Top 16 Causes of Water Pollution in Nigeria

From household waste to Industrial waste, these are the top 16 Causes of Water Pollution in Nigeria. It is expedient to know the causes of water pollution would know so we, Nigerians can get better at handling water pollution.

Over two-thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by water, less than a third is taken up by land. As Earth’s population continue to grow, people are putting ever-increasing pressure on the planet’s water resources.

In a sense, our oceans, rivers, and other inland waters are being “squeezed” by human activities-not so they take up less room but so their quality is reduced.

When we look at our water today, we see the water polluted with numerous compounds, some have a pale colour, no longer colourless, while some have some kind of odour, some water bodies are infested with plastic affecting both aquatic organisms and we humans. The contamination of water bodies is water pollution.

Pollution is one of the most dangerous environmental issues affecting the world today.  Water pollution causes a reduction in safe and potable drinking water just as health pollution leads to health risks and damages the ecosystem.

Pollution of water occurs when substances that are not originally known to be in the water is disposed into the water negatively modifying the water body. Water pollution can be indirect.

Water pollution is a kind of environmental issue that has led various countries into war against each other.

Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies like lakes, rivers, oceans and groundwater. It occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into the water bodies without adequate treatment to remove compounds.

Humans, plants and other living organisms are usually affected. In almost all cases, the effects are damaging not only to individual species and populations but also to the natural and biological communities.

Water pollution is a major global problem and as industrialisation spread across the globe so is the challenge associated with it.

Water is also polluted by natural processes. These include volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc.

The effects of water pollution are quite enormous to humans and health and other dwellers. Various kinds of contaminants and pollutants can affect water.

They can be heavy metals, trace organics,  etc, and they have health implications. For example, most of the trace organics are carcinogenic, there has been hepatitis reported on some of these pollutants.

Oil Pollution is caused by oil spills from tankers and oil from ship travel. Oil does not dissolve in water and forms a thick sludge.

The burning of fossil fuels into the air causes the formation of acidic particles in the atmosphere. When these particles mix with water vapour. The result is acid rain.

Human-produced litter of items such as plastic bags and 6-pack rings can get aquatic animals caught and killed from suffocation.

Water pollution causes flooding due to the accumulation of solid waste and soil erosion in streams and rivers.

Ecosystems are destroyed by the rising temperature in the water, as coral reefs are affected by the bleaching effect due to warmer temperatures.

Additionally, the warm water forces indigenous water species to seek cooler water in the other areas causing an ecological damaging shift of the affected area.

Swimming in and drinking contaminated water causes skin rashes and health problems like cancer, reproductive problems, typhoid fever and stomach sickness in humans.

Africa’s biggest economy Nigeria is struggling to provide potable water for its population. More than a third of the Nigerian population lack clean water sources.

With water found in almost every part of the country, one may ask, how come the lack of clean water. Well, the answer is POLLUTION.

Though 215 cubic kilometres of surface water is available, the surface water resources in Nigeria is more than that of other African countries particularly those in the southern and northern parts of the continent but, many of them are polluted.

The fact is that only 19% of Nigeria’s population has access to safe drinking water. Although 67% of people have a basic water supply. In cities, 82% of people have a basic supply. In rural areas, only 54% do.

The lack of accessible, reliable and safe drinking water, together with poor sanitation and hygiene, is estimated to cost Nigeria about USD$1.3 billion in access time, loss due to premature death, productive time lost and health care costs.

Why is this happening in a country with abundant water resources? Nigeria suffers from “economic water scarcity” – the inability to properly manage, use and protect water resources for socio-economic development and environmental sustainability.

Types of Water Pollution

There are various types of water pollution.

Groundwater Pollution

Groundwater being the least available water resource we have is very critical and this is because it’s the cleanest source of water. Groundwater is water that is stored under the ground and they are stored in rocks called aquifers.

These are the water that comes out when a deep borehole is dug. Because of the very high pressure under the ground, they usually come out with high force. This source of water is used as drinking water.

Though groundwater seems less accessible by man-you cannot see where it is stored. Contaminants like fertilizers, pesticides, and waste leach from landfills and septic systems, making their way into the aquifer polluting the groundwater.

