoperable or causing operational disruptions.
Third, is a decrease in raw water quality. When temperatures are high, the cases of more algal blooms become more frequent, and it introduces poor taste, toxins and other odor compounds within the water sources. Equally, high intensity rainfalls increase the rates of runoff from agricultural land, therefore, resulting in higher levels of microbes, pesticides, debris and nutrients in water sources. When the quality of water is insufficient, such changes also affect every nation and compromises water infrastructure. To be specific, buried pipes are prone to cracking due to great soil movement caused by droughts and flooding (Wei et al., 2014). When such pipe leaks, unnecessary water is lost in the process of compromising water quality.
Untreated Sewage and Toxic
Sewage comprises of liquid wastes that contain a mixture of wastewater and human waste from non-industrial human activities, for instance, cleaning, bathing and washing. In poorer areas, it is easy to get untreated sewage and toxic substances that are dumped into local waterways. These untreated sewage poses major risks to human health, since it carries waterborne pathogens that in most cases cause serious illness. Moreover, untreated sewage and toxics destroy aquatic ecosystems. Therefore, they threaten human livelihoods, especially when the associated nutrient loading depletes oxygen. Biological oxygen demand within the water levels are too low to sustain life (Blacksmith Institute, 2014).
According to World Health Organization (WHO), in the year 2008, an average of 2.6 billion individuals lacked access to good sanitation facilities. The lowest coverage is within sub-Saharan Africa ranges (37%), Eastern Asia (45%) and Southern Asia (38%). In most cases, sewage intentionally discharges to waterways through open defecation or pipes or unintentionally when it rains. When individuals use these waterways for bathing, washing or drinking, the chances of being exposed to associated pathogen are high. Most of the pathogens live for extended periods of time within the aquatic environments (Blacksmith Institute, 2014). As a result, human become ill through ingesting contaminated water through getting it in eyes, ears or skin or rather preparing food with contaminated water.
In another circumstance, human beings are prone to illness, in case they consume contaminated water droplets. Life-threatening human pathogens that are carried by untreated sewage include dysentery, typhoid and cholera. Other diseases that emerge due to sewage contamination of water include hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and intestinal nematode infections. WHO approximates that nearly 1.5 million deaths that are unpreventable result from unsafe water supplies, hygiene and inadequate sanitation (Blacksmith Institute, 2014). Most of the individuals affected by such deaths are young children. Around 860,000 children who are below the age of five are approximated to die annually due to the indirect and direct malnutrition or underweight, which is associated with repeated intestinal, nematode infections or diarrhea.
Wetland Loss and Degradation
Wetland loss and degradation ruin clean water supplies. However, several methods are used in protecting water sources from being contaminated. It is advisable to fence off the overused trails and livestock pasturing areas in order to protect rivers and streams. Traditionally, wetlands were viewed as dumping and filling sites. Refuse and other waste materials such as stoves, tire, bikes and other garbage contaminates water. Therefore, it makes it harmful for human consumption, for instance, washing, drinking and bathing (Massoud et al., 2010). It is important that individuals are taught about the benefits that come along with the protection of wetlands. It is essential for communities to unite and participate in removing all the refuse that can endanger individuals' lives in streams and other sources.
Most people also dispose lawn clippings, as well as other yard wastes into wetlands. It is aimed at filling up the wetlands and probably to extend garden areas. These fillings are also used in order to maintain control flooding. Dumping yard waste also causes changes, especially in the wetland's chemical balance. Even though yard wastes comprise natural materials that decompose eventually, they tend to damage wetland in the process of decomposition (Massoud et al., 2010). After decomposing, they release nutrients and make use of oxygen essential for aquatic life, therefore resulting in a stagnant and smelly wetland. It is advisable to decompose yard waste.
Storm water supplies the significant water amount in order to maintain wetlands in urban areas. In most cases, storm water directly drains into lakes, streams or wetland. Most of the time such storm water is not always clean and it may be harmful. Notably, it is significant to ensure that the storm water is clean prior to finding its way to the surface water sources. The areas around drive away and garages are the common sources of storm water pollutants that drain into rivers. Septic systems that contribute to pollution in wetlands are hazardous to water sources (Massoud et al., 2010). Drain field should not be green in color and have an awful smell during rainy seasons. Off-road vehicles such as terrain vehicles, mountain and dirt bikes destroy vegetation, wildlife habitats and soils in wetland, as well as it the protective buffer strip. Motorboats also disrupt wildlife, as well as wetlands located alongside the rivers, estuaries and rivers shores. Boat wakes have also caused adverse shore erosion in areas that are heavy recreational.
