Introduction: The unrelenting dilemma of thermal pollution has become a major question today. Human race is progressing each day, but at the same time we cannot deny the fact that we have disturbed the cycle of nature.
No one else, but we have made our planet ‘earth’ suffer from some dangerous problems. Thermal pollution is one such problem that needs an answer today!
Let us analyze and understand Thermal Pollution in a detailed manner.
Thermal Pollution – Meaning
Thermal pollution can be simply explained as the addition of surplus heat to water and ejecting it back to the water bodies. So how does it happen? Well, numerous industries take water from natural water resources for their industrial purposes. Maximum of this water is used as coolant as it is used to cool down the machines of any factory or plant.
Afterwards, this used water with altered and much high temperature is ejected back to the natural resources including lakes, ponds, seas, etc. This causes sudden increase in temperature of natural water bodies too. The altered water also creates disturbance in the oxygen level of water bodies. This in turn, harms the marine life and local ecosystems. Therefore, thermal pollution caused in water by spilling back the industrial waste and used water in it, causing adverse effects, is known as thermal pollution.
Thermal pollution is not only caused by the hot water but also by the cold water that is discharged by various industries into the rivers or seas containing warm water.
Chief Causes of Thermal Pollution
- Water used as coolant & ejected back into water bodies – Mainly, the water that is used as coolant and transferred back to natural water bodies is the chief reason for thermal pollution. This kind of activity is mostly done by production; manufacturing and power plants. These plants use water to cool down their machines and eject back the hot water into water bodies. Thus, the natural water goes through a sudden rise in temperature.
- Release of cold water – Just as we mentioned before, many industries liberate very cool water from their reservoirs. This water when mixed up with warm water rivers, lakes or ponds creates a disbalance in the flora and fauna of affected water bodies.
- Growing industrial activities – It gives a repenting feeling to know that thermal pollutants are increasing day by day because of the growing industrial activities. Therefore, thermal pollution is also growing each day.
- Chemical pollutants discharged into water – There are copious factories that discharge their chemical waste directly into natural water bodies. This does not only causes thermal pollution but also makes the water poisonous.
- Livestock waste mixed into water – This is another major cause of thermal pollution. Many industries dispose their livestock waste into water without analyzing upon the hazardous consequences of this act.
- Water discharged from urban areas – Many urban areas like parking places, roads, etc., deposit rain water and discharge the heated water back into water bodies. The heated water disturbs the normal temperature of natural water bodies.
- Human waste, household & personal care products – These products go into sewage water which pollutes the water in ponds, seas and other water bodies.
- Deforestation & soil erosion – Soil erosion makes natural water bodies to rise beyond their normal level. Thus, they get more exposed to sunlight. Hence, the temperature of water rises. Forests absorb much of sun rays and save water bodies from getting too much heat. However, deforestation disturbs this cycle and provides augmented temperature of water.
- Natural Geo-thermal activities – Natural geothermal activities can stimulate lava and can cause a rise in water temperature, making way for thermal pollution.
- Unawareness among people – Growing thermal pollution is also the result of unawareness among people. Even after knowing the hazardous effects of thermal pollution on environment, there are abundant industries which are continuously using ways that encourage this pollution.
What are the Major Effects of Thermal Pollution?
- Thermal shock resulting in rise in temperature of water bodies – When industries and factories dispose the water, used as coolant, back into water bodies the temperature suddenly raises to an abnormal level. The sudden and abnormal temperature level acts as a thermal shock for aquatic life, which is adapted to living in a specific temperature and cannot, handle the abrupt change in water temperature.
- Depleted level of oxygen in natural water – When warm water discharged by industries enters the natural water bodies, they get heated up. The warm water causes an unusual growth of plants and expansion of algae. The algae expansion in water reduces the level of oxygen in water.
- Contamination of water – Thermal pollution also results in contamination of water because various chemicals and other wastes get mixed up with the water that is disposed off back to rivers, ponds, lakes, etc., by various factories. If this contamination of water keeps on increasing, humans can suffer from shortage of water.
