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Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

How Safe Is Your Drinking Water?
Nationwide, drinking water systems have spent Crores of rupees to build drinking water treatment and distribution systems, and they spend Lakhs of rupees every year to operate and maintain them. 

There is a network of government agencies whose job is to ensure that public water supplies are safe. However, problems with local drinking water can, and do, occur.
All sources of drinking water contain some naturally occurring contaminants. Because water is the universal solvent, many materials are easily dissolved upon contact. At low levels, these contaminants generally are not harmful in our drinking water. Removing all contaminants would be extremely expensive and in nearly all cases would not provide greater protection of health. A few of the naturally occurring substances may actually improve the taste of drinking water and may have nutritional values at low levels. top
  What Problems Can Occur? 
As development in our modern society increases, there are growing numbers of threats that could contaminate drinking water. Suburban sprawl has encroached upon once-pristine watersheds, bringing with it all of the by-products of our modern life style. Actual events of serious drinking water contamination occur infrequently, and typically not at levels posing near-term health concern. Nonetheless, with the threats of such events increasing, we cannot take drinking water safety for granted. Greater vigilance by you, your water supplier, and your government is vital to ensure that such events do not occur in your water supply.

Microbiological and chemical contaminants can enter water supplies. These materials can be the result of human activity or can be found in nature. For instance, chemicals can migrate from disposal sites and contaminate sources of drinking water. Animal wastes and pesticides may be carried to lakes and streams by rainfall runoff or snow melt. Human wastes may be discharged to receiving waters that ultimately flow to water bodies used for drinking water. Coliform bacteria from human and animal wastes may be found in drinking water if the water is not properly treated or disinfected. These bacteria are used as indicators that other harmful organisms may be in the water. 
The potential for health problems from drinking water is illustrated by localized outbreaks of water-borne disease. Many of these outbreaks have been linked to contamination by bacteria or viruses, probably from human or animal waste. 

Nitrate in drinking water at levels above the national standard poses an immediate threat to young children. Excessive levels can result in a condition known as "blue baby syndrome." If untreated, the condition could be fatal.

Boiling water contaminated with nitrate increases the nitrate concentration and the potential risk. Persons worried about nitrate should talk with their doctor about alternatives to using boiled water in baby formula.

Naturally occurring contaminants also are being found in drinking water. For example, the radioactive gas radon-222 occurs in certain types of rock and can get into ground water. People can be exposed to radon in water by drinking it, while showering, or when washing dishes. The primary source of exposure to radon in the home is radon seeping out of the soil and into the basement air. top
  Where Can You Get More Information About Your Water? 
Information on water quality in your area is available from several sources, including your local public health department and your water supplier. You can determine whom to contact by checking your water bill or by calling your local town hall. 
State agencies also can provide extensive information on your water supply and its quality. Each state has a department responsible for drinking water quality. top
  Who Makes Sure That Your Drinking Water Supply Is Safe ? 
Local governments, public water systems, the states, work together towards the goal of ensuring that all public water supplies are safe. For households on private wells, state and local health departments usually have some standards for the drinking water, but it is generally up to the homeowner to maintain the quality of the drinking water. 
Local governments have a direct interest in protecting the quality of their drinking water source, be it ground water or surface water. They may be responsible for overseeing land uses that can affect the quality of untreated source water. Public water systems have a responsibility to maintain sound treatment works and water distribution networks. They are responsible for ensuring that the water they supply does not contain contaminants at levels higher than the law allows.

Boil Water Notices When microorganisms such as those that indicate fecal contamination are found in drinking water, water suppliers may be required to issue "boil water notices." Boiling water kills the organisms that can cause disease. Therefore, the notices serve as a precaution for the public. top

What Do You Need To Know To Protect Your Private Drinking Water Supply?
Approximately 10 % Indian citizens rely on their own private drinking water supplies. Most of these supplies are drawn from ground water through wells, but some households also use water from streams or cisterns. These households must take special precautions to ensure the protection and maintenance of their drinking water supplies. How Can You Test The Quality Of Your Private Drinking Water Supply? Private water supplies should be tested annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. They should be tested more frequently and for more potential contaminants, such as radon or pesticides, if a problem is suspected. Many laboratories are available to test water quality. Lists of laboratories certified by your state may be available from your local or state public health department. Some local health departments also test private water for free. Phone numbers for your local, county, or state health department are available under the government listings in your phone book. How Can You Protect Your Private Water Supply? You can protect your water supply by carefully managing activities near the water source. For households using a domestic well, this includes keeping contaminants away from sinkholes and the well itself. Hazardous chemicals also should be kept out of septic systems. 

