Term Paper on Water Quality

The water contamination problem in the Sacramento area is not getting any better but worse. Not only is water contamination bad for us humans, but it is hurting our aquatic life too. A study has been conducted to determine how bad the water quality is in the Sacramento River, and when the poor the water quality began. The result was the water quality in the river was bad enough to kill off an entire species, and that the poor water quality started way back when the first gold miners came in 1849. The residue left behind from the mines helped pollute the water by never being able to evaporate. Now, the water quality has gotten a lot better with the help of environmental activists.

Water has always been issue in California. For years, there is a constant battle about the distribution of water because of the water shortages in the South. The issue will never be resolve, but there is another issue at large, and it is water contamination. The Sacramento River is one of the biggest river dams that provide water for Northern California. Unfortunately, the water quality in the Sacramento River is not good. Its water pollution problems are not getting any better but worse. For years, scientists have wanted to know what the causes of the contamination in our water are so that they would know how to treat the problem and not let it become a health hazard to the public. Water contamination is not only bad for its two million plus consumers, but it is also affecting the wildlife. The destruction of the marine wildlife has turned many heads, and its attention to this matter has been undivided. The current problems with our water resources are that it is destroying the marine wildlife, and it is contaminated, but there have been many precautions that have been taken into consideration when dealing with the water in our area.

How Water Contamination Begins
Contamination is caused by many different factors. Pollution or contamination does not necessarily means that it is caused by toxic waste, but rather it can be caused by other factors. In the Journal of Geochemical Exploration, the researcher, Joseph L. Domagalski, found that “In previous years, the concentrations of pesticides used on rice were sufficiently high to affect the health of aquatic life in streams draining the rice growing areas and to contribute to taste and odor problems for treated drinking water withdrawn from the lower Sacramento River” (Domagalski 271). One of the ways that contamination is caused as explained by the author is that it is derived from agricultural waste. Any kind of wastes are harmful all together. Once the wastes are in our water, it affects our drinking water quality as well as the water quality for the aquatic life. The reason that pesticides are so hazardous is because it eventually produces Phosphorus in our water (Domagalski 273). Phosphorus causes plants from not growing and even aquatic life from reproducing. Any element is a health hazard to human altogether, but it may causes brain damage in infants if in our water, and it may causes nutrient (iron, protein, etc.) deficiency in our body. Agricultural pesticides are the number one pollutant in the Sacramento River. Another form of contamination is mining. “Mercury from historic mining activities has been a prevalent problem of the Sacramento River Basin and downstream location” (Domagalski 282). Mercury is derived from metals, and the metals are derived from previous mining activities that started in 1849 by the gold mining community. Mercury is not as dangerous as other elements because it is in our water for quite some time, but may causes health hazards to both human and aquatic life just like any other element or toxin.

Water Quality Prevents Reproduction
One reason that we need to protect the low water quality in the Sacramento River is destroying the aquatic life by not allowing them to reproduce. Human destroying the quality of life of helpless creatures has always been an issue, but when it comes close to home like in the Sacramento area, it causes an even bigger controversy. Michael Black the author of the article “Tragic remedies: A century of failed fishery policy on California’s Sacramento River,” argued that the water contamination in the Sacramento River is causing a big controversy because it prevents the aquatic life from reproducing. Black wrote: “Salmonid fish reproduce in mountain streams, with subsequent migration to marine waters and final migration back to the mountain streams for reproduction. Water management projects due to cleaning the water from contamination (reservoirs and dams) have blocked the normal migration routes, forcing fish to move to less desirable habitats, thus affecting their reproduction” (Black 37). When we clean or try to dispose our water from toxic exposure, it affects the aquatic life because we have to close off water ways in order to dispose of it. When we close off the water ways, the aquatic life has no where to go thus it prevents them from reproducing, which in turn might cause extinction of that species. Contamination is the leading cause of aquatic deaths, but closing of the dams and not allowing the animals to reproduce to just as serious.

Hope for Clean Water
Environmental activist groups help clear pollution by advocating the rights of animals and the poor condition of the animals. In the study by Diana Murr called “Threatened Status Eyed for Selected Salmonids,” the author wrote that activists groups are “pressing for propositions to pass in order to assure the health and safety of the marine animals being harmed by toxic wastes and other despicable chemical that may pollute the water quality or harm the quality of life of these animals” (Murr 20). The activists worked to ensure better water quality conditions for the protection of these animals. The conditions did get better by now allowing any illegal toxic dumping into the Sacramento River. Also, acts that have been passed “monitor the use of agricultural chemicals to keep them out or rivers and streams” as explained by Barbara J. Milby Dawson, the researcher of the study “Ground-Water Quality in the Southeastern Sacramento Valley Aquifer, California, 1996.” Many laws had been passed with the efforts of these animals rights activists, and they are continuing to do so some more. The water quality did improve by 25%, an improvement from 1996, which was eight years ago (Dawson). Not only did the activists pass laws that protect these aquatic animals, but they also protect us from the water contamination in the river. Without them, we would still be using polluted water.

