What Causes Lake Pollution: 3 Issues We Must Fix Now

What Causes Lake Pollution

Water is one of the basic necessities of life, and about 80 percent of all wastewater globally is just put back into our environment. This wastewater pollutes our lakes and other bodies of water of course, but this time we’re focusing only on what causes lake pollution.

There are a few ways lakes can get polluted, including nutrient pollution, chemical pollution, and plastic pollution. Let’s go in-depth on each issue, the cause, and some possible solutions we can employ to keep our water clean. After all, only about 1 percent of freshwater is available for us.

Nutrient Pollution

Basically, nutrient pollution is when there are too many nutrients are added to a lake or body of water causing too many algae and algal blooms. The nutrients added that cause this are nitrogen and phosphorous. It is normal for water to contain these nutrients, but too much can cause environmental stress such as fish illnesses and death.



Manure and fertilizers used in agriculture are not used 100% in plant growth, which leads to the resulting runoff water to appear within lakes and other bodies of water.

Wastewater and Stormwater

When it rains, the runoff water goes over roadways and rooftops that contain pollutants, nitrogen, and phosphorous. This makes its way into waterways and lakes.

Possible Solutions

Planting more plants

Farmers can plant more trees and shrubs on the outside edges of their crops. These additional plants will soak in the additional fertilizer so that there is none in the runoff.

Homeowners and businesses can also plant more trees and shrubs in general, especially in urban areas if possible. Additional plants will soak up the extra nutrients from stormwater so it does not reach lakes and rivers with pollutants.

Managing nurtient use

Applying the proper amount of nutrients for crops as well as at the proper time of year is very important so that there is not much excess.

Chemical Pollution

Chemicals are substances that are manufactured by humans such as oil, gas, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), and fire retardants.

PBDE and fire retardants have been found in the Great Lakes, which is quite concerning as they have a negative impact on the environment and human health. Those living near the great lakes can get sick from these chemicals if the water is left untreated. These chemicals can also threaten local wildlife. PBDEs have also been linked to cancer and birth defects.

How did these chemicals get here?



Farming not only uses fertlizers on crops that can cause nutrient pollution, but also pesticides. These pesticides can make its way to lakes via runoff water thus causing chemical pollution.


Industrial facilities pollute water at an alarming rate, and clean water protections have been removed so it is more prevalent than before to get these policies back in place. For example, some steel facilities dump toxic chemicals into a waterway leading into a lake.

Possible Solutions


The most important thing we can do to keep our water clean is to ensure we take it up with our elected officials. Regulations need to be clear and have consequences on industries that don’t dispose of wastewater properly. When thinking about what causes lake pollution, industrial waste is the place we have the most work to do.

Plastic Pollution

Everyone should be aware of the amount of plastic in the ocean by now, but we also have a considerable amount of plastic waste floating around in our lakes. About 22 million pounds of plastic enter the great lakes yearly.



The plastic in the great lakes is primarily microplastics. These are small bits of plastic that are broken down by the water. Some microplastics are commonly used in body washes and face cleansers and after use makes their way into our water systems.

Possible Solutions

Change purchasing habits

Refuse to buy self care products that contain microplastics, such as facial cleansers and body washes.

Reduce or stop using single use plastics

Use reusable straws, stop purchasing drinks that come in plastic containers you use once, and stop buying groceries packaged in plastic as much as possible. Also bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store.

New legislation on plastic

The most important thing we can do is encourage elected officials to regulate the use of plastic. In many cases other materials such as aluminum or glass can be used in place of plastic. Single use drink containers can be replaced with hemp plastic or some other biodegradable option.

Research plastic alternatives

I mentioned hemp plastic in the last section, and there has been a lot of research and development around it. Hemp plastic is biodegradable and replaces the need for fossil fuel based PET plastics. With any luck, we will see a huge drive toward these eco friendly plastic alternatives!

Recap on what causes lake pollution

At the end of the day, it’s humans that caused all of this unnecessary pollution. We must do what we can to reverse the effects before we lose wildlife and clean water.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our article on deforestation!

If you have anything else to add please leave a comment below or contact us!

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