Issues affecting quality of water in the world

Issues affecting the global quality of water

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The health of people, the environment, agricultural businesses, and the recreational value of streams, wetlands, and coastal waters all depend on maintaining high water quality. Effective water management involves being aware of the environmental factors and human behaviours that affect water quality. State and territory governments, local councils or regional organizations like natural resource management agencies develop strategies to address these concerns.

Water managers and jurisdictional agencies can:

  • Use the national standards for managing water quality to help create water quality management strategies, plans, and regulatory structures.
  • Use guidelines to help managers understand the problems that affect water quality and make decisions about how to manage water in the landscape to preserve and enhance its quality.

Here is an overview of the issues that affect the global quality of water;

  1. Acid sulphate soils

The common name for soil that has metal sulphides, which are chemical compounds that exist naturally, is acid sulphate soil. Because acid and other contaminants, such as heavy metals, are released into streams and wetlands when soil containing metal sulphides is exposed to air, this can be dangerous for the quality of the water. As a result, the pH and concentrations of dissolved oxygen decrease.

Acid sulphate soils can be identified and managed by jurisdictional water and land managers with the support of guidance. The recommendations give advice on how to avoid, reduce, alleviate, and remedy the negative impacts that disturbance of acid sulphate soils can have on water quality, aquatic ecosystems, farming and fishing, and constructed infrastructure.

Management tools for soils with acid sulphates

  • National Guidance for the Management of Acid Sulphate Soils in Inland Aquatic Ecosystems: For the identification and management of inland acid sulphate soils, in order to minimize or completely remove the threats they bring to the environment and economy.
  • National Strategy for the Management of Coastal Acid Sulphate Soils: This program takes a holistic and all-encompassing approach to defining the acid sulphate soil issue, preventing it from getting worse, and promoting corrective efforts to lessen acid water runoff that already exists.
  1. Blackwater events

Blackwater events can occur when a build-up of leaf litter and other debris on floodplains is swept into streams during floods. They are a natural component of lowland river systems. Bacteria then devour the significant amount of organic matter in the water, reducing the amount of dissolved oxygen present.

Land and water managers as well as jurisdictional water agencies are in charge of managing the effects of blackwater events. Blackwater events can result in small-scale fish kills, but they also transfer vital nutrients and organic matter over the environment.

  1. Bushfires

Water quality can be impacted by bushfires, especially if there is a lot of rain just after the fire. Following a fire, altered soil composition and a lack of plant cover can raise the possibility of sediment and pollutant runoff into rivers. Rapid surface-water runoff following bushfires can have a significant impact on nearby aquatic ecosystems, drinking water, and water for agricultural purposes.

It is important for authorities to reduce the threat of intense bushfires and respond quickly after a major fire to stabilize the soils and facilitate the natural recovery of vegetation. The primary responsibility for managing these risks rests with the state and territory, regional, and local levels of government.

  1. Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)​​​

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are microscopic, algae-like bacteria that thrive in still or slowly moving water where there is a lot of sunshine and nutrients. Freshwater, tidal, and ocean waters are all susceptible to blooms.

Blue-green algae is a key concern for jurisdictional authorities and managers of water quality due to the risks it poses to agriculture, the environment, and the health of people and livestock.​

  1. Salinity

Salinity is a term for the concentration of salts in soil or water. Salinity levels in soils or streams can rise as a result of human activities such as clearing vegetation, negligent land management, and improper irrigation techniques.

Jurisdictional water authorities and land and water managers plan and implement the management of salinity and the human activities that contribute to it.

  1. Urban catchments

Large amounts of runoff are produced by cities and metropolitan regions, and this runoff needs to be controlled properly. Point and diffuse sources of contamination from industry and transportation, water treatment facilities, and residential houses can have a substantial impact on the quality of urban storm water. Large sections of impermeable surfaces, such as roads, roofs, and pavement, are common in urban water catchments, which serve to both increase water flow velocity and prevent ponding and soil infiltration.

Urban streams are a prominent element of our cities and suburbs and are crucial to the management of storm water runoff and flood prevention. Although these streams are frequently modified or engineered, they are an essential component of the urban landscape, providing spaces for biodiversity protection, recreation, and beauty.

Storm water flows can join urban streams quickly after downpour storms, delivering high concentrations of nutrients, silt, and heavy metals. As a result, the water has a low concentration of dissolved oxygen and a high biological oxygen demand (BOD). Receiving aquatic ecosystems, such as coastal waters, rivers, and wetlands can be impacted by abrupt changes in water quality.

Effects on aquatic habitats include:

  • Outbreak or establishment of invasive aquatic species.
  • The suffocation of aquatic plants.
  • Toxicology for aquatic life.
  • The termination of access to areas used for recreation because of the introduction of viruses, the encouragement of algal blooms, or other pollution problems such as odours, adverse skin reactions, and visual amenities.

Managing urban water quality will become a more difficult task for governments and the community as urbanization and the need for fit-for-purpose water for a range of uses rise globally.

Three recommendations are pertinent to the usage and management of urban storm water:

  1. Urban storm water management offers a method for controlling storm water that is ecologically sustainable that is used across the country. The guidelines can be used by water managers to:
  • Set storm water management goals.
  • Coordinate management efforts at the catchment, waterway, and local development levels.
  1. The use of recycled water, particularly rainwater, to increase drinking water supplies is referred to as “water recycling.”
  2. Water reusing — stormwater harvesting and reuse offers advice on how to manage potential environmental and public health hazards connected to the reuse of:
  • Roof water collected from non-residential buildings.
  • Urban storm water from sealed areas, including drains, streams, and wetlands.

In line with this, our Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) course is designed to equip you with knowledge and skills that will help you advance your career in the WASH sector.


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