10 Effects of Water Pollution on Animals

Today, water pollution has assumed alarming proportions. It has emerged as one of the most serious environmental threats in the world.  

Various factors have been associated with water pollution as causes of the environmental issue.  This pollution results from disposal of wastes into water storage bodies and sources

Water pollution affects animals in many ways regardless of its severity. For instance, soiled water can lead to the death of aquatic animals such as fish as it clogs their gills. Also, water pollution affects aquatic life by reducing the oxygen levels in the habitats of such animals.

The tragic effects of water pollution on animals are saddening.  We all know what kinds of adverse effects water pollution has on humans. What about the effects of water pollution on animals?

Let’s spare some time to acquaint ourselves with, and ponder upon, the plight of other creatures on planet Earth, due to water pollution. In this article we are going to explore the effects of water pollution on animals as part of the living things found in the environment.

We as humans may have the option of treating polluted water to make it safe and drinkable and we can always choose not to bathe in polluted waters or refrain from eating aquatic animals.

However, animals are not capable of resorting to any of these alternatives to escape the toxicity of water that has been contaminated by human and industrial waste. Thereby they are vulnerable and easily affected due to the contamination or pollution of water.

Effects of Water Pollution on Animals

10 Effects of Water Pollution on Animals

While we humans only feel the harmful consequences of water pollution when we consume contaminated water or animals, animals are easier victims of the harmful effects of water pollution.

While we tend to pollute water, we have to know that not only the aquatic environment is adversely affected but also other things which are found in the environment such as the animals in the environment.

Some common effects faced by animals from pollution and contamination of water are as follows:-

  • Ecosystem Alteration
  • Death of Animals
  • Changes in Animals
  • Restriction of Animal Movement
  • Alteration of Animal metabolism
  • Suffocating Aquatic Creatures
  • Effects on Reproduction of Organism
  • Disruption of Food Chains
  • Weakens Animals Immune System
  • Loss of Entire Species

1. Ecosystem Alteration

Nutrient pollution from upstream (creeks and streams) often flow downhill and even travel miles into other larger water bodies. The effect is that it breeds algae growth and causes the growth of much more water organism.

This algae attack affects fish and other aquatic animals by absorbing and reducing their oxygen supply. Algae growth also clogs fish gills.

Naturally, the order of ecosystems in that water is affected negatively, as the destruction or introduction of any foreign organism alters the entire food chain in there.

2. Death of Animals

Water pollution caused a lot of damage and deaths of many animals. Animals, including water animals, die when water is poisoned for various reasons.

Other animals are stressed and their populations are endangered. For example,  in a classic case of marine pollution in recent time, 16000 miles of a United States coastline was affected by an oil spill.

Over 8,000 animals (birds, turtles, mammals) were reported dead just 6 months after the spill, including many that are already on the endangered species list.

The immediate impact on the wildlife includes oil-coated birds and sea turtles, mammal ingestion of oil, and dead or dying deep-sea coral. Animals are also affected by solid waste thrown into water bodies, as they harm them in many ways.

Furthermore, chemical contaminants carried by industrial wastes kill a lot of smaller aquatic organisms, such as frogs, fish, tadpoles, etc.

This, in turn, causes a loss of food source for bigger aquatic creatures, leading them to either consume poisoned, dead fish and perish, or leave their natural habitat to go in search of food in other aquatic quarters.

Often, this leads to sickness and death of these animals due to the inability to adapt to changed water temperatures, unfavorable tides, as well as exposure to new predators.

Also excessive increase of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, leads to an increased growth of toxic algae and aquatic plants, that causes poisoning and death in fish and other animals who feed on them.

3. Changes in Animals

The presence of large quantities of mercury in water leads to a lot of undesirable changes in aquatic species. Abnormal behavioral shift which is as a result of hormonal imbalances and glandular damage has been discovered to be associated to the presence of too much mercury.

Also, mercury is a toxic metallic chemical that gives a huge blow to the reproductive functions, growth and development of animals that are continuously exposed to high doses of it.

In the pollution that occurs through air, as carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, some of it dissolves into the ocean, making the water more acidic. Sea animals are used to a certain level of acidity. When that changes, an animal might not be able to adapt.

