WHEN TO TEST YOUR WATER AND WHY
South Africa’s water is a scarce resource, this fact may sometimes force us to rely on alternative sources to municipal supply. Whether you draw your water from a borehole, well point, dam or river; it is best to determine whether the water quality is up to standard for your use. Comprehensive water analysis or water testing is the only way to determine this.
With a municipal supply the water is regulated within a guideline to ensure a reasonable quality, this generally negates the need to have it tested. With exceptions such as failing infrastructure or high mineral contents, some areas may have largely differing water qualities with higher amounts of salts or hardness, potentially damaging appliances and piping throughout a household.
HOW TO TAKE A WATER SAMPLE
Take a clean plastic or glass bottle (500ml or more) and fill it all the way to the top leaving no room for air. Write your details on a sticker on the bottle. When testing a borehole let the water run for 5 to 10 minutes to allow stagnant water to be flushed out. Keep the sample cool and away from direct sunlight and refrigerate if possible. Deliver to the lab as soon as possible. Request a Comprehensive Drinking Water Analysis with Microbiological.
Chlorine, a powerful oxidiser, is commonly used to sterilise municipal drinking water and water in storage tanks. The chlorine is added to kill most germs and pathogens that could be harmful to us, however, this spoils the taste and smell of your water. Overdosing of chlorine make your water smell and taste even worse at times.In the long run, the consumption of chlorine can be damaging to your health and Disinfectant by-products of Chlorine are Carcinogenic. Chlorine is effective in killing germs and bacteria, but should be removed from the water before consumption.
The presence of bacteria in water is a common problem; sources of contamination can include: contaminated ground water; exposed infrastructure (e.g. burst pipes or open storage tanks) or when water is collected from open or exposed areas e.g. roofs for rainwater harvesting.If you suspect your water source to be contaminated indicated by illness in the household you should request a water test report. When requesting a water test report to determine the pathogen (including bacteria, spores, viruses etc.) content of the water; specifically request a micro biological report.
HARD WATER / LIME SCALE
We call water “hard” when it contains high quantities of calcium and magnesium.Hard water is not harmful when consumed, but it causes damage to household appliances.It causes “scale” to form on the inside of pipes and especially on heating elements. The scale does not conduct heat very well, causing the heating elements to use more electricity then would normally be required. Scale also reduces the flow through pipes and eventually, pipes can become clogged. It also poses a nuisance in personal hygiene by preventing soap from lathering.Hardness is measured in ppm (parts per million); mg/l (milligrams per litre), mg/l and ppm are considered equal.
Hard water levels are classified as follows (Total hardness):
Soft: 0 – 50 ppm
Moderately Soft: 50 – 100 ppm
Slightly Hard: 100-150 ppm
Moderately Hard: 150 – 200 ppm
Hard: 200 – 300 ppm
Very Hard: more than 300 ppm
Sediment is a general term for all sand, organic material and other small solid particles suspended in your water. This is caused when infrastructure gets older, as well as when maintenance is done. Dam, river and bore-hole water can also have high levels of sediment.Sediment in your water is abrasive and can cause damage to your appliances that work with water such as: washing machines, dishwashers, taps, geysers etc. Sediment also damages and clogs up irrigation systems.Sediment never travels alone, but is accompanied by dissolved components. The visible particles are not always harmful to your health, but some of the dissolved components such as heavy metals can be harmful. These solid particles can be removed by means of a mechanical process; either sifting or creating a barrier.Sediment removal is always the primary stage in a filtration process.
SALT / BRACKISH WATER
Brackish water is water with a high salt content (high TDS). To turn brackish water into fresh drinking water, the process of reverse osmosis is used.
IRON AND METALS
Iron is one of the most common elements found in nature and in some areas the ground water contain a measurable amount. Iron stains bathtubs, toilets, sinks and walls etc. with a characteristic reddish-brown colour. Staining will occur even at low concentrations.High levels of Iron in your drinking water is unhealthy in the long run. Iron-rich water is characterised by a metallic taste and a metallic or sulphurous smell and the water is a reddish-brown colour.When taking a water sample of iron-rich water ensure that there no air is present in the sample bottle.