“Water- a bequest of nature” bases all innovations in curbing water crisis to make our blue planet green and sustainable.
While sitting at your desk, supping a glass of cool, clean water, you may think that water quality is an issue somewhere else. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the sad truth.
-Globally, at least 2 billion people use a potable water source contaminated with faeces!
-In a 2018 report from Global Advocacy Group, Water Aid placed India at the top of its list of countries with the worst access to clean water close to home—163 million Indians live this way!
-The Ganges river in India is one of the most polluted rivers in the world containing sewage, trash, food, and animal remains!
-WHO estimates that in India, about 38 million people are affected by waterborne diseases each year, of which over 75% are children; 780,000 deaths are attributable to contaminated water and more than 400,000 can be attributed to diarrhea alone!
Water is nothing but a simple chemical molecule of hydrogen and oxygen atom. The water that is innately present in nature and essential for existance is so simple that people have become skeptical about it. They feel the need to over-complicate a simple concept and bring in swankier features to nature’s best gift to the mankind. Let's delve further into this to understand drinking water quality and what to know before testing water.
What comes to your mind when I say water quality? I asked a handful of people the same and thereafter, jotted down a few common phrases in all the responses- Water pollution, water purifiers, TDS, color and palatability, pH. Let’s concatenate them first and then dive deeper to understand water quality and its parameters.
Due to heavy contamination from industrial waste, agricultural discharge and domestic refuse, water is of dismal quality nowadays. These toxins seep into groundwater as well and make it unfit to drink. Water unfortunately, is inimitably vulnerable to pollution. Being a ‘universal solvent’, it dissolves more substances than any other liquid does. So, with an eye to make it potable, we need purification systems that remove inorganic as well as organic contaminants from water.
On the other hand, “total dissolved solids" (TDS) refer to the minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water and assess its palatability. While pH is a measure of the hydrogen ion concentration of a solution. TDS, color and pH determine the water quality, but are ancillary to the primary parameters.
The power bestowed on us by the internet is immense. While it helps us find every conceivable piece of information, it also avers some misconceptions as the actuality. These fallacies stand the test of time as many companies promote them with their interests in mind. Same is in the case of TDS, pH and color. People have this misapprehension of them being primary parameters determining water quality, while they are auxiliary. This misconception has become apocryphal as it is recurrently cited. This is a result of consistent advertising by the commercial water purifier manufacturers and is entrenched into our minds.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY PARAMETERS OF WATER QUALITY
TDS, color and pH are some of the most commonly used parameters to asses water quality but are not paramount. There are scads of water quality measurements that serve as indicators. However, there is no single measure that can ascertain the overall water quality. Considering this, the United States’ Environment Protection agency alias EPA has corroborated a few primary and secondary parameters of water quality.
EPA AND SDWA
The safe drinking water act (SDWA) of 1974, established to preserve the quality of drinking water in the States, emphases on water that can essentially or potentially be metamorphosized into potable water, whether from above or undergrounded sources. This act empowers EPA to establish minimum standards to protect tap water. It entails all owners or operators of public water systems to comply with the primary drinking water regulations.
To compliment the primary standards, there are some non-enforceable secondary drinking water regulations that address the cosmetic and aesthetic attributes of drinking water. These standards coupled with stringent enforcement, produce high quality potable water. Drinking water standards from EPA specify the maximum levels of contaminants (MCL) and residual disinfectants, disinfection agents and by-products, treatment techniques. Further, the US agency (currently) requires potable water to be monitored for 90+ contaminants. Let’s delve into this-
PRIMARY DRINKING WATER STANDARDS
Chemical Parameters (Inorganic)
Chemical Parameters (Organic)
SECONDARY DRINKING WATER STANDARDS- “NUISANCE IMPURITIES”
The Secondary Drinking Water Regulations are non-obligatory water quality parameters that’ve been appointed for 15 contaminants. EPA does not enforce these “secondary maximum contaminant levels” (SMCLs).
“They are established as guidelines to assist public water systems in managing their drinking water for aesthetic considerations, such as taste, color and odor. These contaminants are not considered to present a risk to human health at the SMCL. They are sometimes referred to as ‘nuisance’ impurities.”- EPA. The secondary parameters include- Total dissolved solids (TDS), pH, Iron, Aluminum, Chloride, color, corrosivity, odor, Fluoride, Copper, Sulfate, Silver, Zinc, Manganese and Foaming agents.
SHOULD I GET MY WATER TESTED?
The answer to this depends on several factors. Many contaminants that pose health risks could be present in your water. Unfortunately, they are not visible to the naked eye, hence change in taste, color or odor may not indicate the actual water quality. It is advisable to get your water tested on a regular basis. Although possible, it is unnecessary and expensive to check for all the contaminants. Following is a table containing symptoms that should prompt you to test your water and recommends check-ups for it-
Hopefully, now that you’re armed with all the information concerning water quality and its tests, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about what to test in potable water!
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