16 causes of water pollution in Africa, Effects and Solution

Water pollution has been one of the major reasons behind the status of the continent economically but, there are some causes of water pollution in Africa.

Water covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface. So, how come access to safe drinking water is so difficult for so many people? How can there be an issue with water pollution when there is so much of it?

Water pollution, on the other hand, refers to the contamination of freshwater sources, which is the only type of water humans can drink. It doesn’t help that only 2.5 per cent of Earth’s water is fresh, potable water and that the vast majority of that is frozen at the poles or deep underground.

That leaves about 0.007% of the Earth’s water available for nearly seven billion people to drink, cultivate food, generate electricity, and manufacture commodities. Even goods you would not consider necessitate the use of water in their manufacture.

Because blue jeans are comprised of cotton, which is a water-intensive crop, a single pair of blue jeans uses around 3,000 gallons of water to make. Water scarcity, like so many other difficulties we face today, is the cost of a growing population as well as industrial and scientific progress.

Africa is one of the hardest-hit parts of the water crisis, and it serves as a warning sign for the rest of the world, due to its environmental, demographic, and economic challenges.

Africa is a large continent with 54 countries, covering more than twice the area of the United States. In Africa, about 358 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. That’s almost as much as the rest of the globe put together.

The main and most pressing issue causing Africa’s water crisis is population growth. Africa has a population of over one billion people, which has doubled in the last 27 years. The obvious result of population growth is pressure on natural resources, but other repercussions include sanitation issues as people dwell in greater and denser groups.

We nearly take our sophisticated water management systems for granted in industrialized countries, which pump out and filter sewage water while also pumping in safe drinking water that we can turn on and off at will.

Most Americans would be mortified by the prospect of not having a toilet, yet almost a third of the world’s population, many of whom live in Africa, does not have access to one. This causes diarrhoea, fatal parasites, and diseases like typhoid and dysentery when human waste mixes with local water systems.

Animal waste, fertilizers, and industrial by-products also pollute local water systems, resulting in poor sanitation. Children are the most vulnerable to sanitation-related illnesses, with over half a million children projected to die each year as a result of drinking contaminated water.

Humans are responsible for water pollution in Africa. There’s no way around it. The species that are most reliant on safe and clean water is also the one that is polluting freshwater supplies.

What is, however, Water Pollution?

Water pollution, in its broadest sense, is the process of foreign contaminants entering a water body (above or below ground) and rendering the water unusable or hazardous to the ecosystem in which it is found.

Water contamination has disastrous consequences for plant and animal life, as well as vulnerable individuals and communities. Make no doubt about it. An essential human right is to have access to clean, healthful water.

Water is necessary for life, but it is a limited resource in Africa. Water pollution, and its consequences for humans, vegetation, and species, is today one of Africa’s most serious environmental challenges.

Unfortunately, water contamination in Africa is on the rise:

  • Evidence emerged just last year that Kenya’s rivers, dams, and natural lakes are contaminated and unfit for human consumption.
  • Pollution has choked the waters of Kenya’s Lake Victoria and Lake Nakuru to death. Agricultural toxins, untreated sewage, plastic, and nutrient-dense fish excrement are all contributing to the water pollution in that area.
  • Water contamination is affecting the people and ecology in the UmBilo river basin in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. This pollution is changing the colour of the water and causing the extinction of plant and animal species that live along the river.

So, what are the causes of water pollution in Africa?

Causes of Water Pollution in Africa

Below are the causes of water pollution in Africa.

  • Industrial Waste
  • Sewage and Wastewater
  • Mining Activities
  • Marine Dumping
  • Accidental Oil Leakage
  • The burning of fossil fuels
  • Chemical fertilizers and pesticides
  • Leakage From Sewer Lines
  • Global Warming
  • Radioactive Waste
  • Urban Development
  • Leakage From the Landfills
  • Animal Waste
  • Leakage from Underground Storage
  • Eutrophication 
  • Acid Rain

1. Industrial Waste

Industrial waste is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Industries generate a huge amount of garbage, which contains harmful chemicals and pollutants, polluting the air and harming our environment and ourselves. Lead, mercury, sulfur, nitrates, asbestos, and a variety of other hazardous compounds can be found in them.