Because groundwater is inaccessible to man and is very slow in movement, once the water is polluted, it becomes very hard to clean, very costly and the polluted water can stay in the same location without cleaning itself up for years.

When groundwater is polluted, the surface water nearby those areas can be polluted very easily because the polluted water can easily seep into the surface water.

Surface Water Pollution

Surface water is the water that is located in rivers, streams, oceans, lakes, etc and it covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface. Surface water can be either salty water or freshwater. But, freshwater covers about 60% of the water we use daily in our homes.

The record has it that nearly 50% of the rivers and lakes harbouring our surface water are polluted and so, they are not suitable for drinking, swimming and fishing.

These polluted surface water can contain nutrient pollutants like nitrates and phosphates, which plants and animals need to grow coming from fertilisers and farm waste.

Surface water has in recent times become sinks for a different kinds of waste from municipal and industrial waste to human waste as open defecation. Individuals even dump waste directly into waterways contributing to this menace.

Air Water Pollution

Water in the air can also be polluted. The water polluted in the air is just second to surface water pollution. This pollution comes from different activities both natural and anthropogenic.

Natural activities like volcanic eruptions and tsunamis lead to pollution of the water in the air. Anthropogenic activities like the burning of fossil fuels lead to pollution of the water in the air.

This polluted water then falls to the earth surface and water surface and can cause a variety of adverse effects.

In Nigeria, water pollution is one of the top environmental problems facing and this is majorly due to ineffective solid waste management and oil pollution amongst other causes of water pollution.

Top 16 Causes of Water Pollution in Nigeria

These are the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria:

  • Ineffective Household Waste Management
  • 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
  • Urban Development
  • Leakage From the LandfillsAnimal Waste
  • Underground Storage Leakage
  • Eutrophication
  • Acid Rain

1. Ineffective Household Waste Management

Ineffective solid waste management is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria. Solid waste is produced in form of paper, plastic, metal food and other materials.

Industrial waste from factories, which use freshwater to carry waste from the plant into rivers, contaminates waters with pollutants such as asbestos, lead, mercury and petrochemicals.

These are collected and dumped in the various site of the country, or the rivers direct. Some even dump their waste by the roadside and water carries this waste into the rivers and oceans.

In a city like Lagos in the year 2014, the waste generated hit 13,000 tonnes daily. Recent piles of garbage heaped on streets and roads have been a common sight.

2. Industrial Waste

Industrial waste is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria. Industrial waste is waste from the industry. They include solid waste and effluents (liquid and gaseous waste). Industries usually produce waste from their industrial processes including manufacturing, packaging, transportation processes etc.

When industrial waste is produced especially from the manufacturing process especially, this waste contains toxic chemicals and pollutants, causing air pollution and damage to our environment and us.

Some of the toxic chemicals that come from industrial waste include harmful chemicals, including lead, mercury, sulfur, nitrates, asbestos, and many others.

Many industries in Nigeria are just interested in their profit margin and given little attention to industrial waste management of which they mostly dispose their waste to nearby waste bodies like streams and rivers.

They might be able to transport their waste from their area of production but, dump the waste in seas and oceans. This in turn changes the water bodies in colour.

And when this waste is deposited in the water body, the dangerous chemicals that are contained in the waste kill the aquatic organisms present in that area and also increase the number of minerals in the water-consuming the dissolved oxygen hence, causing Eutrophication.

This causes the water to be dead, causing algae to bloom and killing all living organisms in the water.

3. Sewage and Wastewater

Sewage and Wastewater is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria. The normal scenario should be that sewage and wastewater are treated to become harmless and then disposed of in the water, though this is not a very safe procedure, in Nigeria, most of the sewage and wastewater is not treated before disposal in the water bodies.

These sewage and wastewater usually carry pathogens and other harmful bacteria and chemicals that can cause serious health problems and thereby diseases.

This waste disposal in the water bodies cause different kinds of deadly diseases, the water can even turn into be breeding ground for disease-carrying vectors. A typical example would be mosquitoes causing malaria.

4. Mining Activities

Mining activities is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria. They also cause water pollution. When rocks are broken down into stones as is popular in Nigeria (surface mining) or the extraction of coal and other minerals through underground mining,

some chemicals and heavy metals which are toxic are loosed from these rocks and exposed to the surface where they are transported via surface runoff to various water bodies polluting the water.