Direct/Indirect Environmental Values Impacted by Climate Change
Clean water is indispensable to life. However, climate change threatens water availability at sustainable quantities and qualities. Today, the situation with mountings evidences that the world is experiencing a period of climatic change caused by increasing greenhouse gases and atmospheric concentrations. Nonetheless, one direct environmental values impacted by climate change is groundwater resources. The most notable issue is the fluctuations in the surface water levels. Worldwide, there is a decrease in the quality of ground water supplies (Kumar, 2012). Groundwater provides most of the water supply for agriculture and human consumption globally. It has led to an indirect impact on governments and water managers who are in the forefront to maintain the water supply. The two bodies recognize that the groundwater is inseparable from the society and the landscape. Therefore, they take measures to anticipate, minimize or prevent impacts of climatic changes, as well as mitigate the adverse effects. The management of the hydrological cycle is imperative in maintaining clean water supply.
Climate change directly influences precipitation, which affects ground water and ultimately impacting aquifers. Climate change in most instances affect groundwater, which potentially impacts the nature and interacts with the surface water systems. The relationship between loss of fresh groundwater resources and climate change is crucial in understanding the characteristics of diverse regions. Hydrological processes, as well as the physical characteristics of the soil profile and land surface influence groundwater recharge. Water is fundamentally stored in the soil, though climate changes affect the soil's water-holding capacity. Nonetheless, climatic changes affect the rate of evaporation, runoff generation and groundwater recharge. Globally, the climatic changes directly stimulate the moisture content of soil. Changes in the climate affect the characteristics of soil, mostly through cracking and water-logging. It affects the soil moisture storage properties. The intensity and frequency of freezing influence the water-holding and infiltration of soil (Kumar, 2012).
Direct/Indirect Environmental Values Impacted by Untreated Sewage
The direct impacts of untreated sewage are safety problems and rural health, especially for people working and living in areas that use contaminated water. Contaminated products from the untreated sewage use subsequently infect animals and humans through consumption. Damage to clean water pipes may lead to untreated sewage entering the water pipes. The main freshwater pollution is the discharge of untreated sewage (Kumar, 2012). Sewage comprises of domestic and industrial waste, as well as rain water run-off. Proper collection, treatment and also discharge of the sewage help improve and protect water quality. Nevertheless, without a suitable treatment, sewage waste damages the water, environment and creates health problems.
Untreated or partially treated sewage is sometimes discharged to rivers, canals and reservoirs that supply water. Sewage contains organic matter, chemicals and bacteria. The most direct impact of untreated waste to the environment is the adverse effects of freshwater bodies. More so, humans indirectly consume fish and other seafood that is poisoned by the untreated waste. Continuous untreated sewage makes the sea water oxygen level very low for the survival of aquatic life (Kumar, 2012). The reason is that bacteria present in environmental waters uses the oxygen. The organic substance in untreated sewage directly harms the environment. However, indirect use of water mixed with untreated sewage poses health risks. The potential for health risks is great as the user is unaware of sewage being present in the water.
Direct/Indirect Environmental Values Impacted by Wetland Loss and Degradation
Many people convert original wetlands into farmland. There are many activities that result in wetland degradation and loss. Most of the times, it is a human activity that causes wetland degradation. However, other pollutants such as sediments, low dissolved oxygen, salinity and pesticides cause degradation. Wetlands have the capacity of improving water quality. More so, wetlands act as a natural filter and traps pollutants. It is, therefore, a water purifier and loss of wetlands greatly impacts clean water supplies. Today, wetlands suffer functional degradation threatened by hydrology, water and air pollutants (Kumar, 2012). Wetland loss directly affects vegetation and soil properties. The vegetation in wetlands reduces overflowing of rainwater. Thus, the degradation indirectly causes flooding. What is more, without wetland vegetation, there is a possibility of soil erosion. Additionally, wetlands impact the environmental values as their loss affects biological diversity. It acts as a habitat for different types of species. People use wetlands as a source of living. Degradation of the wetland leads to lack of reeds, which are useful to handicrafts and as building materials. Consequently, the loss of wetland leads to unproductive biological ecosystem in the world as it does not allow nutrient recycling.