4. Restriction of Animal Movement

Dumping solid trash such as plastic, metallic scrap, garbage, etc, may block aquatic channels and can also cause small animals to get trapped in the debris. Most water-dwelling animals tend to drown on being trapped and unable to swim.

Also oil spill damages seabirds’ feathers, so they can’t stay dry and warm and at the long restrict their movement.

5. Alteration of Animal Metabolism

Atmospheric pollutants may get mixed with clouds and fall back on earth as acid rain. This toxic shower is potent enough to inflict mortal injuries to any life form that gets exposed to it.

Pollutants can radically alter the metabolism of a number of soil-dwelling bacteria and insects, making them perish or unsuitable for consumption by common predators of the local ecosystem.

Predators that eat animals with oil in their bodies build up more oil thereby altering their body metabolism, which can make them sick over time and invariably lead to their death. Plastics in water also can hurt digestion of animals, making the process of digestion difficult.

6. Suffocating Aquatic Creatures

Polluted water makes the life of aquatic organism miserable. Increasing pollution in the sea and oceanic areas has become a threat. Water pollution reduces the level of oxygen in it.

Different species of fish are the most affected creatures due to water pollution. Fish and other aquatic organisms start dying of suffocation due to lack of oxygen in the polluted water.

Hydrocarbons in the oil spill spread on the surface of the oceans, as a result marine and aquatic organisms do not get the oxygen and they die consequently from suffocation.

7. Effects on Reproduction of Organism

Polluted water also negatively impacts the breeding power of aquatic life. It makes fish and plants deficient in their ability to regenerate and reproduce.

Also, animals fall prey to a variety of diseases due to drinking polluted water. Things have become so alarming that many aquatic species are on the brink of extinction.

8. Disruption of Food Chains

Water pollution also affects the food chain. Small animals in the oceans and other water bodies eat almost anything. And when they ingest toxic materials like lead, cadmium, and other pollutants in the water, animals higher up the food chain will also consume them.

The poisonous substances will keep traveling from the different levels of the food chain. Larger animals at the top of the food chain feed on them, and the cycle becomes vicious like that.

9. Weakens Animals Immune System

Amphibians such as frogs and salamanders are the poster child for the negative effects of water pollution because they have such incredibly sensitive skin.

They have the unique ability to absorb oxygen through their skin, but this also leaves them susceptible to absorbing dangerous chemicals as well.

Pesticides, nitrogen-based fertilizers and heavy metal contaminants all pose a direct danger to these creatures. These pollutants often find their way into water systems through runoff after heavy rain.

In addition to directly killing amphibians, these pollutants can also weaken their immune system (as may have been the case in the extinction of the Monteverde golden toad) and cause physical deformities or abnormalities.

Also Oil spills that introduce unhealthy amounts of oil into the marine environment affects the immune system of marine animals making them sick and at the long run lead to their unnatural deaths.

Plastics if introduced in water on the other hand, can harm animals in all sorts of ways. They can damage body parts, harm their ability to grow and reproduce. Most especially many plastics also contain toxins affects animals immune system and makes animal fall sick.

10. Loss of Entire Species

Pollutants may also affect the breeding capacity of affected animals. This can cause a loss of entire species if care is not taken.

Due to rapid industrialization, water pollution has already reached dangerous levels. Additionally, increased use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in agriculture has also aggravated the situation.

The dangers of this pollution has severely affected animals. In some parts of the world, some species are already on the verge of extinction due to water pollution.


Water pollution is dangerous for all life forms in this universe. Pollution of water leads to several illnesses and other devastating outcomes leaving the ecosystem and biodiversity vulnerable.

To protect human beings, plants and other life forms, it is urgent to find out the solution of water pollution and collective efforts by individuals, society and the government are required to achieve this aim.

We believe that sensitization about water pollution is the starting point to ending it. Spread the  awareness any way you can; together, we can save our environment, humans and animals from doom.

What animals is mostly affected by water pollution?

The Whales, Turtles, Seabirds, Fish, and Human beings are mostly affected by water pollution.


Environmental Consultant at Environment Go!

Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.

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