Wastewater; Types, Causes, Effects, Solutions

most polluted rivers in the world

Wastewater is the byproduct of all the household, commercial, industrial activities we carry out in our everyday lives which converts water which is safe to use, into the water which is essentially not capable to be used by us. Wastewater is contaminated by various foreign materials making it insufficient for further use until the treatment of this wastewater hasn’t been carried out.

Wastewater is produced from literally everywhere. Our houses, industries, factories, schools, hospitals, farms, and so on; all are contributors to the production of wastewater. This wastewater can then runoff into other various water bodies effectively contaminating them as well and may even cause nutrient pollution.

Sewage water, which originated from bathing, laundry, toilets, sinks of kitchens, and cleaners, is also regarded as wastewater. In simple terms, wastewater is all the dirty water from various outlets that make the water unsuitable for usage. Here we will look at some of the causes of wastewater, its effects, and also some solutions.

Types of Wastewater

We can generally divide wastewater into three types: Blackwater, Yellow water, and Greywater.


Blackwater is wastewater which originates from places such as dishwashers, food preparation sinks, and toilet fixtures. It consists of various chemicals and substances that can go down bath drains, sink drains, and toilets which includes urine, poop, toilet paper, and wipes. Blackwater is also considered to be highly pathogenic as well, since the organic matter in this water is home to millions, if not billions, of Bacteria. An image of Blackwater draining into the sea is show in background of the heading!

Yellow water

Yellow water, as the name suggests is yellow. This is because it contains a high amount of urine in it. There is no other contamination of substances other than urine in Yellow water, unlike other types of wastewater.

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Greywater originates from areas such as non-toilet and food fixtures, laundry machines, spas, bathtubs, and more. If you want to make things simpler, it is a type of wastewater that is devoid of urine and stools, unlike the aforementioned yellow water and blackwater. Gray water, unlike blackwater, can be suitable for some amount of reuse, like watering your backyard.

Sources/Causes of Wastewater Pollution

Wastewater treatment processes

Do you see the community surrounding this wastewater treatment plant? All of the wastewater/sewage from this community is handled by this wastewater treatment plant shown in the picture.

Urban Sources of Wastewater

Wastewater is generated nearly everywhere. These include home dwellings, hotels, restaurants, cafes, motels, bars, resorts, schools, colleges, universities, places of worship, stadiums, theatres, hospitals, clinics, apartments, and all alike.

When they use this water it becomes contaminated with various substances which may include chemicals, bacteria, fungal colonies, metallic impurities, and organic matter which severely reduces the purity of water making it toxic and unusable; technically converting it into wastewater.

Natural Sources of Wastewater

Water can also be contaminated by other natural events such as flooding, runoff of water from gutters and cracks, water from pools, car garages, and cleaning centers. These sources also aid in the contribution of wastewater.

Agricultural Sources of Wastewater

Wastewater is also produced from agricultural lands. Agriculture requires a constant amount of freshwater for the irrigation of the crop fields so that they can be healthy and have a good yield. Unfortunately, once that water is used in agriculture, it also becomes wastewater. This is because various synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and growth hormones are used in agriculture.

These may pollute the water and then that wastewater may runoff into other various water bodies such as rivers, lakes, streams, seas, and oceans causing more wastewater sources to be formed. The agricultural run-off may also cause nutrient pollution leading to Cultural Eutrophication.

The Effects of Wastewater

Reduction in Clean drinking water

As we are using more and more water in our daily lives, we are converting more of that water into wastewater; deeming it effectively useless for us and draining an already-limited clean water supply. Even though 70% of our planet consists of water, we must not neglect the fact that most of the wastewater eventually finds a way into the various water bodies of our planet. These water bodies then start getting polluted by the wastewater, eventually making that source of water which was very vital for us useless due to it becoming contaminated with wastewater.

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Marine Habitat loss and Destruction

Water bodies aren’t the only natural resource contaminated by wastewater; various natural habitats into which wastewater can runoff can also become contaminated with this wastewater. This wastewater, fueled with chemicals and other harmful substances can kill the species living in these habitats. The habitat and its ecosystem may become completely destroyed if there is plentiful contamination with wastewater.
The agricultural run-off may also cause nutrient pollution leading to Cultural Eutrophication which is quite dangerous to marine organisms.

Increased Prevalence of Diseases

Wastewater is a harbor for various disease-causing organisms. The World Health Organization states that nearly 3.4 million people die each year from waterborne diseases. Besides the various diseases that wastewater may harbor, it also contains various fumes which upon exposure can cause various respiratory problems and tumors in the body. This is even more dangerous if the polluted water body is near a high population, thereby exposing many people to such harmful fumes. Also, if animals or humans come into contact with this wastewater, they may be susceptible to various illnesses and possible death since the chemicals being used in agriculture these days are mostly toxic.

Considering the recent impact of Coronavirus on the world, we should take this issue seriously.

Damage to Soil Health

Wastewater may damage the integrity and fertility of the soil, due to the presence of various harmful chemicals and irritants in wastewater. This may cause the soil to yield fewer crops, with a marked reduction in yield of those crops. These crops, irrigated with wastewater may then be consumed by humans creating possible threats to their health. Constant exposure of soil to wastewater can eventually lead to the soil drying out and turning into a barren land with no productivity whatsoever.

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Solutions to Wastewater Pollution

Even though wastewater sounds bad, there are ways in which we can mitigate its effects on the environment.

Water Conservation

We must first try to conserve as much water as we can. This includes using water-saving appliances, reducing shower times, fixing water leakages, and avoiding habits that may cause water wastage. You can adopt these lifestyle changes to save as much water along with other natural resources as much as possible. We shouldn’t depend on other people, or our local, state, or federal governments to try and conserve water. This is something we have to adopt ourselves; starting in our own houses, educating our children and family members raising their awareness. This way we may be able to raise awareness within other members of the community as well to conserve water.

This conservation of water will eventually lead to minimizing the production of wastewater and thereby reducing the effects of wastewater in the long-term

Buy Eco-friendly Products

Wastewater becomes more harmful once it becomes intermixed with other harmful chemicals and substances, such as food scraps and humans waste. We can evade this issue, by choosing products we buy more carefully. For example, you may choose low-phosphate household products instead of high-phosphate products which reduce the overall phosphate levels in the water, thereby avoiding nutrient pollution.

Build More Wastewater Treatment Plants

There should be more wastewater treatment plants set up in local communities on a small scale. If these water treatment plants are not nearby, the communities must be encouraged in helping out the wastewater treatment workers by collecting wastewater wherever possible, thus reducing their time and increasing the efficiency of the wastewater treatment processes. As time passes by, more wastewater treatment plants need to be built to produce water which is both drinkable and usable for humans and animals.

People need to take control and develop new ideas and technologies to tackle this issue. People must be given prior knowledge concerning wastewater so that they may be aware of the harmful consequences they may cause and can accordingly then take action against it to protect and preserve the environment in which they live.

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