Learn about acid rain, where water is, water pollution, bottled versus tap, water supply and demand, and the aquatic food chain with these videos produced in partnership with McWane Science Center.
Clean, fresh water is essential to life on Earth. Water pollution is a global threat to this vital resource. Acid rain is a prime example of how activities in one geographic area can impact conditions globally. Acid rain primarily results from the transformation of industrial pollutants such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides into other compounds such as sulphuric acid (H2SO4), and nitric acid (HNO3). This transformation occurs as these pollutants are transported in the atmosphere over distances of hundreds to thousands of kilometers. For example, sulfur dioxide emissions from industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels have resulted in extensive acid rain and accompanying water pollution problems in southeastern Canada and the northeastern US. These emissions have global implications: more than half of the acid deposition in eastern Canada originates from emissions in the United States. Even slight changes in the pH of lakes and rivers can cause the loss of fish and invertebrates which are important links in the food chain. Acid rain is also responsible for extensive loss of forest cover in that region.
Selection of drinking water is a personal preference. Bottled water is a $50 billion-a-year industry worldwide, and people in the United States consume more bottled water than people in any other country. How is it different from what comes out of our taps? Is it really tastier, fresher and healthier – or is that just advertising hype? The quality of tap water varies depending on where you live, and you can check on the EPA’s Web site to find out if your community’s water meets national standards. For most of us in the United States, tap versus bottled water is a personal choice.
This video demonstrates how ground pollution and upstream water pollution can be carried downstream to other bodies of water and land. The “ground” in the stream table model has been polluted with green food coloring (before the water is added). As the water passes over the polluted area, the pollution contaminates the stream, surrounding land and the larger body of water at the end of the steam. After polluted water has entered into larger bodies of water (seas, gulfs and oceans), it can be spread to other areas by the Coriolis effect. The Coriolis effect is caused by the rotation of the Earth. The effect deflects objects moving along the surface of the Earth to the right in the Northern hemisphere and to the left in the Southern hemisphere. The resulting movements can cause pollution to spread far beyond its source and affect other parts of the world.
Earth is a planet rich with water, a compound essential to all living things. However, fresh water is a limited resource. So, where is all the water? Seventy percent (70%) of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and when viewed from space, our planet appears blue with a plentiful supply of water. However, clean, fresh water for drinking and irrigation is a scarce and valuable commodity in many parts of the world. Even though water is abundant on our planet, only a very small percentage can be used by humans and other organisms.