Point-Source & Non Point-Source Pollution

Point-Source & Non Point-Source Pollution

By Ruth Mead, Sr. Environmental Educator

Point Source Pollution, Non-Point Source Pollution – just what are we talking about? Point source pollution includes known discharges such as water treatment plants and industry like textile mills, paper mills and chemical plants. The passage of the Clean Water Act set standards and allows us to regulate the source in order to maintain healthy water quality in our streams. Before the Clean Water Act, point source pollution was a major problem.  Non-point on the other hand is much harder to control. The exact source is often unknown, and it is currently a bigger issue in our country’s streams than point source.  Non-point includes sources such as unmaintained septic systems, domestic pet waste, fertilizers and pesticides, road salts and dirt particles.

Water is essential for life, but in recent history – the past 200 years – we humans have done a pretty good job of degrading the quality of water in our local streams. Here in the United States, we realized the problem, and though it took a battle, we were able to pass the Clean Water Act of 1972. This act of Congress has done a tremendous job in controlling point source pollution and to some extent non-point sources. Some waterways in other parts of the world have no laws protecting them. These occasionally show up as headline horror stories in our news, and hopefully make us realize just how important our laws are.

Making citizens aware of water quality issues is a first step in helping protect our waterways. Want to know how you can help? Visit our World Water Monitoring Day blog.