University of Florida

Sources of Pollution

Water pollution is when additions to water cause an imbalance in the ecosystem. 

There are two main origins of water pollution.

Point Source Pollution

Point source pollution is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “any single identifiable source of pollution from which pollutants are discharged, such as a pipe...”

Examples of point sources include:

  • discharges from wastewater treatment plants;
  • operational wastes from industries; and
  • combined sewer outfalls.

State and federal requirements have largely eliminated this type of pollution.

Non-Point Source Pollution

Non-point source pollution does not come from a specific source. Instead, it originates from many places, or from a widespread area. We all contribute to non-point source pollution when we improperly use or dispose of fertilizers, pesticides, oils, grease, pet or animal wastes, and trash. In many communities, including the UF campus, these pollutants are transported to local waterways via storm drains.

As rain flows over campus roads, sidewalks and lawns, it can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants in its path. This stormwater is NOT cleaned before it reaches campus creeks and lakes that connect to groundwater reservoirs. Both at UF and across the nation, polluted stormwater runoff is one of the greatest threats to clean water.

Examples of non-point sources of pollution include the following:

This photo shows how pollutants can sometimes be traced to a single source. This photo is part of the Microsoft Clipart Gallery and was not taken in Gainesville.

non-point source pollution at Tumblin Creek
In the above picture, non-point source pollution leaves visual evidence at Tumblin Creek, just south of campus.