water-borne disease Disease associated with poor water supply. In the Third World four-fifths of all illness is caused by water-borne diseases, with diarrhea being the leading cause of childhood death. Malaria, carried by mosquitoes dependent on stagnant water for breeding, affects 400 million people every year and kills 5 million. Polluted water is also a problem in industrialized nations, where industrial dumping of chemical, hazardous, and radioactive wastes causes a range of diseases from headache to cancer. 
Protecting Your Ground Water Supply· Periodically inspect exposed parts of the well for problems such as: - cracked, corroded, or damaged well casing - broken or missing well cap - settling and cracking of surface seals. · Slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff away from the well. · Install a well cap or sanitary seal to prevent unauthorized use of, or entry into, the well. · Disinfect drinking water wells at least once per year with bleach or hypochlorite granules, according to the manufacturers directions. · Have the well tested once a year for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and other constituents of concern. · Keep accurate records of any well maintenance, such as disinfection or sediment removal, that may require the use of chemicals in the well. · Hire a certified well driller for any new well construction, modification, or abandonment and closure. · Avoid mixing or using pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, degreasers, fuels, and other pollutants near the well. · Do not dispose of wastes in dry wells or in abandoned wells. · Do not cut off the well casing below the land surface. · Pump and inspect septic systems as often as recommended by your local health department. · Never dispose of hazardous materials in a septic

Where Does Your Drinking Water Come From ?
Drinking water comes from surface water and ground water. Large-scale water supply systems tend to rely on surface water resources, and smaller water systems tend to use ground water. 

Surface water includes rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Ground water is pumped from wells that are drilled into aquifers. Aquifers are geologic formations that contain water. The quantity of water in an aquifer and the water produced by a well depend on the nature of the rock, sand, or soil in the aquifer where the well withdraws water. Drinking water wells may be shallow (50 feet or less) or deep (more than 1,000 feet). Your water utility or your public works department can tell you the source of your public drinking water supply.

Public & Private Water Supply System : -
Public water supply system is one that serves piped water to several homes round the year. Water that does not come from a public water supply, and which serves one or only a few homes, is called private

How Does Water Get To Your Taps? 
In a typical community water supply system, water is transported under pressure through a distribution network of buried pipes. Smaller pipes, called house service lines, are attached to the main water lines to bring water from the distribution network to your house. In many community water supply systems, water pressure is provided by pumping water up into storage tanks that store water at higher elevations than the houses they serve. The force of gravity then "pushes" the water into your home when you open your tap. Houses on a private supply usually get their water from a private well. A pump brings the water out of the ground and into a small tank within the home, where the water is stored under pressure. 
How Do Public Water Suppliers Treat My Water To Make It Safe? 
Water suppliers use a variety of treatment processes to remove contaminants from drinking water. These individual processes may be arranged in a "treatment train" to remove undesirable contaminants from the water. The most commonly used processes include filtration, flocculation and sedimentation, and disinfection. Some treatment trains also include ion exchange and adsorption. A typical water treatment plant would have only the combination of processes needed to treat the contaminants in the source water used by the facility. If you want to know what types of treatment are used for your water supply, contact your local water supplier or public works department. top
  How Can You Help To Protect Your Drinking Water Supply?
Drinking water protection is a shared responsibility, involving water suppliers, local and state governments, business, and individuals. We all have an important role to play, and as private citizens we have many opportunities. Environmental protection activities such as watershed protection projects are taking place across the Nation. Clean and healthy watersheds are vital to safe drinking water.  

Other opportunities to be involved in drinking water protection are discussed in the rest of this section. 

Sole source aquifer protection programs also protect ground water supplies, but usually over a much larger area than that covered by wellhead protection programs. They focus on government-funded projects that may affect the aquifer. 

Source water protection should be a critical part of all community water programs. In the past, water suppliers used most of their resources to treat water from rivers, lakes, and underground sources of drinking water before supplying it to our homes as drinking water. Now, we understand that if we place greater emphasis on protecting our sources of drinking water, the need for treatment can be reduced. 

