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Have you read the latest news about faecal bacteria found in bottled water?
Or hear about how water-related diseases caused millions to die in developing countries?
Knowing what is in your water is no easy task. With so many contaminants in the water, knowing where to start is often the biggest challenge for most people.
Therefore, it is extremely important for you to know what is in your water, especially for water sources in rural areas.
Advanced diagnostic tools are often needed to detect the tiny contaminants in the water, but these tools may not be the most accessible and feasible on the ground.
However, there are still low-cost methods you can use to detect the presence of pathogens in your water. Before we get there, let me first introduce 5 key water quality indicators, to help you determine whether your water source is suitable for drinking.
Turbidity (cloudiness of water) is caused by colloidal matter or suspended particles that block light transmission through the water.
High turbidity is often associated with the presence of biological contamination, due to the tendencies of bacteria and pathogens adhering to the surface of solid particles.
Turbidity also creates a challenge for water treatment methods, such as solar disinfection (SODIS), boiling or chemicals that aim to destroy microbes.
Turbidity can indicate: Physical and Biological contamination
Drinking water should ideally have no visible colour. The colour of the water is usually caused by the presence of dissolved material or suspended solids. It also indicates the possibility of the presence of coloured organic matter or metals.
The presence of iron can be easily identified by the reddish colour in water. In addition, the water will also have a distinctive metallic taste (or “bloody” taste) which is unpalatable. While iron is an essential part of human nutrition, taking it in excess can affect the human body adversely.
Colour can indicate: Physical, Biological and Chemical contamination
Total coliforms include bacteria that are commonly found in soil; in water that has been influenced by surface water and in human/animal waste.
The presence of total coliform bacteria shows that the water could be contaminated by environmental factors such as soil and dirt, with a likely presence of pathogens being present in the water.
Total Coliform indicate: Biological contamination
Escherichia coli (E.coli)
E.coli is a type of faecal coliform (bacteria) commonly found in the intestines of people and animals. E.coli is the best indicator of faecal pollution because it is generally not found in the environment.
As study by the World Health Organization (2018) shows that that at least 2 billion people are drinking from water sources at risk of faecal contamination. The presence of E.coli indicate an increased likelihood of the presence of pathogenic bacteria which is harmful to the body.
E.coli can indicate: Biological contamination
pH value shows how acidic or alkaline the water is. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, consuming excessively alkaline or acidic water is harmful to our health.
Water with low pH (acidic, below 6.5) is corrosive and may contain dissolved heavy metals which will cause adverse health effects. Water with a high pH (alkaline, above 8.5) indicates that a high level of alkaline minerals is present.
Water that is slightly alkaline does not seem to pose a health risk, but it can affect the taste and appearance of the water.
pH value can indicate: Chemical contamination
Suggestion: A Simple Water Test Kit to Identify the Water Quality
At the end of the day, knowing the constituents in your drinking water is the first step in ensuring that your water is safe to drink.
You can test the quality of your water using a laboratory or a portable water test kit. If you are travelling in remote areas such as disaster zones or rural areas, consider using our Water Test Kits to ensure that your water is safe to drink.
Buy a portable test kit now for your next adventure!
Did you know, 525,000 children under 5 die from diarrhoeal diseases every year? Millions more fall ill due to water-borne diseases caused by the lack of access to clean drinking water.
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Marcus is a water evangelist whose passion lies in ending prolonged thirst.