Despite my position that contamination is the leading cause of poor quality of life of both human and aquatic life, my opponent believes that contamination is not the problem but rather the shortages of water. In the article “California Water War’s Moment of Truce” by Daniel B. Wood, he argues that “The stakes are large: 75 percent of the state’s water are in the North, thus the shortage of water in the South threatened the water use in homes, industries, farms, cities, and wildlife” (Wood 4). Yes, water shortage is a problem in the State of California, but is not the problem that the quality of life of both human and wildlife is poor. Contamination and to how get rid of it is much more important than the amount of water that we have. We can have all the water in the world, but contamination is what really matters because it is hazardous to our health. We rather have clean water than a large amount water to live on.

While evaluating my sources that I had used in this essay, I find that there some flaws and strong points in each sources that I had used. While I have provided support for how contamination begins in the Sacramento River by the mining communities and also from agricultural wastes, I find that the source I used for support for my argument is weak because this article by Domagalski is about how we kill the plants and animals. Domagalski stated that mercury and phosphorous are the only two elements that can contribute to the deaths of the plants and animals. What Domagalski fail to mention is that methane gas, crude oil, and toxic wastes also contribute to the destruction of these species. He focused his attention to the two elements in his article. He needs to expand to other factors that could or might contribute the pollution of the water. The next source that I used was by Michael Black. In Black’s article, he talked about how the poor water quality that leads to the prevention of the aquatic animals of reproducing. Due to the poor water quality, the dam had to be shut down and block to be cleaned. When this happens, it blocks the fishes from coming in which prevent them from having a place to reproduce. The flaw with this article is that it is too old. Even though the article was published in 1995, a newer source had confirmed that the blocking of the dam had nothing to do with the fish’s ability of reproduce. This source that confirmed it was in Dawson’s article (24). In Dawson’s article, the researcher argued that the reason that many fish do not reproduce is the water quality. When the water is polluted, this prevents them from reproducing because they get killed and there are not more mates for them. Black should not have based that the blockage of the dam is the reason for not reproducing. Also, there is no scientific evidence that the blocking of the dam causes the low reproduction rate of the animals. In Daniel B. Woods’ article, he argued that the reason why the aquatic animals are dying is because of the shortage of water. California is known to have a shortage of water for quite some time, and he had based his assumption that the reason why animals are dying is the lack of water. The flaw in this article is the lack of scientific evidence. There is no scientific proof that maybe even one of the reasons that the animals die is because of the lack of water. These aquatic animals live in the water in the river, so a river should not run out of water so low that it would wipe out an entire species. Wood based his support based on his own assumption because in the article, he did not mention any data or research that was conducted to support his reasoning.

Despite the flaws of the articles that had been discuss, these articles still prove to be reliable. Domagalski’s article about only two elements being the contributor to the pollution in the water is reliable because phosphorous and mercury do prove to be fatal elements in water. These elements are toxic chemical that do destroy the quality of water and are harmful to one’s health. In Black’s article, he argued that the closing of dams prevent the animals from reproducing. This is true because animals do need their space and area to reproduce in their own environment. Animals would not like to reproduce in an area that they are not use to. Plus, the cleaning of the dam is for the animals benefit because we do not want the animals to be in polluted unsafe water. Even though the article was old, it did apply back then when the article was first published. Lastly, in Woods’ article, the author argued that the shortage of water causes the animals to die. This is true because if a place does have anymore water or the water had been evaporated from the place, then the animals would die because these animals need water to live in. Without water, then they would not be able to swim and live.

The problem of contamination is not something that is new in our water, but it started way back then when humans first came over to the land mines. Even though the mining activities have calmed down in last few decades, the mark that they left affects us all in numerous ways today. Contamination in our water destroys aquatic life because it causes a halt in reproduction for the animals, and of course it kills them at the same time. To have a species not reproduce is a serious problem because it may cause extinction. Contamination ruins our (human) quality life by adding unnecessary elements such as phosphorous and mercury to our water, both elements are known to be hazardous to our health. It does not matter about the amount of water that we have, but what really matters is the quality of the water. We cannot live with contaminated water.


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