Water Quality Testing Colorado is important because it helps us live healthily, industries operate smoothly, and natural environments thrive. Poor water quality can cause illness and death.
Humans affect water quality by their activities: Agriculture pollutes waterways with fertilizers and pesticides; sewage and wastes enter rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Chemicals and pathogens can also contaminate drinking water.
Water quality is important for people to drink healthily, industries to operate without impediments caused by off-spec water, and wildlife to thrive thanks to the lack of pollution. Good water quality means harmful substances are absent from the water, and needed ones – oxygen and nutrients – are present.
The physical aspects of water quality include its color, taste and odor, turbidity, and content of dissolved solids. These can be measured using laboratory techniques that take a long time or home kits that give fast results.
Sewage and wastewater from homes, businesses, and industries are common sources of poor water quality. This carries bacteria and other pathogens that can cause human diseases like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever, hepatitis, and polio. Sewage also pollutes the environment when pumped into rivers, lakes, and oceans without treatment.
Chemical pollutants are elements or compounds – natural or artificial – that pollute the water. These include salts, bleach, metals such as zinc and copper, organic chemicals from plant and animal waste, and pesticides. These can affect the human body, animals, plants, and the ecosystem.
Biological contaminants and microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, and protozoans are other major sources of poor water quality. They can also cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and other infectious diseases in humans and animals, and even poisonous toxins produced by bacteria.
The physical characteristics of water quality depend on its type – ground or surface water. Both are vulnerable to contamination from industrial waste, agricultural and urban runoff, deforestation, fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals, petroleum and gas products, oil spills, and natural sources such as erosion. Water quality can be improved by treating sewage and wastewater before they are released into the environment, reducing chemical fertilizers on land use, and avoiding spraying agricultural pesticides and herbicides in rivers and oceans. Monitoring and measuring are important for keeping track of water quality. This can be done by laboratories or home testing kits, which provide quick results but have a limited range of tests. More detailed measurements can only be made at a lab, which requires a sample to be collected, preserved, transported, and analyzed at a different location.
Many types of chemicals can enter water through human activity. These include pesticides, industrial chemicals such as lead and copper, metals from mining and metal refining, salts and fertilizers from agricultural and urban sources, and sewage and wastewater.
Chemical pollutants can have immediate toxic effects on humans and other organisms. They can also have long-term, chronic effects if exposure continues for years. These effects may be seen as changes in animal growth or development and can contribute to disease formation.
Various physical, chemical, and biological parameters measure water quality. These factors are influenced by the environment with which the water interacts, including temperature, salinity, the amount of dissolved oxygen, pH, acidity and alkalinity, hardness, chlorine content, biochemical oxygen demand, turbidity, and the presence of bacterial, algae, and viral contaminants.
The physical characteristics of water, such as its temperature, turbidity, and the presence or absence of dissolved oxygen, are easily monitored using simple equipment. Chemical water quality factors are more difficult to measure since they depend on the properties of other chemicals in the water. For example, the acidity or alkalinity of water is a function of the concentration of hydrogen and hydroxyl (OH-) ions.
In natural environments, a balance of acidity and alkalinity in water provides a buffer that protects fish and other aquatic species from sudden changes in water pH. Water pH is measured by measuring the negative logarithm of the solution’s hydrogen ion concentration .
Dissolved oxygen is an important chemical water quality factor because fish and other aquatic life cannot survive if levels drop too dramatically. Oxygen levels can be reduced by dramatic weather changes, decaying organic matter, and water treatment plant upsets.
Chemicals, such as pharmaceutical drugs, dry cleaning solvents, and gasoline, used in urban and industrial settings are sometimes found in streams and groundwater at levels that may risk human health, aquatic life, and fish-eating wildlife. In addition, some pesticides have been used for decades and are now widespread in surface and groundwater.
Water quality is crucial to the survival of all living things and our planet’s ecosystems. We must continue to monitor all aspects of water quality – whether it’s people drinking healthy and functioning at their best due to proper water standards, plants and animals thriving in healthy environments, industries operating with no impediments caused by poorer-quality water, or all of the above.
A key aspect of water quality is the presence of microscopic organisms such as bacteria, protozoans, and algae. These organisms may cause illness in humans and animals when they enter the body through drinking or eating contaminated water. Water quality testing measures the physical and chemical characteristics of the water, but biological parameters offer additional insight into the health of water bodies.
Drinking poor-quality water can lead to disease and infection, including cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid, poliomyelitis, and other diseases. Often, these diseases affect under-resourced communities that do not have access to clean drinking water. Drinking water can become contaminated with sewage, fertilizers, pesticides, pharmaceutical products, nitrates and phosphates, plastics, fecal waste, and radioactive substances.
Plants and animals also suffer from low-quality water. They rely on freshwater to grow and survive, but water contamination reduces or kills plant growth. Water containing toxins may also harm animals that consume it, such as fish and birds that feed on ponds, lakes, and rivers.
Poor-quality water can also affect animal reproduction. Exposure to certain chemicals can damage the reproductive organs of both male and female animals, causing abortions or infertility. In addition, drinking contaminated water can cause other health problems for human and animal populations.
The Biological Water Quality Index, or BIWQI, measures a waterbody’s health and includes the presence of organisms that are useful to people for food, clothing, and shelter. The BIWQI is determined by collecting water samples and then examining them for the presence of several different organisms, such as bacteria and protozoans. Environmental agencies use the BIWQI to identify areas of concern, such as toxic algal blooms or other signs of poor water quality.
The BIWQI is a more comprehensive indicator of the overall water quality than chemical indicators, which do not consider the interrelationships between physical, chemical, and biological factors in the environment. The BIWQI can help identify impairments in streams and rivers that do not reveal themselves with chemical analyses alone, for example, nutrient pollution caused by excess nitrogen or phosphorus from fertilizers that run off into lakes and streams and create eutrophication.
Water quality is a fundamental requirement for all of humankind. Whether used for drinking, cleaning, irrigation, or industry, all these activities depend on clean water. A lack of good water quality can lead to health problems and economic loss. Poor water quality can also harm the environment. It can affect plants, animals, and the entire ecosystem.
Pollution and degrading sewage systems are the main causes of water quality degradation worldwide. Pollution is the introduction of chemicals or other substances into a body of water in concentrations greater than what would occur naturally. Major pollutants include microbes, nutrients, metals, oil, and sediments. Degrading sewage systems is caused by leaking septic tanks, inadequate design, and untreated waste discharge.
The quality of water directly impacts human and animal health. Poor water quality can introduce harmful bacteria and viruses, which can cause illness and death in humans and other organisms. These bacteria and viruses can be transmitted through contaminated food or water-based recreation such as swimming and boating. The deterioration of water quality can also result in reduced dissolved oxygen levels, affecting aquatic life and recreational uses.
Environmental issues resulting from poor water quality are numerous. Plants rely on freshwater to survive, but contaminants can lower the quality of the water and kill them. Many animals drink fresh water from lakes, rivers, and ponds for sustenance. However, they can die if these animals contract diseases from contaminated water.
The deterioration of water quality is often the result of multiple sources of contamination over a large area. These are called non-point source pollutants and can be difficult to control or measure. These pollutants can be introduced from various sources, such as agriculture, mining, urban development, and animal waste. Sediment can choke, suffocate, or disable fish and amphibians and interfere with wetlands. It can also alter the natural course of a river or stream, causing flooding and erosion. Chemicals like insecticides, paint, solvents, and automobile fluids can poison aquatic life. They can also poison people who consume contaminated fish or other water-based foods.