This sort of pollution result in health problems and because mining activities emit a large amount of metal waste and sulphides from rocks, the pollution is very significant.

5. Marine Dumping

Marine dumping is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria. It has been one of the main plagues in the waters of the Nigerian nation. A truckload of waste is disposed of every day in nearby water bodies including waste from households and companies.

These wastes are diverse containing garbage including paper, plastic, food, aluminium etc and these wastes take time to decompose leading to increased pollution in water bodies in the water bodies.

When this waste enters the water bodies, it not only cause water pollution but also harms animals in the sea.

6. Accidental Oil Leakage

Accidental Oil Leakage is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria. Oil pollution is the source of pollution affecting the Nigerian water bodies like streams and rivers, especially in the Niger Delta regions.

Oil spillage poses a huge threat to our water bodies including the aquatic animals and plants living in the water body and the fact that oil does not mix with water makes it more dangerous as it could clog the gills of fish and various parts of the fish or other aquatic organisms like birds and sea otters.

Oil spills come in different ways. Some can be as a result of ships colliding or getting spoilt, some might be as a result of a malfunction in the drilling of oil, some can also be as a result of on-land mechanic and oil bunkering practices on the land.

7. The burning of fossil fuels

The burning of fossil fuels is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria.

When fossil fuels like coal and oil are burnt, they emit some toxic gas into the atmosphere and these gases enter the cloud mixing with water vapour forming acid rain, the water bodies can also be polluted through the ash that comes from the burning of the fossil fuels.

8. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria. They are substances used to improve the health of crops and protect them from insects and infections.

But, these chemicals can be very harmful to nearby water bodies even groundwater as when these chemicals mix with water, they produce harmful pollutants for plants and animals.

Also, when it rains, the chemicals mix up with rainwater and flow down into rivers and canals, which pose serious damage to aquatic animals.

9. Leakage From Sewer Lines

Leakage from sewer lines is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria.

Leakage from sewer lines can cause water pollution. Most of the soakaways of households are very ineffective and with time these sewers leak and toxic chemicals are released into the groundwater making the water unfit for consumption.

If this leakage is not dealt with timely, the leak can reach the surface water polluting the surface water and this becomes a breeding ground for insects and mosquitoes.

10. Global Warming

Global warming is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria. It has become in recent times drawn the attention of the entire public.

Global warming raises the temperature of the water bodies and this, in turn, causes the dissolved oxygen to evaporate making the water deficient in oxygen and the water becomes acidic.

This results in the death of aquatic animals and marine species.

11. Urban Development

Urban Development is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria.

As the population has grown rapidly in places; like Lagos, Port- Harcourt and Abuja, the demand for housing, food, and cloth has also grown.

As more cities and towns are developed, there has been an increase in the use of fertilizers to supply more food, erosion because of deforestation, rise in construction activities, inadequate sewer collection and treatment, landfills as more garbage is produced, increase in chemicals from industries to supply more materials.

12. Leakage From Landfills

Leakage from Landfills is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria.

Many states in Nigeria have landfills and these landfills are nothing but a huge pile of garbage that produces the awful smell and may be seen across the town. When it rains, the landfills may leak, and the leaking landfills can pollute the underground water with a large variety of contaminants.

13. Animal Waste

Animal waste is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria.

The waste produced by animals has washed away into the rivers when it rains. It then gets involved with other harmful chemicals and causes various water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, jaundice, and typhoid.

14. Underground Storage Leakage

Underground storage leakage is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria.

Transportation of coal and other petroleum products through underground pipes is documented. Accidental leakage may happen anytime and would surely cause damage to the environment and end in erosion.

15. Eutrophication

Eutrophication is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria.

The increased level of nutrients in water bodies is understood as Eutrophication. It leads to the bloom of algae within the water. It also depletes the quantity of oxygen within the water that negatively affects fish and other aquatic animal populations.

16. Acid Rain

Acid rain is one of the top 16 causes of water pollution in Nigeria.

Acid rain is water pollution caused by air pollution. When the acidic particles are released into the atmosphere by pollution mix with water vapour, it leads to acid precipitation.


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