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The Threatening Contributions Of Urbanization To Water Pollution

As each country strives to cope with the fast-pace globalization trend, governments seem to have come to that point wherein they overlook the vitality of economic sustainability. Governments try to maximize the use of their skills and knowledge along with their own natural resources just to make it up with the need to global competitiveness. Governments allow more interested private institutions to convert farmlands, forest and other agricultural areas to industrial areas for the purpose of creating more jobs for the people and to raise more revenue in the form of taxes.

Somehow, development and industrialization seem to be beneficial for both the governments, investors and the local people but again, economic sustainability has been set aside. As the world goes on to its dream of ultimate industrialization, urbanization has been its first step to make an effort. Urbanization has multi-faceted impacts to the environment and is evidently threatening our ecological balance. Water, air, land and noise pollution have already taken its shape showing how humans have damaged its home in the name of industrialization.

Natural calamities are recurring and increasing its occurrences for each year they are recorded. Our water is just one of the world’s vital natural resources that are increasingly being threatened. Rivers and lakes dry, run-off volume increases, water-borne diseases kill more and more people each year, our water resources decreases while tidal waves, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes occur more frequently. In this paper, we will try to establish the direct and indirect influences of urbanization to the water cycle and thereby establishing its link to water pollution.

In order to do this, this paper will present an overview of the water cycle and the process of urbanization in order to clarify some terms and facts that will be used throughout the paper. Online sources like government-owned websites, news articles and journals were used as references for this paper. Publications like journals, case studies, survey results and books are also included in order to make the facts and figures more reliable. This paper primarily aims to clearly establish the direct and indirect impacts of urbanization to water pollution.

This paper finds it important for people to have a clear view of the scenario in order to increase their awareness and hopefully to encourage all people to do anything that will save whatever is left before we all ran out of time. This paper will first present the overview of the water cycle and its importance in the ecological balance. By doing so, readers will be able to link every step in the urbanization process to the items in the water cycle and be able to get an idea how can it be avoided.

This paper also finds it important to present the step by step urbanization process and how each of these process or steps creates a negative impact to the water cycle and thus its contribution to water pollution. More importantly, this paper will establish the fact that human intervention, during and after the process of urbanization has contributed to water pollution. Recommendations on how to minimize the negative impacts of urbanization to the water cycle are included at the end of this paper that will hopefully help readers reduce water pollution.

CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW Urbanization is the development of land into residential, commercial, and industrial properties (Hollis, G. 1975, p. 431). Urbanization has been regarded as one of the indicators of progress and development. This is primarily because progress and development of an area necessitates the establishment of infrastructures such as highways and other more advanced transportation facilities. Progress necessitates the construction of more parks, commercial buildings and business centers.

One researcher notes that urbanization is the most widespread and rapidly growing forms of landscape modification affecting aquatic ecosystems. In the United States, 5% of its land area is already utilized as urban area (Elvidge, C. D et. al. 2004). As an area economically develops, more and more people migrate to the area for residential purposes, jobs and business purposes. These events therefore require that an area developed into industrialized site from the former agricultural or forest cover.

Highly urbanized areas are those which make intensive use of the land with much of it covered with structures (Institute of Water Research, 1997). In a study of 22 Puget Sound streams, researchers found that the key index for measuring impacts on urban streams is total impervious area TIA (May et al. 1996, p. 15). Transport imperviousness is directly connected to drainage systems and often results in greater hydrologic impact than rooftop imperviousness. Research conducted in many geographical areas had similarly concluded that stream degradation occurs at approximately 10-20% TIA (Booth, 1991 pp.

97). Urbanization can be categorized as industrial, commercial, and residential and transportation utilities either of which alters the hydrologic cycle in both the quality and quantity of water. Of the major components of urbanization, 4population has the most obvious increase at about 50% from 1970 to present. The United States Census Bureau 2000 data, it turned out that 30% of the population lives in urban areas, 50% in suburban areas and the rest in rural areas (USCB, 2001).

Population is a major determinant of urbanization, which directly relates to the increase in the consumption of natural resources and the alteration of natural landscapes in order to accommodate the increasing population density. These human interventions of the ecosystem create a long-term negative impact in the global environment one of which is the water resources and its cycle. We can clearly see the direct effects of population explosion in the water quantity as we take a look at water consumption in the global context.

In the United States alone, about 150 gallons of water are consumed everyday by every person merely for use as drinking water, for cooking, for watering the lawns, for washing and for other household needs. The said consumption rate, as researchers stressed does not include the consumption for crop irrigation, mining, manufacturing, and refinery and for electric power plant cooling (The College Exploration). Figure 2. 1 shows in graph the water consumption per capita of major countries expressed in cubic meters. Note that the consumption is calculated per person per year. Figure 2.

