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High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! 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 returned to the natural environment at a higher temperature, the change in temperature impacts organisms by (a) decreasing oxygen supply, and (b) affecting ecosystem composition. Urban runoff--stormwater discharged to surface waters from roads and parking lots--can also be a source of elevated water temperatures. Humans are a major cause of this.