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Water Degradation

  • By: Assefa M. Melesse & Leonard J. Scinto
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Water is a “renewable” resource that provides essential services, is constantly restored by the hydrologic cycle, and can be degraded when used or altered faster than it can be replenished. Freshwater degradation occurs when the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of water become harmful to the environment or organisms, including humans, by which the usefulness of the water resource is in some way reduced. The quality of water as a resource, and therefore the acceptable level of degradation, depends on the intended use of the water and consequently also depends on the desires of multiple, often conflicting stakeholders. The globally variable distribution of water resources, the burgeoning human population with increasing consumptive uses, and increasing waste production and pollution make water degradation an important societal ...

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