We tend to think of water as an easily replaceable resource. Over the course of our evolution, we’ve become so used to water that we’ve started perceiving it only as a material used in our homes and in industry.
Not only do we overlook the fact that water is finite and invaluable, but we аre also ignorant of the fact that potable water does not appear out of nowhere. It requires knowledge, experience, and expertise to make water safe to drink.
Water testing is one of the most overlooked processes critical for our safety and health. This testing includes not only water analysis, but a complete site analysis as well as analysis of the environmental conditions and water quality.
In this article we examine the role of regular water testing in keeping your employees safe from harm, and your company afloat.
How Vital Is Water?
Water is one of the few crucial substances for life on Earth. It is one of the very few substances without which our planet would have been a barren wasteland – the cycle of life moves through and revolves around water!
Every biological process in every living organism relies on water. We do not need to look any further than our own bodies.
Approximately 65% of the human body made of water. Water helps our bodies to remove waste and the toxins. It regulates the body temperature and protects our tissues. Water is the key factor in the process of digestion, helps respiration and is the substance without which reproduction would be impossible.
In other words, water is incredibly important for all life! That’s why regular water testing is vital to the health of your company.
Water Contamination Health and Environment Risks
In order to understand the risks of untested and/or contaminated water, we have to start with the types of contaminants and their effects on the environment and, subsequently, human health.
Broadly speaking, there are 4 types of contaminants:
- physical, and
Biological contaminants are the harmful organism which can contaminate the water: protozoa, viruses, bacteria, parasites, etc. Chemical contaminants, as the name suggests, are all the artificial and natural elements and compounds which can negatively affect the living world, such as certain salts, nitrogen, bleach, chlorine, etc.
Physical contaminants are substances which negatively affects the physical properties of water, such as heavy metal particulate, sand, or dirt.
Lastly, radiological contaminants include all the elements with unstable nuclei that can negatively affect the physical and chemical framework of our bodies on a cellular level, such as plutonium and uranium. Radiological contamination deals with radioactivity.
There can be a wide range of negative effects of using untested water, especially for the industry. Some of them are not severe, but many of them can lead to serious health complications or even death. Another problem is that some symptoms might not be noticeable for years.
Part of the negative effect of using untested water is that the consequences may not manifest for several years – by the time you’re testing to see what’s wrong, there’s no easy way to fix the problem. The most common and short-term symptoms of consuming contaminated water include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
However, these might only be the symptoms of underlying problems and over the course of time, unclean water can cause severe gastrointestinal problems. Moreover, there are numerous waterborne diseases: Escherichia coli, salmonella, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis A, meningitis, giardiasis, etc., all of which can have fatal consequences if not medically treated.
And from a business point of view, the financial, law-related and public-image negative effects of using contaminated are quite evident. Contaminated water used in industry can clog pipes and machines, causing them to break, or contaminate final products.
But there are even far more serious repercussions for failing to check water quality – the effects of contaminated water on the environment. Since water is in constant movement above and below the surface through the hydrological cycle, using untested water might cause contamination of river, lakes, or other bodies of water.
Like humans, flora and fauna are not immune to these contaminants, thus the use of contaminated water might lead to the destruction of whole ecosystems. In other words, untested water might negatively affect the quality and the safety of the raw materials and the products which a business uses or produces.
To make things worse, individuals and businesses alike oftentimes unknowingly affect the environment with contaminated water. For example, the local farmer uses well water for irrigation without doing proper and regular water analysis, site analysis, and water quality checks. The well ends up being contaminated with pesticides that entered the water via unnoticeable below-surface routes and contaminated water is continuously spread through the repeated use of the untested water source; now, all the farmers crops may contain unacceptable levels of toxic pesticides. This catastrophic result could easily be avoided with a water test.
The consequences of using untested water related to the human health are nigh palpable — it does not take too long for authorities and even civilians to identify the source of the problem. However, not only can the use of untested and/or contaminated water have severe effects on the environment itself, but it can also lead to an uncontrollable spread of many waterborne diseases.