Due to a lack of an effective waste management system, many enterprises discharge waste into freshwater, which flows into canals, rivers, and eventually into the sea. Toxic chemicals can alter the colour of water, increase the number of minerals in the water (a process known as eutrophication), modify the temperature of the water, and constitute a serious threat to aquatic life.

2. Sewage and Wastewater

Sewage and wastewater are one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Each household’s sewage and wastewater is chemically cleaned before being dumped into the sea with fresh water. Pathogens, a common water pollutant, as well as other hazardous bacteria and chemicals, are carried in sewage water and can cause major health problems and diseases.

Waterborne microorganisms are known to produce a variety of severe diseases and to serve as breeding grounds for critters that act as carriers. Through various sorts of interaction, these carriers infect an individual with these diseases. Malaria is an excellent example. 

3. Mining Activities

Mining Activities is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Crushing rock and removing coal and other minerals from underground is known as mining. When these elements are removed from their natural state, they contain dangerous compounds that can increase the number of poisonous elements when mixed with water, posing a health risk. Mining activities release a lot of metal waste and sulfides into the water, which is bad for the environment.

4. Marine Dumping

Marine dumping is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. In some nations, domestic rubbish such as paper, plastic, food, aluminium, rubber, and glass is collected and dumped into the sea. Decomposition takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 200 years for these goods. When such items enter the sea, they not only pollute the water but also injure sea life.

5. Accidental Oil Leakage

Accidental oil leakage is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. When a substantial volume of oil spills into the sea and does not dissolve in water, it poses a serious threat to marine life. Local maritime animals, such as fish, birds, and sea otters, suffer as a result.

In the event of an accident, a ship carrying a big amount of oil may spill oil.  Depending on the volume of oil spilt, the toxicity of contaminants, and the size of the ocean, an oil spill can cause varying levels of damage to marine animals.

6. The Burning of Fossil Fuels

The burning of fossil fuels is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. When fossil fuels like coal and oil are burned, a large amount of ash is released into the sky. Acid rain is caused by particles containing hazardous compounds that combine with water vapour. Additionally, the burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. 

7. Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are some of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Farmers employ chemical fertilizers and insecticides to protect their crops from insects and bacteria. They are beneficial to the plant’s development.

When these chemicals are mixed with water, however, they form pollutants that are damaging to plants and animals. When it rains, the chemicals combine with the precipitation and seep into rivers and canals, causing serious harm to aquatic life.

8. Leakage From Sewer Lines

Leakage from sewer lines is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. A tiny leak in the sewer lines can contaminate underground water, rendering it unsafe for human consumption. In addition, if not repaired promptly, leaking water can rise to the surface, creating a breeding ground for insects and mosquitoes.

9. Global Warming

Global warming is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Global warming is caused by a rise in the earth’s temperature owing to the greenhouse effect. It raises the temperature of the water, which causes the mortality of aquatic organisms and marine species, resulting in water pollution.

10. Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Nuclear energy is created through fission or fusion of nuclei. Uranium, an extremely hazardous substance, is employed in the generation of nuclear energy. To avoid a nuclear disaster, the nuclear waste produced by radioactive material must be disposed of.

If nuclear waste is not properly disposed of, it can constitute a major threat to the environment. In Russia and Japan, a few major incidents have already occurred.

11. Urban Development

Urban development is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. The need for housing, food, and clothing has risen in lockstep with the population. Increased use of fertilizers to produce more food, soil erosion due to deforestation, increased construction activities, inadequate sewer collection and treatment, landfills as more garbage is produced, and an increase in chemicals from industries to produce more materials have all resulted as cities and towns have grown.

12. Leakage From the Landfills

Leakage from the landfills. Landfills are nothing more than a big mound of waste that emits an unpleasant odour and can be seen throughout the city. When it rains, landfills can leak, polluting subterranean water with a wide range of toxins.

13. Animal Waste

Animal waste is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. When it rains, the faeces produced by animals wash away into the rivers. It subsequently combines with other toxic compounds, resulting in cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, jaundice, and typhoid, among other water-borne disorders.

