Thermal Pollution of Water

Thermal pollution is the degradation of water quality by any process that changes ambient water temperature. A common cause of thermal pollution is the use of water as a coolant by power plants and industrial manufacturers. When water used as a coolant is re turned to the natural environment at a higher temperature, the change in temperature decreases oxygen supply and affects ecosystem composition. Urban runoff-storm water discharged to surface waters from roads and parking lots-can also be a source of elevated water temperatures.

Ecological Impacts of Thermal Pollution of Water

Thermal pollution, the release of liquid or gas that increases heat in a surrounding area, has far-reaching and damaging ecological effects by impacting aquatic organisms and animal populations.

When a power plant first opens or shuts down for repair or other causes, fish and other organisms adapted to particular temperature range can be killed by the abrupt change in water temperature known as “thermal shock.” This problem is particular for marine / cold blooded organisms because they are adapted to specific temperature ranges. If water temperatures change too much, metabolic processes break down. Unlike humans, who can adapt to wide temperature ranges, most organisms live in narrow temperature niches.