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Drinking water is water intended for human consumption for drinking and cooking purposes from any source. It includes water (treated or untreated) supplied by any means for human consumption.

Drinking water should be safe to consume without creating any impacts to human health. To ensue that the drinking water is safe, the quality of drinking water needs to be checked through certain testing procedures. Water quality refers to chemical, physical, biological and radiological characteristics of water.

Drinking water shall comply with the requirements as prescribed by Bureau of Indian Standards 10500 published in 2012. This standard has two limits, i.e. acceptable limits and permissible limits in the absence of an alternate source. If any parameter exceeds the permissible limit, the water is considered unfit for human consumption Except pesticide residue and bacteriological quality. It is pertinent that drinking water source(s) be tested as prescribed to ensure that the supplied water meets the prescribed standards.

To know more about drinking water quality parameters kindly click the following link
1) BIS 10500:2012

S. No. Characteristic Container Preservation Maximum Storage
1. pH value P, G Analyse immediately 0.25 hours
2. Total dissolved solids P, G Analyse same day 6 hours
3. Turbidity P, G Analyse same day, store in dark 24 hours
4. Chloride P, G Not required -
5. Total alkalinity P, G Cool <= 6 C 24 hours
6. Total hardness P, G - -
7. Sulphate P, G Cool <= 6 C 28 days
8. Iron P(A), G(A) For dissolved metals filter immediately, add HNO3 to pH<2 6 months
9. Total arsenic P(A), G(A) For dissolved metals filter immediately, add HNO3 to pH<2 6 months
10. Fluoride P None required 28 days
11. Nitrate P, G Analyse as soon as possible Cool < 60 C 48 hours
12. Residual Chlorine P, G Analyse immediately 0.25 hours
13. Presence/ absence of any bacteriological contamination G
Note: P= Plastic (polyethylene or equivalent) // G= Glass // P (A) or G(A)= rinsed with 1+1 HNO3
Potential Signs Possible Parameters to be Tested Contamination Source/Hazardous Event
Acute water-related health issues
Diarrhoea and dysentery (including occasional outbreaks of cholera and typhoid fever) and other waterborne infections such as hepatitis are widespread within the community, particularly affecting the young, old and health compromised Microbial pathogens Open defecation or nearby sanitation facilities cause faecal matter to enter the source water or the system Source contamination from agriculture (use of manure) or wildlife Dirty water with suspended particles such as silt, clay or organic matter, often from flood waters or following rainstorms
Methaemoglobinaemia in bottle-fed-infants High levels of nitrates/nitrites with associated microbial contamination and diarrhoea Sewage discharges, poorly maintained septic tanks, animal manure and runoff from agriculture
Chronic water-related health issues
Mottling and staining of teeth in young children and teenagers, brittle bones and crippling High fluoride levels Naturally occurring in some groundwaters
Pigmentation changes (melanosis) and thickening of the skin (hyperkeratosis), increased rates of cancers High arsenic levels Naturally occurring in some groundwaters
Skin irritation (skin rash, hives, itchy eyes and throat), tingling around the mouth and fingertips, slurred speech; animals who drink the water may die Algae and algal toxins High nutrient levels in warm and stagnant surface water (ponds, tanks), resulting in algal blooms, which may release toxins
Aesthetic issues
High corrosion rates of metals in contact with water High metal concentrations; may pose health concern in some cases (e.g.lead) Soft, acidic water (e.g. rainwater) in contact with unprotected metal pipes and fittings
Stains on fixtures or laundry, coloured water with metallic taste High metal concentrations
• copper (green/blue-coloured water or stains); may pose health concern
• iron (brown/red-coloured water)
• manganese (black/dark brown stains)
May result from corroding pipes in the distribution system; in tubewell supplies, it may be naturally occurring in groundwater with elevated iron and manganese levels or from “overturning” of reservoirs
Unpleasantly salty taste High sodium chloride levels; may pose health concerns to those on sodium restricted diets Naturally occurring in some groundwaters, may be from seawater (coastal areas) or caused by runoff of road salt (cold climates) or evaporation residue in irrigated areas (hot climates)
Rotten egg odour and taste, corrosive black spots in pipes High sulfide levels; usually not harmful to health, but may be associated with high organic matter content (coloured water) Naturally occurring in some groundwaters, but could indicate industrial waste, oil, coal or stagnant water
Brown-coloured water without particles High levels of natural organic matter; could result in high levels of disinfection by-products if water is chlorinated Naturally occurring in some surface waters from lakes or rivers with submerged vegetation
Soap does not lather, white scale builds up on pots or kettles when water is heated High hardness (calcium and magnesium); not harmful to health, but may make the water difficult to treat and use Usually from limestone and chalk aquifers
(Source: World Health Organization)

The following are possible sources of contamination :

  • Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, fluoride, iron, uranium etc) in the earth layer;
  • Local land use practices (for example, fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, concentrated feeding operations etc);
  • Manufacturing processes (for example, heavy metals, cyanide) near the drinking water sources;
  • Malfunctioning on-site wastewater treatment systems (for example, septic systems and twin pit toilets);
  • Microbial contamination through mixture of waste water in the drinking water source or distribution line;
  • In addition, drinking water that is not properly treated or that travels through an improperly maintained distribution system (pipes) may also create conditions that increase risk of contamination.

Drinking water contamination due to geogenic and anthropogenic activities has been recognised as a critical public health risk affecting people's well-being. Consumption of contaminated water leads to water-borne diseases 

How to assure water quality

The following measures can be used to prevent water from getting contaminated: 

  • Water Quality Testing: Water quality testing is a measure that can be used to ascertain the safety of drinking water, at the source, within a piped distribution system, or at the consumer end. If the database of water testing is maintained and regularly analysed, it can provide vital clues in investigating disease outbreaks, play an important role in monitoring and surveillance of water supply, verifying the safety of drinking water, assist in taking preventive measures.
  • Water Quality Surveillance: Surveillance is an investigative activity undertaken to identify and evaluate factors associated with drinking water which could pose a health risk. Surveillance involves the active participation of Gram Panchayat and/ or its sub-committee (VWSC/ Paani Samiti/ User Group) and the local community to regularly test quality of water using Field Test Kits (FTKs) meant for the purpose.  By this way, the GPs and/ or its sub-committees are expected to perform with the responsibility of a ‘public utility’ at the village level. Even though FTK gives an indicative result, it can ascertain whether a water supplier is fulfilling its obligations. Five persons, preferably women, have to be identified and trained in every village to undertake surveillance activities.
  • Sanitary Inspection: A sanitary inspection is an on-site inspection of a water supply facility to identify actual and potential sources of chemical and biological contamination. The physical structure and operation of the system and external environmental factors (such as latrine location) are evaluated. This information can be used to select appropriate remedial action to improve or protect the drinking water source and supply system. Sanitary inspections should be carried out for all new and existing sources of water as prescribed 
  • Individual: Any individual can test the quality of drinking water in the nearest laboratory or the laboratory of his/her choice through Water Quality Management Information System.
    Click here to know the step by step procedure for testing the water quality at a water quality testing laboratory
    Click here to online registration and submission of water sample
  • Field Test Kits users: Five persons, preferably women, have to be identified and trained in every village to undertake water quality testing using Field Test Kit (FTK). If you are a FTK users click here.
  • PHED/ RWS department: If you are a PHED/ RWS department official in charge of testing the drinking water quality click here.

Video Tutorials

Video tutorial to submit a sample by Public User

Video tutorial to submit a sample by Departmental User

Video tutorial for FTK user