14. Leakage from Underground Storage

Leakage from underground storage is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Underground pipelines are well-known for transporting coal and other petroleum goods. Accidental leaking can occur at any time, causing environmental damage as well as soil erosion.

15. Eutrophication

Eutrophication is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Eutrophication is defined as an increase in the number of nutrients in a body of water. Algae bloom in the water as a result of this. It also reduces the amount of oxygen in the water, which has a severe impact on the populations of fish and other aquatic animals.

16. Acid Rain

Acid rain is one of the causes of water pollution in Africa. Acid rain is a type of water contamination induced by pollution in the air. Acid rain occurs when acidic particles are released into the sky by air pollution combined with water vapour. Knowing the causes of water pollution in Africa, let’s x-ray some of the effects of water pollution in Africa.

Having gone through the causes of water pollution in Africa, let’s look at the effects of water pollution in Africa.

Effects of Water Pollution in Africa

Below are the effects of water pollution in Africa.

  • Water Scarcity
  • The Outbreak of Infectious Diseases
  • Impact on the Animal Food Chain
  • Impact on Aquatic Life
  • Destruction of biodiversity
  • Infant Mortality 
  • Economic Effects

1. Water Scarcity

Water scarcity is one of the effects of water pollution in Africa. Furthermore, freshwater supplies are contaminated by viruses, germs, parasites, and pollutants, resulting in ‘water shortage.’ Water scarcity has resulted in a slew of sicknesses, infections, and fatalities due to a lack of cleanliness.

Water scarcity can lead to typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and diarrheal infections, which are all waterborne tropical diseases. Other diseases including plague, typhus, and trachoma (an infection of the eye that can lead to blindness) are also widespread.

Water shortages and pollution are worsening as the continent’s population grows and factors such as urbanization have an impact on bodies of water across the continent. According to the United Nations, billions of people throughout the world, particularly in rural areas, lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

2. The Outbreak of Infectious Diseases

The outbreak of infectious diseases is one of the effects of water pollution in Africa.  According to the WHO, over 2 billion people have little choice but to drink excrement-contaminated water, putting them at risk of illnesses including cholera, hepatitis A, and dysentery.

Pollution affects humans, and illnesses such as hepatitis can be contracted through faecal matter in water sources. Infectious disorders such as cholera, etc., may always be caused by poor drinking water treatment and unsuitable water.

3. Impact on the Animal Food Chain

Affects the animal food chain is one of the effects of water pollution in Africa. Water contamination may have a significant influence on the food chain. It throws the food chain into disarray. Cadmium and lead are hazardous chemicals that, if they enter the food chain via animals (fish eaten by animals, humans), can cause further disruption at higher levels.

4. Impact on Aquatic Life

Impact on aquatic life is one of the effects of water pollution in Africa.  Water contamination has a significant impact on aquatic life. It affects their metabolism and behaviour, as well as causes disease and death. Dioxin is a toxin that can cause a variety of issues, ranging from infertility to uncontrolled cell proliferation and cancer.

Bioaccumulation of this chemical has been found in fish, fowl, and beef. Before reaching the human body, chemicals like these go up the food chain. Because of water pollution, the ecosystem can be severely harmed, changed, and destructured.

5. Destruction of biodiversity

The destruction of biodiversity is one of the effects of water pollution in Africa.  Eutrophication occurs when water pollution depletes aquatic habitats and causes an uncontrolled spread of phytoplankton in lakes consequently leading to the destruction of biodiversity.

6. Infant Mortality

Infant mortality is one of the effects of water pollution in Africa. Diarrhoeal infections connected to a lack of cleanliness kill around 1,000 children every day, according to the United Nations.

7. Economic Effects

Economic effects are one of the effects of water pollution in Africa. Deteriorating water quality harms the environment, human health, and the global economy.

The World Bank’s President, David Malpass, warns of the economic consequences: “In many countries, deteriorating water quality is impeding economic progress and aggravating poverty.”

The reason for this is because when biological oxygen demand — an indication of organic pollution in water — crosses a specific level, the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the areas within the related water basins is cut in half.

Knowing the effects and causes of water pollution in Africa, let’s examine some of the possible solutions to water pollution in Africa.

Solutions to Water Pollution in Africa

Below are some of the possible solutions to water pollution in Africa.