Policy Recommendation and Analysis
Water use is rapidly outgrowing the capacity of the sources and supply systems. Policies are inevitable to address the main challenges to maintaining clean water supplies. One of the policies is environmental policy that has regulations, laws and mechanisms concerning environmental sustainability and issues (Howard, 2007). Some of the environmental regulations are the Clean Water Act, EPA and land and water policies. Managing and maintaining clean water supplies from the source to the taps requires much coordination and knowledge. In Canada it is a provincial, territorial, municipal and federal government's responsibility to ensure that clean water supply is available. The water authorities must have benchmarks to maintain the water quality. The benchmarks and policies on drinking water need to have guidelines for testing, determining and analyzing the safety of water. Policies have to follow a preventive risk and management approach. It will help in identifying all potential and known hazards to clean water supplies.
One policy recommendation to the issues impacting maintenance of clean water supplies is the Clean Water Act that aims at restoring and protecting the nation's waters. It is a national concern to have principal laws to protect clean water supplies. It is a major concern that untreated sewage, destruction of wetlands, industrial and toxic discharges increase. The Act is primarily required to control water pollution by use of local and state efforts. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act is continuously fighting to restore and maintain the physical, biological and chemical integrity of the nation's water of America (Howard, 2007). The Act ensures that the United States waters are fishable, swimmableand can be a source for clean water.
The standards for quality of water use scientific and regulatory foundations for policy analysis and recommendations on water problems. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has policies that define water quality, targets and limits for water. EPA uses the standards to determine the cleaning of water, discharge of pollutants and water protection. In the United States, EPA reviews and approves state standards. It also provides scientific and technical support for standard development (Howard, 2007).
The policies of land and national water are consistent regarding climate change. The water policy addresses a number of climate change adaptation elements as part of disaster management and water resources development. Water management and climate change are among the most important issues facing the world today. Policies for adapting and mitigating climate change strongly affect the maintenance of clean water supply. The policy needs to have cleaner energy measures to reduce emissions intensity. The policy has to advocate people to switch to low emission sources. Other measures are energy efficiency and land-use change (Howard, 2007). The policies impact water services and resources as they balance the supply and demand of clean water. The policies have a positive impact on the environment and the community.
Social, Political, Economic, and Environmental Pros/Cons of Environmental Policy
Today, the political debate on environmental policy is a contentious issue. Governments are trying to introduce environmental regulation and legislation. To politicians it is a burden to the state due to regulation sensitive to business concerns. However, the federal environmental regulation under the Clean Air Act has numerous adjustments to try and reduce the economic impact on the states. They feel the political weight of regulated interests of industries (Cohen, 2006). Most of the times, state environmental regulations are imposed with considerable compromise. Politicians fear the anti-business labels.
Driving efforts for environmental control over decades is strangling the economy and competitiveness, since it is not cost-free. Environmental regulations impose costs, hinder a country's ability to grow and leads to a slow productivity growth. More so, environmental regulation is ruining many companies. Environmental regulation is an increasingly important issue for firms as it is affecting competitiveness. Industries are constructing a resource-based view and manufacturing strategy that affects the firm's environmental technology. In other instances, companies pull back from bankruptcy due to the environmental efficiency (Cohen, 2006). However, there is a positive side of environmental policy as it has resulted in green companies. Protecting the environment by use of policies also spurs the economic growth.
Environmental regulation reduces a country's net profit. As a consequence, the social well-being of workers is compromised. A change in pollution-intensive goods may lead to trade positions that may have several effects on workers. Environmental regulation also results in closure of some companies. A country is then forced to import goods that become expensive for citizens to purchase. Thus, the situation reduces the standard of living for many people (Cohen, 2006). In other instances, industries affected by the policies employ less educated workers. As a consequence, the elite labor force becomes unnecessary and it is impossible for them to get jobs.
Environmentally the implementation of the policies and regulations help ensure industries develop new ways of reducing pollution. Environmental regulations have positively impacted the environment. Strict environmental policies result in increase in innovations. The Environmental Protection Authority is an organization aiming at improving the quality of air and water. The national and local governments control the emission of harmful pollutants and concentration in the environment (Cohen, 2006). Regulation offers guidelines and sets pollution limits and also determine compliance. Regulation ensures the environment is clean as it prevents water and air pollution. Industries and the community recognize environmental responsibilities and requirements through policies, laws and regulations.
In conclusion, it is essential to ensure that water supply sources such as estuaries, rivers and lakes are protected. In this manner, human beings will be in a position to consume clean water and also reduce the chances of endangering themselves to diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. Despite the adverse challenges that are involved in the process of maintaining clean water supply such as climate change, wetland degradation and untreated sewages and toxics, it is advisable to make concrete efforts in ensuring that they are controlled. The environment is greatly affected by the three challenges impacting clean water supplies. Policy recommendations are crucial in the maintenance of the environment as it ensures that people get adequate and clean water supply.