By Arundhati Bhanot April 2003 There was a time when we could drink water straight from the tap. Today, when drinking water is becoming synonymous with bottled water or filtered water, we take a look at some options to make sure that the water you drink is safe The rapid growth in population and urbanization has resulted in the shortage of natural resources. Today, one of the biggest crises facing us is the shortage of water—especially safe drinking water. Most of the water available for daily consumption is unfit for drinking. The consumption of untreated tap water can also cause various diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery and virus infections such as hepatitis or cholera. Of increasing concern is the role of water in causing liver and kidney damage and cancer. Delhi Jal Board is the main supplier of drinking water in the capital. It is, however, learnt that only 18 out of the 33 tests for safe drinking water prescribed by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) are being carried by DJB. Two surveys conducted by the Hindustan Times last year revealed that the drinking water across the city had a high count of total dissolved solid, bacterial content and hardness. This was serious enough to account for stomach and liver disorders. The use of pesticides by farmers that enter surface and groundwater as runoff from crops pollute the lakes, rivers and estuaries. According to experts, pesticides are the most difficult to remove. Again, paper, sugar industries, distilleries besides glass, nickel and chromium plants along the river also add to the pollution of the river, further contaminating the drinking water. Dr R.K. Khandal, director, Shriram Institute for Industrial Research, says: ‘‘The quality of drinking water in Delhi is steadily declining. Samples often have high content of some pollutant or the other including residual pesticide, heavy metals, organic matter like hydrocarbons, microbial and bacterial content.’’ Water can be treated in various ways to make it safe for drinking, starting with simple home remedies to elaborate mechanism used in the treatment of water. But how effective are these? And how much do we have to invest in order to get access to safe drinking water? Let’s investigate. Home Remedies - Boil the water. The disease causing organisms cannot survive the heat. - Sterilize the water chemically. Household chlorine bleach can be used. Bleach containing soap or fragrance is unacceptable. - Store the water in a clean sanitary glass or plastic container or make sure that the metal container used for storing water does not corrode. - Strain water containing sediments or floating material through a cloth or paper filter. - Avoid water from waterbeds as a source of drinking water. It may have pesticidal chemicals. These techniques can improve the quality of water but may not be a foolproof measure to ensure safe drinking water. Chlorination The use of chlorine in water eliminates almost all the waterborne diseases including cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery. Many public water systems use chlorine as a disinfecting agent to kill pathogenic bacteria. If your water comes from a private well, overhead tank or water tankers, chlorination is an effective treatment. Though chlorine may be considered an effective treatment for water, it causes water to taste different and smell bad. Chlorine can be added to water for disinfection by means of bleaching powder, chlorine tablets and liquids. Chlorine tablets are reliable and cost-effective. They are available by the brand names such as Puriwat and Purifast. A 4 gm tablet purifies 2,000 litres of water. Water can be treated in various ways to make it safe for drinking, starting with some simple home remedies to elaborate gadgets used in the treatment of water Bottled Water The desperation to have access to safe drinking water has given impetus to a new industry—packaging water in plastic containers. The market is now flooded with what is commonly referred to as mineral water. But few of the products may actually qualify for this category. So what exactly is mineral water? According to American and European Regional Codex Standard, a sample of water is said to be natural mineral water only if: - It is obtained directly from natural or drilled sources from underground water-bearing strata. - It is collected under conditions that guarantee the original natural bacteriological purity. - It is bottled at the time of the emergence of the source in a hygienic way. - It is not subjected to any chemical treatment. Failing to meet these requirements, most of the leading companies now call their products bottled drinking water. A new report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed that 17 samples of bottled water contained pesticide residues on an average 36.4 times higher than the standards prescribed by the European Economic Community. The pesticides found were Lindane, known to cause breast cancer, Chlorpyrifos resulting in foetal malformations and Malathion, that damages the nervous system. The companies selling these bottled water brands, however, insist that they are abiding by the standards set by the central government. They argue that if these standards do not match international standards, the government needs to take the responsibility. CSE studies suggest that the Evian brand, imported from France, is completely safe for drinking followed by Himalayan and Catch which are relatively safe. Water Purifiers/Filters With rising consciousness among consumers about contaminated water, a large number of people are beginning to use water purifiers. But all purifiers and filters available in the market may not be as effective as they claim to be, especially when it comes to removing pesticides. The most effective technique for purifying is Reverse Osmosis Membrane (RO), which has a high cost attached. If you do not want to go for any elaborate water purifier and choose to opt for a somewhat inexpensive gadget, you can go for simple small carbon filters that you install directly onto the faucet. Though seemingly simple, they are useful in filtering out heavy metals, solids and other chemicals. Ionika Alkaline Water Shapewell Industries Ph: (022)28562743, 56910320 E-mail: health.ionika.in Website: www.ionika.info
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