Choosing a Testing Method
Taking into consideration the severe consequences of using untested water, water testing is paramount for our safety and the safety of the environment. Water testing involves site analysis, i.e. analysis of the water source itself, where the water comes from and what feeds the source.
Water testing will also involve an analysis of the environmental conditions — the surroundings of the water source, the weather conditions in the area, the accessibility of the water source, etc — and water quality testing, since water from different water sources has different quality based on the composition of the non-toxic substances and their amounts.
The simplest, most effective and, without a doubt, the safest way of choosing the best testing method is calling in an expert. Water testing is a science and if you are not a scientist yourself, chances are that you will not able to calculate all possibilities of what needs to be tested.
If you are determined to do it yourself, there are many commercial water testing kits on the market offering a range of tests for different substances. The commercial water testing kits offer many testing possibilities, most popular of which are tests for pH, hardness, levels of iron, aluminum, calcium, ammonia nitrogen, and many more organic and non-organic substances.
Nonetheless, given the importance of the process, these commercial kits should only be used as indicators of when you should call in the experts to conduct a proper water testing.
The commercial and financial perks of hiring site environmental consultants are efficiency, safety, and reliability. Companies like SERS that conduct water testing professionally offer comprehensive water analysis and monitoring services. The initial testing method applied is usually field sampling. Using specialized equipment, they conduct water and site analysis by taking an extensive number of samples which are representative of the water source. Moreover, they offer hydrometric services as well.
By monitoring the environmental conditions, consultants keep track of the hydrological cycle at a given location, thus going the extra mile to identify possible problems with the water source in the future.
Furthermore, water testing companies have professional laboratories at their disposal. When looking to make sure your environmental consultant is a truly qualified professional, make sure that their laboratories are NATA accredited.
Ultimately, the most important steps professionals go through are data analysis and reporting. Namely, all the gathered data would be useless without professional analysis, assessment of the situation and relevant pointers for a future course of action.
Water Testing Tech
Although not much has changed in the field of water testing concerning sampling and laboratory analysis in the past few decades, there has been a significant advancement when it comes to precision, sensitivity, and consistency, as well as data analysis and monitoring of environmental conditions.
With the advancements in technology in recent years, there have been more and more emerging contaminants. For example, opioid contamination is now an unexpected problem in many urban areas.
Keeping up to date with new and upcoming technology has become the primary concern of the water-testing industry. Testing new technologies for contaminants and their effect on the water quality is fundamental, but the predictive role is becoming increasingly central for public safety.
It is the job of all the experts in the field to anticipate and inform about issues regarding water quality and safety related to upcoming technologies – a role which might end up saving lives.
Additionally, the dedicated work of all the experts in the field has resulted in the groundbreaking methodology of compiling databases of past, present, and future contaminants, as well as “candidates” for contaminants.
Not only are these lists informative and crucial for public safety, but they also help business owners to determine both the positive and the negative effects of their industrial activities. That, in turn, saves money, boosts efficiency, and improves the quality of the raw materials and, consequently, the final products; but, more importantly, it helps protect which water sources will be most useful and valuable.
All of these changes affect the development of new technologies in the field of water treatment as well. Namely, scientists have been continuously working on more efficient ways of obtaining potable water, especially from contaminated sources, and technologies such as high-pressure and two-stage membrane filtration (using nanotechnology), ultraviolet irradiation, photocatalytic water purification, Euglena biofiltration, etc. would have been impossible without the data from water testing.
And, from a business perspective, these technologies are becoming more and more attractive to many business owners because they offer cheaper and more efficient ways of purifying water.
Ultimately, with the ever-rising awareness about the importance of sustainability and ecology, as well as an increasing awareness of human health and healthy living, it is only logical that business owners ensure the safety of the most valuable resource of all – water.
After all, responsible management of the water sources prevents casualties, financial loss and boosts the reputation of every business involved.