Water Pollution

By now you are probably realizing the truth of these two basic environmental tenets, especially when it comes to water pollution. Simply put, water quality in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin is affected by everything and everybody!


Water pollution comes from either a POINT or a NON-POINT SOURCE.
Let's look at some similarities and differences between the two types.

Point source pollution,

...because it enters the water directly, can be easily traced such as from factories and chemical plants. But non-point source pollution, harder to trace and to treat, can cause long-term damage before the problem is handled. It can come from many different sources and travel long distances through a watershed before it is noticed.

Non-point source pollution,

...provides a greater chance for chemicals to mix and react together. This is known as the synergistic effect. A combination of two or more contaminants can be even more harmful than the original pollutants - and harder to treat.

In fact, non-point source pollution is the major cause
of water pollution in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin.

Do you realize that most non-point source pollution comes from runoff?

  • Rainwater or wastewater carries various pollutants along as it flows into our lakes, streams, and rivers.

  • Urban runoff from the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain and agricultural/sewage runoff from the north shore are causing serious water pollution problems in the waterways of the Basin.

Here is a chart to help you understand some of the key non-point sources:


sediment construction; tree removal increases turbidity; affects aquatic organisms; can contain toxins
phosphates/nitrates fertilizers; detergents; organic debris algae blooms; eutrophication
toxins; carcinogens heavy metals; pesticides; herbicides disrupt food chain; carcinogenic; cause fish kills
organic debris animal wastes; raw sewage; grass/leaves deplete oxygen; disrupt food chain; cause fish kills
petroleum products motor oil; gasoline; axle grease disrupt food chain; deplete oxygen; harms birds & mammals
pathogens animal wastes; raw sewage health hazards
man-made litter plastic debris; tires; others unsightly; harms organisms

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Some of the same pollutants in urban runoff can also be found in agricultural runoff.

  • Which ones are they?
  • How do they differ?
  • Are there any pollutants unique to agricultural runoff?


A. Complete the following chart:



After a rain, all these pollutants - urban and agricultural - flow or are pumped into a lake, bayou, or river in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. While we cannot clean up all forms of non-point source pollution as individuals, it is the responsibility of each of us to do what we can to help stem this toxic tide known as runoff.

Project F.U.R. ( Fight Urban Runoff),

...started by a group of students at Holy Cross School in New Orleans in 1990, has been battling this serious problem. They aim to educate the public about the causes of urban runoff in the basin, so that individuals will be able to take appropriate action. Project F.U.R. is featured in the video, " Pontchartrain Stories".

Read more about the award-winning Project F.U.R.

While remarkable strides have been made to reduce water pollution in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, there is still much work to be done - and it will take the efforts of all of us. Solving the basin's pollution problems will not be easy, but you'll find that there is something you can do.

B. Mini Action Plan

In this next activity, you will design a project of your own. Here are some proposed solutions to current problems. Research one and develop a mini action plan to get you started.

Pollution Problems Proposed Solution


stencil storm drains; recycle used motor; oil & filters

litter clean-up campaigns

plant aquatic grass beds
DEFORESTATION plant cypress trees
SHORELINE EROSION plant trees and other vegetation

Lake Pontchartrain Basin Pollution Solution

Thinking Ahead
  1. Which area of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin do you want to target?
    e.g., north shore, south shore, coastal marshes
  2. Which Lake Pontchartrain Basin pollution problem would you like to help solve?
  3. What questions do you have about that pollution problem?
  4. Where can you get information about that pollution problem?
  5. Which people in your school or community can help you understand the nature of the pollution problem? Which resources are available to you?
  6. Which obstacles or potential problems might affect your plan?
  7. Brainstorm a list of possible solutions to the problem. Ask others for their ideas about your proposed solutions.
  8. Can you do the project alone or will you need volunteer help?
  9. Make any necessary changes to your plan.


The pollution problem I most want to solve is:

This pollution project is needed because:

My proposed solutions include:

Steps I will take to tackle the pollution problem are:

I will recruit volunteer help from:

I will need to get permission for my project from these people and/or agencies:

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin will benefit from my project because:

The following jobs are to be completed on or before the due date by the person(s) assigned:




I will need the following items to complete my project:


If I need to finance my project, I will earn or raise funds by:


I will publicize my efforts through:


"An environmental journal is one of the best ways to learn issues and keep up with current topics."
- Darren Westfall, student

" It helps to write down your point of view to form where you stand on an issue."
- Mixalis Petikas, student

"I learned about important topics that should be taught to everyone."
- T. J. Willis, student

Journal writing is an effective way for students

  • To reflect on information they are learning.
  • To express their thought and feelings on an issue.
  • To develop and enhance their writing skills.

The purpose of this lesson is to offer ways to proceed from personal journal writing to critical journal writing as students examine their present or future place in society.

Traditional journal entries encompass questions such as: "What do you know about the topic?" and "What do you think or feel about the topic?" Critical journal writing can require the student to proceed from thoughts or feelings on an issue to formulating a plan of action. An appropriate question to ask would be, "What can you do about the topic?" Students will still be able to write about their feelings and experiences, but their expression will be thoughtful and focused.

Examples of questions for critical journal entries include:

  • How do the choices I make, good and bad, affect our water quality?
  • How can I improve the choices I make concerning my use of our precious water resources?
  • How does my personal use of water affect water quality in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin?
  • If I could swim or boat along the shores of waterways in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin, what kinds of pollution would I find?
  • How do those pollutants affect living organisms in the Basin?

A traditional journal entry, once written, can be a springboard for critical journal writing. Have students take an entry, expand upon it, analyze it, and use it as a basis for a formal essay.

Some strategies for this type of journal entry/essay combination include:

  • Developing one's perspective; formulating/exploring beliefs, theories, arguments.
  • Assessing consequences of actions.
  • Proposing solutions, citing similarities and differences in thoughts or feelings.
  • Analyzing actions or examining policies.

This can even by accomplished in small groups, with some students responsible for writing the essay and other students responsible for making a class presentation.

*** Another example of a critical journal entry is to have students listen to or read a selected passage, quote, or poem, then react or comment in a journal entry. For example, try this poem on water quality: ***

" The glass of water you're about to drink
Deserves a second thought, I think
For Avogadro, oceans and those you follow
Are all involved in every swallow.
The molecules of water in a single glass
In number, at least five times, outclass
The glasses of water in stream and sea,
Or wherever else that water can be.
The water in you is between and betwixt,
And having traversed is thoroughly mixed.
So someone quenching a future thirst
Could easily drink what you drank first!
The water you are about to taste
No doubt represents a bit of waste
From prehistoric beast or bird
A notion you may find absurd.
The fountain spraying in the park
Could well spout bits of Joan of Arc, or Adam, Eve, and all their kin;
You'd be surprised where your drink has been!
Just think! The water you cannot retain
Will some day hence return as rain,
Or be held as the purest dew.
Though long ago it passed through you!"

- Verne N. Rockcastle

Write a critical journal entry on the poem prompted by such questions as:

  1. What do you think or feel about the poetry selection?
  2. Why do you feel that way?
  3. What is the author trying to tell you about water quality
  4. Why do we have a responsibility to not waste or pollute water resources?
  5. You are a molecule of water who has spent the last 10,000 years making your way through the water cycle. Trace you family tree. Where does your genealogical search take you?
  6. Write the dialogue you have with three other water drops, discussing your travels through space and time.
  7. Write an essay based on your responses, or write a poem of your own!

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