Thermal Pollution

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Thermal Pollution

Thermal pollution is the heat which is added to various bodies of water which lowers water quality and changes water temperatures over longer periods of time. This generally happens when water is taken from natural sources for human use in factories or power plants and is then released back into the environment at a higher temperature. This changes in temperature of the water can have many negative effects on sensitive aquatic wildlife.

Consider these thermal pollution facts:

  • Electric power plants account for 75-80% of thermal pollution in the USA
  • Small changes in water temperature can lead to disturbances in wildlife
  • More pollution facts and their sources.
  • Causes of thermal pollution include:

    • Power Plants
    thermal pollution
    Image by David Wilson

    Power plants commonly use water for temperature regulation. When the plants use water for cooling, the water becomes warmer and is reintroduced into the environment at a higher temperature than before, disrupting marine organisms and lowering their chances at survival.

    • Storms

    Whenever it storms, rainwater accumulates on urban roads, especially in cities. This water absorbs heat easily and then gets drained out and back into nature at a higher temperature, thus harming wildlife.

    Why is thermal pollution bad?

    Thermal pollution is bad because even a slight change in water temperature or quality can severely impact fish and other underwater organisms. Oxygen levels in the water are greatly affected by altered temperatures which sets off a chain reaction in the ecology of the wildlife present in affected locations, essentially impacting every living organism in the water. This can cause aquatic populations to become fragmented and poses an overall risk to aquatic life.

    Ways we can combat thermal pollution

    This is a particularly difficult area to discuss because a lot of these factories and power plants are simply necessary to produce the goods that we use every day as humans. The only way to combat this type of pollution is to collectively use less resources and to strategically build power plants and factories in areas where it causes as little of an ecological impact as possible. By supporting green energy practices that rely on less usage of rainwater, we can lower our impact on the environment.

    Laws, Edward A. Aquatic Pollution: An Introductory Text. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000. Print.