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Water Quality

By | June 2008
Page 1 of 7
Water Quality

Water quality is determined by assessing three classes of attributes: biological, chemical, and physical. There are standards of water quality set for each of these three classes of attributes. The standards for drinking water are developed by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), World Health Organization (WHO) etc. All municipal (public) water supplies must be measured against these standards. Some attributes are considered of primary importance to the quality of drinking water, while others are of secondary importance. Therefore, the drinking water standards are categorized as primary drinking water standards and secondary drinking water standards. Primary drinking water standards regulate organic and inorganic chemicals, microbial pathogens, and radioactive elements that may affect the safety of drinking water. These standards set a limit--the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL)--on the highest concentrations of certain chemicals allowed in the drinking water supplied by a public water system. Secondary drinking water standards regulate chloride, color, copper, corrosivity, foaming agents, iron, manganese, odor, pH, sulfates, total dissolved solids, and zinc, all of which may affect qualities of drinking water like taste, odor, color, and appearance. The concentration limit of these contaminants is referred to as the Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL). State agencies like the Public Health Engineering department (PHED) are responsible for monitoring public water supplies and enforcing the primary and secondary drinking water standards set by the EPA/WHO. Local water organizations must test and treat drinking water and maintain the standards for quality. These districts are also responsible for informing the public when any water quality standards have been violated. Given these standards, stream- and groundwater supplies should be of high quality. Generally, one compares the values for the various measures of stream- and groundwater...

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