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Difference Between Air Pollution and Water Pollution

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What is Pollution?

IVSAT 2024

Do you ever hear about increasing air and water pollution in news channels and wonder what is it? And why is everyone around you - right from your neighbours to teachers to global leaders - so much concerned about it? Here is the answer for you, specifically the difference between air pollution and water pollution.

The word ‘pollution’ has been heard commonly in our day-to-day life. In that, the most severe ones are air and water pollution as it has adverse effects on human health. Let us discuss some details about the terms air and water pollution before we get into our topic - what is the difference between air pollution and water pollution? 

What is Air Pollution?

The presence of harmful substances or particles and certain kinds of gases in the atmosphere which leads to health disorders for living beings is called air pollution. The particles and gases are from vehicles, industries, dust, wood fires.

The latest example that you may have heard of is the burning of stubble in the states of Haryana and Western UP. This has led to very serious problems of air pollution in the region of Delhi.

What is Water Pollution?

Water pollution can be defined as the contamination of water bodies like rivers, lakes and oceans due to human activities. The sources of water pollution are sewage, industrial waste, chemicals, and fertilizers.

The Yamuna river that flows in Delhi is considered to be one of the most polluted in the country. Stench smell, dark colour and foam formation are observed by people living in the vicinity. 


Difference between Air Pollution and Water Pollution

Now we will see what is the difference between air pollution and water pollution? based on some characteristics.


Air Pollution 

Water Pollution


Due to the presence of harmful particles in the air.

Dues to the presence of harmful particles in the water.

Man-made causes

The burning of fossil fuels, power plants, factories and vehicles.

Industrial waste, agricultural waste like pesticides and fertilizers. 

Natural causes

Catastrophes such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

Plants that depletes the oxygen level, eutrophication (gradual increase in minerals and nutrients).

Methods of measurement

Chromatography, Air Quality Index (AQI).

Can be measured by 3 types: 

  1. Physical: Temperature and solid concentrations

  2. Chemical: pH and KH testing

  3. Biological: BOD(Biochemical Oxygen Demand), 

The air pollution not only spoils human health, but it can also affect the monuments as well;, one of the examples is the Taj Mahal. The industries which are present around the Agra are responsible for releasing the pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. These pollutants react with water vapor in the atmosphere in the form of Nitric acid and Sulphuric acid. This acid drops on the monument along with rain, which is called acid rain. The marble of the monument is corroded due to this acid rain and this phenomenon is called “marble cancer.”.

Water pollution can lead to a phenomenon of eutrophication. Due to the leaching of water from various sources such as sewage and farms (contaminated with fertilizers), the nutrient content of the water body increases. This leads to the formation of algal bloom on the surface of the water body. The formation of algal bloom hinders the path of sunlight and also reduces dissolved oxygen content available for the animals and plants that may be present thereby killing them.

Ways to Control Water and Air Pollution

We are all aware of the kinds of threats posed by air and water pollution to our existence. Hence it becomes very important to also learn about the methods of coping with this threat. 

Ways of controlling air and water pollution are given below:

How to Control air Pollution?

There are many methods of controlling air pollution at various levels. Some of them are as follows:

  • Burn lesser firecrackers during festivals as they emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. People can also switch to using eco-friendly firecrackers

  • Buy products that are labeled as environment-friendly

  • Promote usage of public transport over private vehicles. Also, the concept of carpooling should be practiced

  • Governments and other institutions should provide finances for funding projects that aim at designing and manufacturing environment-friendly products. This will ensure that fewer pollutants are emitted into the environment. 

How to Control Water Pollution?

Following methods can be employed for reducing water pollution:

  • Proper devices and mechanisms should be implemented to store and utilise rainwater at all levels.

  • Government regulators should inspect and ensure that all the polluting industries have installed wastewater treatment plants.

  • All the broken and damaged pipes should be repaired or replaced at the earliest by the civic authorities.

  • Regular awareness programmes should be designed through various channels of connecting with people

  • International cooperation should be encouraged by signing various protocols and treaties. 

To combat pollution cooperation is needed at all levels right from individual to international.


After reading this article, one can conclude that air and water pollution have a very far-reaching impact and affect not just humans but also plants, animals and non-living things negatively. Thus, efforts from all levels are required to curb this menace. 

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FAQs on Difference Between Air Pollution and Water Pollution

1. Which is Worse: Water or Air Pollution?

Air pollution can directly affect the surface of water and soil. It can cause long term effects on human health which includes: heart diseases, respiratory disorders and cause birth effects as well. Some scientists conclude that air pollution can shorten the lifespan of humans by an average of three years. According to the new report, urban air pollution can cause premature deaths in the future by overtaking other types of pollution. Hence we can conclude that air pollution can cause worse effects than other pollution.

2. What are the Various Sources of Water Pollution?

  • Groundwater Pollution: Groundwater gets polluted due to pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and wastewater leaching from septic tanks.

  • Surface Water: According to the Environmental Protection Agency of the US, almost 50% of our rivers and streams and lakes are polluted.

  • Ocean Water: The oceans absorb a quarter of the carbon emissions made by humans, it is polluted by oil spills and dumping of waste.

  • Point Source: If the contamination occurs by a single source it is called a point source. Wastewater is considered as the point source.

3. How do you Find the Difference Between Air and Water Pollution in Points?

Air Pollution

  • Air pollution is caused due to the release of unwanted particles into the atmosphere which causes adverse effects on the health of living beings.

  • The main pollutant which causes air pollution is harmful gases released into the atmosphere.

Water Pollution

  • Water pollution is caused due to the release of waste matter into the water bodies.

  • The main pollutant which causes water pollution is wastewater.

4. What are ways to control water pollution?

It is very important for us to control the menace of water pollution for the sake of our survival. There are several ways of doing it. Some of them are given below:

  • Strict implementation of rules and regulations

  • 3 step treatment of wastewater before it is let out into the water bodies such as rivers

  • Avoid formations of algal blooms and problems of eutrophication

  • Practice various methods of water conservations

  • Replace water-polluting substances by introducing better technology

  • Ensuring every industry has functional water treatment plants

  • Strict checkups and round-ups of various industries that generate pollutants

  • Practice rainwater harvesting to conserve water

This list of ways of controlling water pollution is not exhaustive, you can add many more from your end.  

5. What are various ways to manage air pollution?

Air pollution poses a direct to the lives of many living organisms. Thus it is essential to control this menace and it can be achieved through the following ways:

  • Using public transport instead of private vehicles can go a long way in reducing air pollution

  • Promote environmentally-friendly vehicles that emit fewer pollutants in the atmosphere

  • Ensure that chimneys present in industries have a proper and functional filter and scrubbers for trapping pollutant matter

  • Avoid bursting firecrackers during festivals

  • Switching to electric vehicles as an alternative to vehicles that run on diesel and petrol

  • Invest in eco-friendly products that cause lesser air pollution

These are some ways to reduce and manage air pollution.

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