Water for Human Consumption & Use

Water is one of the most precious substances known to man, without it we die very quickly. We drink it, wash with it, prepare our food with it, water our plants with it, we wash our cars with it, our windows, our clothes and so the list goes on and on. We even utilize it when we dispose of the waste produced by our own bodily functions. It is, in fact, the second most important ingredient in the survival of man itself next to the air that we breathe, second only because you asphyxiate quicker than you die from thirst!

 

According to WHO about 1.8 million people die every year as a result of poor water quality.

 

The quality of the water we use can vary greatly depending on its source. There are many organisms that live in water as well as "salts" or chemicals that can enter the water source that if ingested, have the potential to make us very ill or even kill us. The same can be said of the plants that are watered by unsuitable or contaminated water sources whereas they too will not survive either as a direct result or as a consequence of poor water quality.

 

Most Australians who receive their water from a water authority don't worry too much about its quality because they, in the main, trust the authorities to deliver water that is safe to use. That is water that has been treated to kill bacteria, viruses and cysts etc. and also perhaps filtered to improve the aesthetic quality of the water and to remove unwanted chemicals. The water authorities are bound by strict guidelines to achieve this.

 

The most common disinfection method used by water authorities to treat water is to introduce chlorine either by solution or gas injection. Some people find the presence of chlorine in their water supply distasteful or suffer allergic reaction to it. In these cases the chlorine can be easily removed by carbon filtration, the same can be achieved for the removal of fluoride.

 

There is a growing trend to collect and store rain water as an alternate to mains (treated) water. The motivation for this can be as simple as preserving a precious commodity that, at times, can be in very short supply. However, some people collect and utilize rain water because they believe that it is a healthier alternative than mains (treated) water.

 

There is no doubt that when rain water is stored and collected correctly it poses a minimal risk to the health of those who use it. However, in my many years of experience with home collected rain water I am yet to see a system that gets all the required ticks to achieve this end. There are two certainties in life, one is that we will all die at some stage and the other is that bacteria, viruses and cysts will be present in stored (rain) water.

 

Bacteria will happily grow and multiply in the storage tank, pressure pump and all associated pipe work. The question is in what quantity and who will be affected if and when the bacteria are ingested. It is generally recognised that those of us who are fit with good immune systems will probably not be adversely affected by drinking average condition stored rain water however, those amongst us with lower or weakened immune systems can be at risk, especially if the water is stored in poor conditions and the likelihood of large bacterial infestation and or the presence of chemicals is high.

 

This is not about "scare tactics" this is simply stating the facts. Drink or prepare food with untreated water and you run the risk of ingesting something that at the very least will make you ill ("Must have eaten a bad prawn last night!"). Those of you who operate businesses that allow employees or customers access to untreated water run the risk of being sued or charged with criminal neglect should someone become ill or, at worst, die as a result of ingesting contaminated water.

 

In the past we have treated rain water supplies that have tested to contain e coli, a bacterium found in the gut of warm blooded animals. E coli have been proven to survive outside of its host for a long period of time and can be responsible for severe poisoning and in extreme cases, death. It is passed from the host by way of its faeces and has no doubt found its way into the storage tank by this means.

 

In the United States some whole town water supplies have found to be contaminated with e coli because the water is sourced from bores (underground aquifers) that have been infiltrated by the septic water from household septic systems.

 

Any untreated water be it rain or bore is usually very simple to treat (disinfect) against organisms and is generally an inexpensive exercise, especially when flows required are low to moderate (household). Treatment generally consists of filtration to remove debris, colour, chemicals and taste followed by disinfection using ultraviolet light. Filtration alone will not remove bacteria. Larger flows, such as in commercial applications like pig or fowl production can be more economically treated with ozone.

 

Water containing chemicals and or "salts" can generally be cleaned up with specialized filtration prior to disinfection.

 

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Water Quality & Pumping Solutions  |  PO Box 494, Kapunda SA 5373  |  T: 0418 547 377  |  F: 08 8566 3034  |  E: lbrowne@westnet.com.au