Water Pollution

Water Pollution

What is it, who looks after our water quality and how we can all help?

Water pollution can affect our drinking water, rivers, lakes and marine environments, it also has the potential to harm our health and our natural environment.

What is water pollution?

Water pollution is anything that enters a waterway that has the potential to cause damage or harm to humans or the plants and animals that live there.  Most of what pollutes our water can be prevented or at least mitigated.

Where does water pollution come from?

Water pollution can come from a number of different sources. Most pollution impacts on the water environment immediately around the source but sometimes it can affect water quality for many miles downstream. Water pollution can come from Agricultural and Industrial Sources but it can also come from the day to days things we use and do at home – wastewater from houses (toilets/bathrooms) where pipes are wrongly connected to surface drains, from garden sprays and things like paints and oils.

What does water pollution look like

Impacts of water pollution

Impacts of pollution can include:

  • lowering of the water quality in rivers and at bathing waters
  • damage to fisheries including causing fish kills
  • negative effects on human health
  • negative effects on the natural environment
  • loss of biodiversity – that is the variety of plant and animal life in a particular habitat

Who looks after our water quality?

NIEA (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) staff undertake a variety of roles to monitor our valuable water resources.

The Pollution Response Team is responsible for preventing or minimising the effects of pollution in our waterways and also managing the risk of pollution occurring. It is also responsible for taking action against polluters.

Preventing water pollution and what you can do

You can help to help keep our water clean

Don’t put paints, oils or other forms of litter down the drain. Instead paints and oils can be brought to your local Council Recycling facility for appropriate disposal.

Heating oil can cause serious problems to the environment, pollute rivers, harm wildlife and contaminate ground and drinking water – and ‘clean-up’ costs can be significant and are not always covered by your household insurance policies.

If a tank starts leaking –  try to stop the oil soaking into ground or going down drains. Information on what to do is available on nidirect. You need to immediately contact your insurance company to arrange for an OFTEC technician or ISAA/UKSpill accredited ‘clean-up’ company.

To report an oil spill or leak, please contact the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s 24 hour Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Don’t throw litter into our rivers, lakes or the sea. And if you see any litter and it’s safe for you to do so, collect it and put it in a nearby bin.

Related articles

Marine Conservation and Disturbance

Marine Conservation and Disturbance

The waters around NI are full of a rich array of marine wildlife including dolphins, sharks, seals, jellyfish and much more. We have eleven species