Itâ€™s not known as the staff of life for nothing. But while over two-thirds of our planetâ€™s surface is covered with water, we appear to be doing our level best to pollute as many square inches of it as possible. The last 10 years have seen an alarming upswing in the amount of water pollution experienced in the UK and beyond, with both drinking supplies and ocean environments coming under assault.
Hereâ€™s a rundown of some of the biggest environmental issues pertaining to water that have cropped up in the last decade:
The 2010s got off to a bad start after BPâ€™s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20th, 2010, leaking almost five million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a three-month period. Thousands of marine animals were killed as a result of the oil spill, while coral reefs were decimated and the deep-sea floor became coated as a result. Sadly, very little has changed with regard to the fossil fuel industry in the wake of the disaster.
Advances in innovative online water quality monitoring networks allow us to quantify the cleanliness of our water better than ever â€“ but in 2014, the residents of one Michigan town did not like the results of that testing. When state officials changed the main source of drinking water for Flintâ€™s 100,000 populace, countless citizens were exposed to harmful levels of bacteria and lead which had leached into the water through eroded pipes and improper treatment methods.
A colossal accumulation of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean, the Great Garbage Patch was discovered by scientists in the late 1980s and became public knowledge in 1997. However, researchers say that it has grown to an enormous size in recent years, with a 2016 report from Ocean Cleanup discovering that the Patch was far greater and far denser than had been previously anticipated. There is still no concrete plan to tackle the Patch.
More intensive and more frequent thunderstorms, typhoons and tsunamis have led to increased incidences of flooding all over the globe in recent years. Asia has suffered the most, with India, China, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia all seeing fatalities reaching the thousands from flood-related deaths in the 2010s. Britain hasnâ€™t escaped, though, witnessing its fiercest floods in decades. This has led researchers to pursue the role of monitoring in natural flood management as a means to combating the problem.
As well as witnessing periods of extreme rainfall and flooding, the 2010s have also endured the opposite. In particular, California in the USA suffered from a six-year drought between 2011 and 2017, which is one of the longest and most intense droughts in its history. Meanwhile, in 2017 and 2018 Cape Town in South Africa almost became the first major city in the world to run out of water. Drought is just one more symptom of climate change and its effects.