Topic: Pollutants in Waterways

From the earliest days of civilization, mankind has realized the benefits of settling near reliable, clean drinking water supplies. Water has always been an important natural resource for cooking, drinking, cleaning, removal of wastes, and in the manufacturing of goods. It was often convenient to get rid of wastes by simply dumping them into a river since they would be carried downstream, away from the source. As populations grew, this practice led to increasing problems. More people equals more waste and downstream communities do not appreciate having someone else’s waste brought to their doorstep. Throughout history, cities have struggled with ensuring their populations had potable water.

One way to manage this important natural resource is to create legislation aimed at preserving the quality of the resource for years to come. In this week’s Discussion, you will look at water regulation in the United States and its impact on water quality. In the U.S., there have been governmental regulations created to protect the water supply dating back to 1886. In recent history, a major move to protect surface waters in the U.S. was the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972. This Act attempts to reduce pollutant discharges into waterways, promote municipal wastewater treatment facilities, and manage polluted runoff. In addition to reading your textbook, do some research to learn more about the Clean Water Act and think about the use of water throughout history using the following references.

Laws & Regulations: Summary of the Clean Water Act. EPA. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act

Knotts, J. A. (1999). A brief history of drinking water regulations. On Tap: Drinking Water News for America’s Small Communities, 8(4), 1–23. Retrieved from http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/ndwc/pdf/OT/OTw99.pdf

In most cases, water treatment involves the removal of solid materials from the water and killing bacteria that may cause disease. You can learn more about what happens during treatment at the following sites:

USGS. (n.d.). Wastewater treatment water use. Retrieved from http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuww.html

USGS. (n.d.). A visit to a wastewater-treatment plant: Primary treatment of wastewater. Retrieved from http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wwvisit.html

Many communities are also concerned with the problem of excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus (commonly found in fertilizers) entering waterways. Review the following link to see how these excess nutrients lead to fish kills and other problems when they make their way into the natural waterways:

Nutrient Pollution: EPA. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/problem

ESA. (n.d.). Hypoxia. Retrieved from http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/hypoxia.pdf

In your posts this week, make sure you address the following questions:

  1. Who/what are the largest contributors of nitrogen and phosphorus into waterways?
  2. Think about all the products and materials you use every day.
    • What products and materials are commonly sent down the drain?
    • How do these products impact the environment?
  3. How do dead zones in the U.S. and abroad impact local economies, diets, recreation, and other aspects of a community?

Be sure to address all Discussion Board topics in an original, well-thought-out, respectful manner. Main posts should fully and completely discuss each question posed and make frequent, informed references to this unit's material. Engage in ongoing, productive conversation by responding to a minimum of two classmates per topic. Responses to classmates should be at least 50 words. Remember, you will learn more by sharing ideas!

Please note: Borrowed material (quotes, summaries, or paraphrases) should make up no more than 10% of the total word count for all written assignments in this course, including Discussion. All writing must be in your own words and borrowed material must be properly cited and referenced.


Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. (2000). Integrated assessment of hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. National Science and Technology Council. Retrieved from http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/products/hypox_final.pdf 

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