- Reduced solubility of oxygen – Reduced solubility of oxygen in water bodies is another disappointing effect of thermal pollution. This less solubility of oxygen in water mainly affects the metabolism of water animal.
- Adverse effect on water plants – Change in temperature levels is extremely harmful for the aquatic plants. These plants cannot cope up with the sudden alteration in water temperature. Hence, more and more aquatic plants are depleting each day because of thermal pollution
- Adverse effects on water animals – The whole marine life gets disturbed because of thermal pollution. The contaminated water makes the natural water poisonous and has an adverse effect on animals living in it. Also, the reduced level of oxygen makes it difficult for water animals to survive.
- Effect on population of water animals – When the temperature in natural water bodies gets disturbed because of thermal pollution, the cycle of animal population gets disturbed too. For example, sometimes the fish start laying eggs too soon and sometime they do it too late. The whole productivity of river gets disturbed too.
- Disturbance in biological activities of water animals – Thermal pollution leads to a disturbance in quality and temperature of water in various water bodies. This altered quality and temperature directly affect all the biological activities of animals, thus disturbing the cycle of nature.
- Unfavorable Effect on Water Biodiversity – Thermal pollution largely affects the water bio diversity. The rise in temperature of water results in increased metabolic activity of some water animals. Hence, they start consuming more food in short time. This also leads to shortage of certain water resources. Some animals which are unable to stand the raised temperature start moving to other regions. Therefore, the whole natural system of water bio diversity gets disturbed.
- Unexpected Migration of Water Animals – When water animals find it difficult to survive in the changed water because of thermal pollution, they start for an unexpected migration, making way for a disturbed ecosystem.
Preventive and Control Measures for Thermal Pollution
After reading about so many harmful effects of thermal pollution, and the disturbance that it causes in nature’s cycle, you must definitely be wondering that whether there is any solution for the same. The good point is that of course, there is a solution for thermal pollution. As man has created the problem of thermal pollution, he should be the one to work out for its solution too!
The best part about the solution for thermal pollution problem is that we can definitely make a huge and positive difference if we start following just few steps. Without discussing these solutions, we cannot reach a positive conclusion.
So let us glance through some effective ways that can help reduce thermal pollution at a significant extent:
- Use less electricity – All of us know that power plants are the main reasons behind growing thermal pollution. This is so because power plants use water as a cooling agent for cooling down their machines. This used water, which is much higher in temperature, is discharged back into the rivers, seas or lakes. We can make a significant contribution in controlling thermal pollution by consuming less electricity,. The use of less electricity will lead to less workload on power plants and these plants will not have to use their machines too much, meaning controlled use of water as coolant. Hence, switch off fans when you are not sitting in that room, switch off unnecessary lights, use solar products and techniques. All such steps will help us use lesser electricity.
- Use of Better Technologies – Science has gifted us with plentiful inventions, discoveries, techniques and knowledge. Incorporating good techniques ensure a good lifestyle for human race. Use of better technologies is strongly recommended for solving the problem of thermal pollution. There are technologies available which help in the cooling down of machines. If machines will be cooled down with the help of technologies, the use of water as coolant will come to a much reduced level. Various industries and power plants should look out for appropriate technologies that serve the purpose without encouraging the steady problem of thermal pollution.
- Holding back the water for good – If factories or plants cannot stop using water as a coolant, there is another option available for them. After using the water as coolant, they should store that water somewhere else for a temporary period. Instead of discharging back the heated water into water bodies, the temporarily collected heated water can be used for various other purposes too. Storing the heated water for a particular time will help in bringing back the high temperature of water to a normal level.
- Plantation of more trees upon the banks of rivers, seas & other water bodies – This is also a good way to control thermal pollution. The trees around sources of water help in absorbing the harsh sun rays and prevent them from falling directly upon the water. This helps in prevention of heating of water bodies. Planting more trees also helps in controlling the problem of soil erosion because the strong roots of trees hold the soil firmly and stop it from erosion. Trees do not only help in controlling thermal pollution but also aid in a better environment including fresh air and peaceful scenic views. We should also encourage our coming generations to plant more and more trees.