1 Water Consumption per person per year in cubic meters. Source: The College Exploration Directly relative to the hydrologic cycle is the effect of urbanization in the impervious cover (IC). As mentioned earlier in this paper, the lower the rate of impervious area, the higher will be the rate of water infiltration which means that water run-off is relatively low. Obviously, urbanization requires the construction of more sidewalks, driveways, parking lots and more houses which make the soil impervious. The next chapter of this paper discusses in detail the specific effects of urbanization to the hydrologic cycle.

CHAPTER 3. THE WATER CYCLE Powered by solar energy and gravity, the movement of water in our environment is a continuous cycle. The water cycle also referred to as the hydrological cycle is just one of the vital natural cycles that typically involves the changing of the states of water from liquid, vapor and ice as it moves on, above and below the surface of the earth (Gore, Pamela 2005). 1Water also transforms through the processes of vaporization or evaporation (liquid to gas), condensation (gas to liquid), melting or fusion (solid to liquid), and sublimation (gas to solid, or the reverse).

The cycle involves the soil, the plants, and the bodies of water, the air and the sun. Playing an important role in the climactic patterns, changes in the hydrologic cycle are revealed in the changes in the world’s climate and the seal level. As what researchers and scientists have been claiming decades ago, human intervention of which urbanization is the most evident, has played a great role in the significant changes in the cycle. In order to clearly present the validity of such claim, it is helpful for us to look back at the normal cycle of water. Figure 3.

1 shows the normal hydrologic cycle as presented by the U. S. Geological Survey. At first look, it seems that humans are not directly involved in the cycle but if we are to examine each phase of the cycle, we will be able to extract information that will link human activities to each phase of the cycle. Scientists consider the earth as a “closed-system” which means that almost its entire elements contained therein just move in different cycles and that the earth neither lose nor gain significant amount of matter (Global Hydrology and Climate Center).

In terms of the hydrologic cycle, water is distributed globally and recycled continuously, which is the same cycle way back millions of years ago. Figure 3. 1 The Water Cycle. Source: U. S. Geological Survey The cycle of water involves six major processes: (1) evaporation, (2) transpiration, (3) horizontal transport of water, (5) precipitation and (6) water flowing as run-off. In the process of evaporation, the liquid state of water from the surface of the bodies of water and from the soils transforms into gas or vapor.

Water also transforms into gas state through the process of transpiration where a certain amount of water from the plants are released in the air through the leaves of plants. In another phase of the cycle, water also travels in the cycle as atmospheric water in a horizontal direction in forms of water droplets, ice crystals or vapor. The process of precipitation takes place in the air wherein the atmospheric vapor undergoes condensation and sublimation that will then fall to the earth as hail, snow, sleet and rain. In any of these states, 3precipitation that reaches the earth flows through one of four major routes.

As suggested by the arrows in figure 1. 1, precipitation may fall down the earth and runs off to the bodies of water like ponds, wetlands and lakes. Precipitation may also follow the route of river and creeks after running off over the land. Water that runs over the land may run through as surface water while some amount will serve as groundwater. Because this amount of water was not able to infiltrate into the ground, the same will return to the atmosphere either through the process of transpiration or evaporation.

Scientists define surface water as water that stands or flows on the surface of the earth and also referred to as run-off (White, Iain 2007). Current practice on considers run-off as dangerous to human health and these are usually driven out of the land surface as quickly as possible into sewers or man-made drainage systems. This practice however alters the normal hydrologic cycle as infiltration is lessened which directly affects the processes of transpiration and evaporation.

Through the process of infiltration, water sips or absorbed by the ground surface of the earth and so these volume of water is called surface water. On the other hand, groundwater is that volume of run off that sips in the ground and flows through the cracks in the soil, sand and through the spaces between beds of rocks. Depending on the sizes of spaces between rocks and soil, groundwater will be stored in such spaces called aquifers. Aquifers are water-bearing rocks because of their characteristics of high porosity and permeability of which sandstones and gravels are excellent examples (Gore, Pamela 1995).

In contrast, rocks, which are not porous like shale, are called aquicludes and so they cannot store water. However, highly jointed aquicludes may also become aquifers because water can also be contained in rock joints. The water that was not absorbed by the plants, or stored in aquifers will eventually into the bodies of water such as the ocean or creeks. The cycle then continues as such water then goes back to the atmosphere through evaporation or transpiration which scientists safely referred to as Evapotranspiration (ET).

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