Do you know what’s in your drinking water?
Many areas of Africa are affected by water pollution and microbial water-bound contaminants like Cholera. The increased demand on water suppliers has often lead to water that is unfit for human consumption, being inadvertently supplied to your tap. This is often the case in many smaller towns throughout South Africa. Were river water is consumed: upstream contamination, via sewerage and human use (washing of clothes etc.) is an important consideration for water quality.
Concerns about personal and family health may lead you to question the safety of the water you are using. Recent publicity about water pollution problems and their effect on water used in the home for drinking, cooking,washing and many other purposes. You may be particularly concerned about the quality of your drinking water if you rely on your borehole or other private water supply. With the availability of modern water treatment equipment and the often aggressive marketing of these devices, you may wonder about the need to install such equipment in your home and what if anything some of these filters do. Agricultural water requirements are often neglected. Suitable water leads to improved livestock production.
Why Test Your Water
There is no such thing in nature as “pure” water. Nearly all water contains contaminants, even in the absence of nearby pollution-causing activities. Many dissolved minerals, organic carbon compounds, and microbes find their way into your drinking water as water comes into contact with air and soil. When pollutant and contaminant levels in drinking water are excessively high, they may affect certain household routines and/or be detrimental to human health.
Obvious water problems, such as staining of plumbing fixtures and laundry, as well as many objectionable tastes and odors, may be evidence of excessive levels of contaminants in your household water supply. Many of these contaminants are naturally occurring and are considered more of a nuisance than hazard, presenting no danger to a persons health. The presence of most harmful contaminants, however, is not always obvious and such contaminated water may not cause health-related symptoms for many years. As a result, the only way that you can ensure that your water supply is safe is to have a periodic laboratory water analysis done on your drinking water.
Long term exposure to contaminated water can lead to serious health risks.
An example of natural water contamination: The mineral Flourspar occurs in many areas and can lead to excessive Fluorine in drinking water taken from borehole’s. Chronic Fluoride poisoning is manifested by weakness, weight loss, general ill health, joint stiffness, brittle bones, discoloration of teeth ( during tooth formation ), and anemia.
Pesticide residue and industrial pollution in drinking water is a constant problem.
What to Test For
The list of potential water contaminants is very lengthy and impractical to test for in its entirety. Such water testing would be very expensive and unnecessary. In the event that you could have every potential water contaminant tested for, relatively few have established standards, or recommended levels, allowing one to evaluate how serious the pollutant contamination may be. Knowing which water contaminants are most likely to be a problem and being aware of the warning signs of certain contaminants can make such testing more meaningful and economic.
Several analytical tests reveal the severity of specific impurities, and indicate the likelihood of other contaminants being present in drinking water. For example, low pH, a measure of the acidity of water, may lead to corrosion of plumbing and water supply, such as copper and lead, which may dissolve and reach unhealthy levels in drinking water. In addition, high nitrate levels usually indicate contamination by drainage which may convey other harmful pollutants, such as pesticides, into drinking water supplies. It is a good idea to conduct regular testing, as often as annually, for the following:
- Total coliform bacteria
- Total dissolved solids (TDS).
- Organic Carbon Contaminants (Pesticides, Industrial Pollution etc.)
Borehole water testing should preferably be after a rainy period, but can be conducted year round. When considering the purchase of a new home, at the very least, these tests should be performed on the existing drinking water supply. Banks may require these and/or additional tests before approving a loan.
Source: SMI Analytical
Water quality testing is a basic requirement for maintaining healthy water supplies. Municipality water should be tested at least daily at various points in the supply line, from water storage dams to public water tanks. The public is forced to trust that regular testing of potable water supplies is taking place. Borehole water is often assumed to be ‘pure’ but this is not the case! Apart from the usual human sources of contamination, groundwater can be naturally contaminated- naturally occurring arsenic may even be present. Water storage facilities such as water tanks can also be a source of contamination, for example: synthetic liners in the water tanks may begin to break down after recommended service life has been reached. Animals such as rats may also have access to water tanks that have open inspection lids. Rainwater may be quite pure before it reaches the ground but should you want to drink harvested rain water off your roof, it must be adequately sterilized and purified (dust, leaves and other debris mixes with the water in the gutters). Water Rhapsody’s rainwater harvesting systems incorporate special rainrunner device that separates the larger particles before the water is directed to your water tank. Water tanks are core to many of our water systems; Water Rhapsody consultants are trained to assess the type, size and number of water tanks required (free quote! CONTACT US).
Mpumalanga has a few laboratories that can test your water quality. If you live in the Nelspruit/White River area, contact Labserve Analytical Services: Tel: 013 752 4617, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. A few guidelines should be followed when collecting a water sample for testing:
Water Sampling Procedure
Please do not use milk or mayonnaise bottles.
1. Wash your hands
2. Select a clean bottle of at least 500mL capacity, with a watertight cap
3. Rinse the bottle and lid with boiling water, repeat twice
4. If you are taking the sample from a tap, wipe the tap edges with a tissue, and then pass a flame over the edge 2 – 3 times and run the tap for ± 5 minutes before sampling
5. If you are taking the sample from a borehole, pump the borehole for a while to get rid of any stale water before sampling
6. Rinse the sample bottle with the sample water, repeat twice
7. Fill the bottle with the sample water and cap.
8. For any microbiological analyses, deliver to testing laboratory within 24 hours
9. Keep sample out of direct sunlight
10. Keep sample cool but DO NOT freeze