  • Educate to Change Consumption and Lifestyles
  • Recycle Wastewater
  • Adopt the use of Efficient Desalination Plants to Desalinate Polluted Water
  • Consider Community-based Governance and Collaboration.
  • Development and implementation of Better Policies and Regulations
  • Improve the Infrastructure for Distribution
  • Water Projects in Developing Countries/Transfer of Technology
  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Population Growth Control

1. Educate People to Change their Consumption and Lifestyles

Educating people to change their consumption and lifestyles is one of the solutions to water pollution in Africa. Altering the course of this catastrophe needs the education to promote new habits. Dealing with the impending period of water scarcity would necessitate a massive revamp of all types of consumption, from personal use to huge firms’ supply networks, such as GE.

Some places, like India, Australia, and the Southwest United States, are already experiencing a freshwater shortage. The most important step is to ensure that the situation is widely known.

2. Recycle Wastewater

Recycling of wastewater is one of the solutions to water pollution in Africa Panellists at World Water Day in March recommended a shift in thinking about wastewater treatment. Some nations, such as Singapore, are attempting to recycle to reduce their reliance on imported water and become more self-sufficient.

The wealthy East Asian nation is a pioneer in the development of innovative wastewater treatment technologies that may be used for a variety of purposes, including drinking. It would go a long way toward eliminating water pollution in Africa if this could be implemented in African countries.

3. Adopt the use of Efficient Desalination Plants to Desalinate Polluted Water

The adoption of the use of efficient desalination plants to desalinate polluted water is one of the solutions to water pollution in Africa. Desalination has traditionally been a high-energy solution to water scarcity. Historically, the Middle East has used its vast energy supplies to construct desalination facilities.

With its recent announcement to deploy solar-powered facilities, Saudi Arabia may be developing a new type of desalination. With small-scale agricultural facilities, the United Kingdom has chosen a different strategy. However, these breakthroughs bring to light another critical resource: funding for technical exploration.

4. Consider Community-based Governance and Collaboration.

Considering community-based governance and collaboration is some of the solutions to water pollution in Africa. Community groups raise the voices of individuals whose stories ought to be heard. Having more effective governance at the local level provides communities greater power and can lead to more successful policy changes at the national level.

5. Development and Implementation of Better Policies and Regulations

The development and implementation of better policies and regulations are one of the solutions to water pollution in Africa. Governments must reframe their role as water shortage challenges food security and pollution.

Regardless of the strategy elected officials to take–the Circle of Blue/GlobeScan WaterViews study suggests they are evaluating many options–the majority of people believe it is the government’s responsibility to guarantee communities have access to clean water.

6. Improve the Infrastructure for Distribution

Improving the infrastructure for distribution is one of the solutions to water pollution in Africa. Inadequate infrastructure harms both health and the economy. It wastes resources, raises expenses, lowers the standard of living, and causes avoidable water-borne illnesses to proliferate among vulnerable groups, particularly children.

7. Water Projects in Developing Countries/Transfer of Technology

The execution of water projects in developing countries/transfer of technology is one of the solutions to water pollution in Africa. In Africa, climate change and water shortages are having the most dramatic effects.

Transferring water conservation methods from industrialized countries to these parched places is one potential answer. Because economies are weak and skills shortages exist, government and corporate authorities are frequently forced to impose these reforms on residents.

8. Climate Change Mitigation

Climate change mitigation is one of the solutions to water pollution in Africa. Climate change and water shortage go hand in hand to create some of humanity’s most pressing problems today. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found a reciprocal link between both concerns, stating that “water management policies and actions can affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

As renewable energy choices are sought, the water consumption of mitigation methods such as bio-energy crops, hydropower, and solar power plants must be addressed in the development of alternatives ranging from bio-energy crops to hydropower and solar power plants.

9. Population Growth Control

Population growth control is one of the solutions to water pollution in Africa. Parts of the world might face a supply-demand mismatch of up to 65 per cent in water resources by 2030 as a result of the world’s growing population increase.

Currently, over a billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. With agriculture using 70% of the world’s freshwater, the important function of water in food production must be recognized as climate and resource circumstances change.


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