Water Pollution Facts for Kids

Water pollution in the United States and worldwide can be harmful in a number of ways. It affects the environment, the air, marine life, and humans too. In addition, it is something that can and should be prevented. 

Water pollution creates unsafe water for all and can have frightening effects on plant, animal, and human life and health. These effects can be huge.

Many different things can cause water pollution, such as industrial waste from plants, oil spills, and overuse of plastic. The effects of water pollution can result in a catastrophe and can lead to things such as unclean drinking and bathing water, disease, and even infant deaths. 

Read on to find out some interesting water pollution facts, its causes and effects, and ways to reduce it in our world.

What is Water Pollution?

Water pollution is when things such as toxic chemicals, waste, or other substances make a body of water harmful to aquatic life and animals who live in or near that water, to humans, and to the environment. Water pollution can happen to bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, or the world’s oceans. One of the biggest bodies of water that is affected by water pollution is the Mississippi River. As of 2010, this river had 12.7 million pounds of waste dumped into it. 

Polluted water can also cause issues with the water cycle of nature. Water pollution affects and lowers water quality, which can make water toxic to humans or to the environment at large. It also makes water unusable for everyday activities like drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning, or swimming. Pollutants, or things that pollute water, can include chemicals, trash, bacteria, and parasites. 

Causes of Water Pollution

There are several different reasons for water pollution. Below we’ll explore some major causes:

Industrial Waste

Many industrial sites, such as power plants, produce toxic chemicals and other harmful substances. A lot of these sites don’t have proper waste management systems in place. That means that a lot of the waste goes into fresh water. Industrial waste that comes from agricultural sites, mines, or manufacturing plants can go into rivers, streams, or other bodies of water that connect to the sea. The toxic chemicals in this waste not only makes the water unsafe for humans, but is dangerous for water dwelling creatures as well.

Marine Dumping

Marine dumping is the process of dumping garbage into ocean water. It’s a sad fact that some human activities, like marine dumping, are responsible for water contamination, or dirtying of the water. Most of this garbage can take 2 to 200 years to completely decompose. 

Sewage and Wastewater

Things such as harmful chemicals and bacteria can be found in sewage and wastewater even after it has been treated. Tons of sewage and wastewater is released from every household. That water then mixes in with another body of water or ocean water. The bacteria found in the polluted water can cause disease in both animals and humans, making the once clean water unhealthy. Wastewater plants that release treated water can be harmful to the animals that live in bodies of water such as bays or rivers. The polluted water causes dead zones to exist. Dead zones are areas where there is little to no oxygen for marine life.

Oil Spills or Leaks and Plastic Waste

Water and oil do not naturally mix. Oil does not disintegrate, or dissolve, in water, so it is especially harmful when it gets into bodies of water. While they are sometimes accidental, oil spills or leaks are a major cause of water and ocean pollution. These leaks and spills are often caused by oil drilling operations that take place on ocean boats, ships or cruise ships that carry the oil. In addition, these boats and ships litter a lot of plastic pollution into the earth’s water. This water pollution greatly affects ocean animals. One species that is affected by this is sea turtles, which are affected at all stages of life, by the pollution of heavy metals.


Farmers often use chemicals to protect their crops and fields from insects or other animals. These chemicals are helpful to the farmers and their crops. However, they can sink into the ground and can be harmful to human health, animals, and plants. In addition, when it rains, the chemicals mix with rainwater, which flows into different sources, polluting much of the water and affecting others.

Global Warming

Temperatures rising due to global warming is a big concern when it comes to water pollution. As temperatures rise, water temperatures rise too. The rising temperatures can cause marine life to die. When this happens the water supply is further polluted.

Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste is waste that comes from facilities that create nuclear energy. This waste can be extremely harmful to the environment and must be disposed of properly. This must be disposed of properly because uranium, an element that is in nuclear energy, is extremely toxic to everyone.


Falling forests can be a cause of water pollution. As forests fall, they can exhaust or use up water resources. They can also breed a substance which can cause growth of harmful bacteria in the forests. This bacteria can spread to the water and pollute it.

Effects of Water Pollution

As water quality becomes worse, the environment becomes damaged and health conditions and the economy goes downhill. Below are some of the other major effects of water pollution:

  • The food chain becomes dirty and unhealthy. Fishing in waters that are polluted and using wastewater with livestock and crops can put toxins into our food. These toxins are extremely harmful to humans.
  • There is a lack of potable water. According to the United Nations (UN), because of water pollutants billions of people all around the world no longer have access to clean water to drink or bathe with. This is especially true in rural areas which have fewer homes and more land.
  •  Disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that about 2 billion people in certain countries or areas have no choice but to drink polluted water, which is a lot of times dirtied by human waste. Drinking this water exposes these people to fatal diseases such as cholera and hepatitis A. Water contamination is a big cause of several health problems.
  • Infant deaths. The UN states that diseases linked to the bowels are responsible for 1,000 deaths of children worldwide every day. These diseases are caused by lack of hygiene due to water pollution.

Ways to Reduce Water Pollution

You may be asking yourself how YOU can help. We know that by 2025 half of the world’s population will live in low water areas that are caused by water pollution. So what can we do about water pollution? The important thing is that we take action. Here are some ways we can help prevent water pollution:

Reduce CO2 or fossil fuel emissions. This will prevent global warming. How do we do this? We can start by turning off lights and electronics when we’re not using them. We can also buy equipment that uses less electricity and we can try to use our air conditioning less often.

Lower the use of pesticides and chemicals on crops. Using less of these harmful substances will make human and animal life safer and healthier.

Reduce the use of plastic such as plastic bags and plastic bottles. If we don’t use plastics as often then they will not wind up in rivers, oceans, and lakes, preventing surface water pollution.

Encourage environmentally friendly fishing. This will help species in marine ecosystems to survive and thrive. It will also help prevent reduction of the seas, such as the Pacific Ocean.

Safely treat wastewater. Treating it safely and reducing it will help wastewater be reused for water crops through irrigation rather than pollution. 

Water pollution all around the world and in the United States is a significant problem. It is something that should be reduced.

There are a number of different causes of water pollution, such as agriculture, chemicals and sewage, deforestation, and global warming. As a result, big issues are occurring. Some of these issues include health effects on human and marine life, the food chain becoming contaminated, and unsafe drinkable water for people. These effects can be devastating if we don’t do anything about the issue at hand. Some of these issues are in fact preventable and have easy solutions. 

So what can we do to make a positive change? For a start, we can reduce our use of fossil fuels by lowering electricity and air conditioning use. In addition, we can reduce the use of plastic. These are a few simple ways we can help and do our part. We can also simply make others aware of the issue in hopes that they will care and take action as well. If we try to work towards these solutions in order to lower water pollution, the world will be a cleaner, better place and we will have powerful results.