A Rough Sketch of the History of Water Pollution

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 11:09 AM


Water pollution is the toxification of water. In the extreme the water can no longer support pre-existing ecologies which may lead to an ecological collapse in the area of the poisoned water. Humans are currently a primary source of water pollution. Through thoughtless trash dumping, improper sewage treatment, chemical dumping, and generally poor management of the resource. Many of the ways water can become polluted by humans are currently illegal, however, the enforcement of those laws has not always been seen as a best practice. And, in the United States, we are heading into an era where the enforcement of those laws is not valued by those in power.

Water Pollution is not unique to the current era, or even the last 100 years. When the industrial revolution swept the Western world and those countries that were conquered or wanted to be equals in the 19th century, water quality suffered. In the United States, the pollution of rivers, lakes, and streams was left unchecked on a National level until the 1960s, when environmental movements began calling for regulation and oversight. Earth Day, celebrated in April, was spawned by these movements. As was legislation, such as the Clean Water Act (1972). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was founded in Dec. 1970, by an Executive Order signed by Richard Nixon. Its duty was to enforce regulation and clean up toxic sites.

Enforcement required that the public be educated. One of the most powerful Public Service Advertisements (PSA) ever created involved pollution. An apparent Native American canoes down a river with ever growing evidence of pollution. At the end of the PSA this man is crying because of the ruin people have made of the environment. See it here.

The Environmental Movement of the 1960s was successful. What they did not foresee was that constant vigilance by the public and/or Non-Government Offices (NGO) would be needed to keep up awareness. As the source of all life, the world’s waters are far too important to ignore and humans need to take responsibility for their role in water pollution by making sure what has been done is cleaned up and preventing future contamination.
Please join Ecomerge's staff this summer in exploring water pollution issues in 20 countries and how those countries handle the problem to provide safe water to the people and environment.

 Sources:

Water and Air Pollution.” History.com.

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