“Drink plenty of water!” – be it following the latest diet fad or health tip we always get to hear this.
And, rightly so - the human body consists of up to 90% of water. Drinking water (defined as water used for drinking or cooking)
1. Water helps transport nutrients and oxygen into the body’s cells
2. Water regulates body temperature and is vital for a healthy metabolism
3. Water also detoxifies and moisturises the body
75% of the Earth is covered by water. Less than only 1% of that water is drinkable.
90 % of fresh water resources in India are used for agriculture, of that 10 % is used by the industrial units, municipal use and in construction projects, so only about 5 % is available in terms of drinking water. Clearly, safe and pure drinking water is precious, and if the water you drink daily is not safe or adequately purified, you run the risk of health problems.
Recent reports on drinking water:
April 2012: The Times of India reported that contamination level in Mumbai stood at 8% as against the mere 4% in February last year. In rural parts of Pune, 11% of the samples were found unfit for consumption as against 9% last year.
May 2012: The Hindu reported that there seems to be no end to the menace of storm water drains discharging sewage and liquid waste into water bodies and other open places in the southern suburbs of Chennai.
June 2012: The Hindustan Times reported that between May and June the Bombay Municipal Corporation received 33% more complaints of water contamination than last year. The Deccan Herald reported in Bangalore that rampant water contamination has led to outbreak of diseases during summer. The Indian Express reported that in Delhi the North Corporation collected 258 water samples from its six zones. Of these 50% were found unfit for consumption.
Most of us heat water at home, some filter it, others merely grab the nearest bottled water to ensure pure drinking water – is that good enough? Safe water is one that is free of all impurities including bacteria and viruses. It is interesting to note that no one method of purification (boiling, filtering, or drinking from bottled water) totally eliminates impurities.
How does water get contaminated?
Water contamination is function of how safe and clean the source and supply/distribution is, be it the municipal water, spring water or well water. It is also dependent upon the surroundings – if you stay around a place where industrial waste/effluents are disposed into water bodies the water tends to be hard and contaminated.
Water is routed from all of these sources and delivered onto your homes by:
1. Water taps
2. Water tankers
3. Pumps that extract water from the well
Water when transported in tankers, supplied through the taps are only as hygienic as the quality of the containers. Interestingly, even rain water for that matter gets contaminated as soon as it hits the soil. Hence getting 100% pure water is unlikely (unless there is an environment created specifically for that). In cities you would have noticed that sewage and water pipes run next to each other or are submerged in sewage. Most water pipelines are old and with time may get corroded. To a large extent civic behavior is also to blame – throwing garbage into drains, nullahs etc. also contaminate water. Add to that installation of illegal water lines and booster pumps that damage the existing connections.
Water Purification Standards
In India, there are few water regulations and standards that are fully pursued and complied with by water supplying bodies. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which works under the aegis of the Government of India, has set down basic standards and some guiding principles as to what constitutes safe drinking water as being:
- It has an unobjectionable odour, colour and an agreeable taste
- Has a pH level of 6.5-8.5
- Has a limited amount of chemical constituents, for example, a total hardness (in the form of calcium carbonate) of less than 300mg/L
- Should be free from bacterial microbes like coliform organisms
That said there are several local bodies such as WHO India, NEERI and International ones such as EPA who have defined water quality standards based on prevailing water conditions.
So how do we ensure SAFE drinking water?
Water purity is subject to the water composition in any given area. Throughout the country, a number of government and independent water testing laboratories conduct local and specific water analysis. These testing bodies help consumers and organisations understand local conditions and water composition and also recommend the ideal water purification methods or that region. For example, in regions with typically hard water, reverse osmosis may be a good water purification method. In places with irregular electricity supply, you may want to opt for non-powered water purifiers. Age-old procedures like boiling may destroy many but not all contaminants in drinking water. For safe drinking water it is best to get the RIGHT water purifier.