Water quality testing is an important part of environmental monitoring. When water quality is poor, it affects not only aquatic life but the surrounding ecosystem as well.
These sections detail all of the parameters that affect the quality of water in the environment. These properties can be physical, chemical or biological factors. Physical properties of water quality include temperature and turbidity. Chemical characteristics involve parameters such as pH and dissolved oxygen. Biological indicators of water quality include algae and phytoplankton. These parameters are relevant not only to surface water studies of the ocean, lakes and rivers, but to groundwater and industrial processes as well.
Water quality monitoring can help researchers predict and learn from natural processes in the environment and determine human impacts on an ecosystem. These measurement efforts can also assist in restoration projects or ensure environmental standards are being met.
Hardenss of water: The simple definition of water hardness is the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water. Hard water is high in dissolved minerals, largely calcium and magnesium. You may have felt the effects of hard water, literally, the last time you washed your hands. Depending on the hardness of your water, after using soap to wash you may have felt like there was a film of residue left on your hands. In hard water, soap reacts with the calcium (which is relatively high in hard water) to form “soap scum”. When using hard water, more soap or detergent is needed to get things clean, be it your hands, hair, or your laundry.
pH level: The pH of water is a measure of the acid–base equilibrium and, in most natural waters, is controlled by the carbon dioxide–bicarbonate–carbonate equilibrium system. An increased carbon dioxide concentration will therefore lower pH, whereas a decrease will cause it to rise. Temperature will also affect the equilibria and the pH. In pure water, a decrease in pH of about 0.45 occurs as the temperature is raised by 25 °C. In water with a buffering capacity imparted by bicarbonate, carbonate and hydroxyl ions, this temperature effect is modified (APHA, 1989). The pH of most drinking-water lies within the range 6.5–8.5. Natural waters can be of lower pH, as a result of, for example, acid rain or higher pH in limestone areas.
TDS: TDS means concentration of dissolved particles or solids in water. TDS comprises of inorganic salts such as calcium, magnesium, chlorides, sulfates, bicarbonates, etc, along with many more inorganic compounds that easily dissolve in water.
Chloramines: Chloramines (also known as secondary disinfection) are disinfectants used to treat drinking water and they:
- Are most commonly formed when ammonia is added to chlorine to treat drinking water.
- Provide longer-lasting disinfection as the water moves through pipes to consumers.
Chloramines have been used by water utilities since the 1930s.
Sulfate: Sulfate (SO4) can be found in almost all natural water. The origin of most sulfate compounds is the oxidation of sulfite ores, the presence of shales, or the industrial wastes. Sulfate is one of the major dissolved components of rain. High concentrations of sulfate in the water we drink can have a laxative effect when combined with calcium and magnesium, the two most common constituents of hardness.
Conductivity: Conductivity is a measure of the ability of water to pass an electrical current. Because dissolved salts and other inorganic chemicals conduct electrical current, conductivity increases as salinity increases. Organic compounds like oil do not conduct electrical current very well and therefore have a low conductivity when in water. Conductivity is also affected by temperature: the warmer the water, the higher the conductivity.
Organic Carbon: Organic contaminants (natural organic substances, insecticides, herbicides, and other agricultural chemicals) enter waterways in rainfall runoff. Domestic and industrial wastewaters also contribute organic contaminants in various amounts. As a result of accidental spills or leaks, industrial organic wastes may enter streams. Some of the contaminants may not be completely removed by treatment processes; therefore, they could become a problem for drinking water sources. It is important to know the organic content in a waterway.
Trihalomethanes: Trihalomethanes (THMs) are the result of a reaction between the chlorine used for disinfecting tap water and natural organic matter in the water. At elevated levels, THMs have been associated with negative health effects such as cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes.
Turbidity: Turbidity is the measure of relative clarity of a liquid. It is an optical characteristic of water and is a measurement of the amount of light that is scattered by material in the water when a light is shined through the water sample. The higher the intensity of scattered light, the higher the turbidity. Material that causes water to be turbid include clay, silt, very tiny inorganic and organic matter, algae, dissolved colored organic compounds, and plankton and other microscopic organisms.