- Artificial Lakes – Industries, factories or plants which are serious about storing and reusing the heated water, used as coolant, can work out on artificial lakes. These are artificial lakes where the heated water can be stored easily. These lakes are very helpful for normalizing the temperature of hot water. This way, the hot water will not be disposed back to the lakes, rivers, etc., and will be used in other suitable tasks. Actually, the artificial lakes or ponds use evaporation or convection technique for cooling down the water. These artificial lakes or ponds generally contain two ends. From one end, the hot water is transferred into the lake; it is processed through evaporation or other technique and finally, when it cools down, it is taken out from the other end. The evaporated heat dissolves in the air.
- Recycling used water – Smart people always find intelligent solutions for even the most difficult of problems. If people start working upon the ideas of recycling the used water in plants and factories, the problem of thermal pollution will definitely be lessened to a significant extent. Every plant or industry should make it a rule that water used as coolant will not be spilled back into water bodies. Rather, it will be recycled for further tasks. In today’s era, we often hear news about the shortage of water and thousands of people dying because of the same. Just ask yourself that isn’t it our duty to save water and use it for good?
- Spreading awareness among people – Environment can be made better with a united effort. Making more and more people aware about the problem of thermal pollution will be very beneficial in the long run. Groups of people can initiate a discussion with different plants and industries. These groups can discuss the harmful effects of thermal pollution on aquatic life and our environment. We can also aware others about the consistent problem of thermal pollution by gaining the right knowledge about thermal pollution.
- Suitable arrangements in urban places – Places like parking spaces, drainage pipes, sewerage tanks, etc., should have proper arrangements so that the water does not get collected at those spaces. When the water is accumulated at these spaces, it gets heated up and gets mixed with seas, ponds, lakes, etc., thus making way for thermal pollution. Hence, by making appropriate arrangements at such places, we can stop water from getting accumulated.
- Co-generation – Co-generation is also a wonderful idea to combat thermal pollution. In the process of co-generation, the useless heat from hot water can be recycled and used smartly in many tasks by industries.
- Cooling towers – Cooling towers is also a good idea when talking about the solutions for thermal pollution. The purpose of using cooling towers is the same as artificial lakes. The cooling towers also use the hot water of industries, process it by transferring its heat and transform hot water into cold water. This cool water can be recycles and used again for different industrial purposes.
Generally, the cooling towers are of two types. This includes the wet cooling tower and the dry cooling tower. In wet cooling tower, the heated water gets spread upon the flow-directing panels. Afterwards, the high-speed cold air is passed upon it. Henceforth, the hot water gets cooled down.
In dry cooling towers, the heated water is made to flow in circular elongated pipes. Again, the cold air blows are passed upon these pipes that help in bringing down the temperature of hot water.
Thermal pollution is a dangerous threat to our planet earth. If we do not start taking precautions for the same now, the problem will keep on expanding, degrading the quality of water and adversely affecting the aquatic plants and animals. Undoubtedly, it will affect the human race too!
We cannot live without water. Neither the animal nor the plants can survive without it! Water is important for everyone’s life! Just check out these facts! Seventy percent of our planet Earth is covered with water. However, do you know that 97% of this water is salt water which means we cannot use it for our drinking or other purposes. Thus, in reality we have only 3% of fresh water. Out of this 3% water also, the 2% of water is available in the form of frozen water. So can you imagine that we are left out with only 1% fresh water? This fact alone tells us the importance of water.
Hence, it is now time to take a pledge for the prevention of thermal pollution and take all necessary steps that can serve this purpose. Every human can make a difference by making an individual effort. The industries, power plants and factories should also give it a serious thought. The collected effort of humans will definitely solve the problem of thermal pollution and will help in its prevention.