The general components of a source water protection program includes: 

  • Delineation: Identifying the area of land that water passes through to reach the drinking water intake. 
  • Contaminant source inventory: Mapping the locations of potential sources of drinking water contamination. 
  • Source water protection area management: Using regulatory controls, such as zoning or health ordinances, or non regulatory controls, such as technical assistance to businesses and public education, to keep contaminants out of drinking water supplies. 
  • Contingency planning: Plan special actions in case a sudden event (for instance, a flood or spill) occurs that threatens the drinking water supply. 

How Can You Get Involved To Protect Water Supplies? 
Many communities are in the process of implementing source water protection programs. Your local water supplier can tell you whether your community has a source water protection program. 

Source water protection works by involving all members of the community. Citizens can voice their support for controlling how land is used near drinking water intakes. 

Citizens can also educate their neighbors about the danger that household chemicals pose to drinking water supplies. Many communities sponsor household hazardous waste disposal days to promote proper handling of waste paints and thinners, pesticides, used oil, and other hazardous materials. Your state or local environmental agency should have information about such programs in your community. 

Successful Source Water Protection Elkhart, Indiana began developing a source water protection program in the late 1980s, after being forced to close one of its drinking water wellfields when dangerous chemical solvents were found in the drinking water supply. Officials in Elkhart realized that they needed an efficient way to inventory and map all of the potential sources of contamination that could reach their new drinking water supply. They discovered that retired senior volunteers are an excellent resource for conducting the inventories. By working with the Service Corps of Retired Executives and the American Association of Retired Persons, Elkhart recruited 20 senior volunteers, from a list of over 400 potential volunteers, to conduct the inventories. Working with city staff, the senior volunteers visited homes and businesses throughout Elkhart and mapped 280 potential contaminant sources for management. Management controls include zoning/land use control and technical assistance. So far, Elkhart has been successful in keeping its drinking water sources clean. 


is a chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen elements, H2O. It can exists as a solid (ice), liquid (water), or gas (water vapour). Water is the most common element on Earth and vital to all living organisms. It covers 70% of the Earth's surface, and provides a habitat for large numbers
of aquatic organisms. It is the largest constituent of all living organisms - the human body consists of about 65% water. Pure water is a colorless, odorless, tasteless liquid which freezes at 0ºC/32ºF, and boils at 100ºC/212ºF. Natural water in the environment is never pure and always
contains a variety of dissolved substances. Some 97% of the Earth's water is in the oceans; a further 2% is in the form of snow or ice, leaving only 1% available as fresh water for plants and animals. The recycling and circulation of water through the biosphere is termed the water cycle,
or `hydrological cycle´; regulation of the water balance in organisms is termed osmoregulation. 

The water cycle
Water occurs on the Earth's surface as standing water in oceans and lakes, as running water in rivers and streams, as rain, and as water vapour in the atmosphere. Together these sources comprise the hydrosphere which is in a constant state of flux as water vapour condenses to fall as rain, and after flowing through rivers and streams into lakes and oceans is returned to the atmosphere by evaporation. And so the cycle continues. Since the hydrological cycle is a closed system, the amount of water in the Earth's hydrosphere is constant. The cycle is powered by solar radiation which provides the energy to maintain the flow through the processes of evaporation, transpiration, precipitation, and runoff.

Water is very important to living organisms: it helps cells to maintain their form; as a solvent, it dissolves salts, sugars, proteins, and many other substances that are involved in metabolism and the digestion of food; it enables the transportation of bodily wastes, and the maintenance of a stable body temperature through perspiration and evaporation. But too much water can be dangerous. The process that maintains an equable balance of water content in an organism is osmoregulation. Organisms gain water in a number of ways - by osmosis, in food, and by
respiration. They lose water by evaporation, in urine, and by osmosis. In humans, the kidneys play a very important role in the regulation of water balance. 

Water makes up 60-70% of the human body or about 40 l/70 pt of which 25 l/53 pt are inside the cells, 15 l/26 pt outside (12 l/21 pt in tissue fluid, and 3 l/5 pt in blood plasma). A loss of 4 l/7 pt may cause hallucinations; a loss of 8-10 l/14-18 pt may cause death. About 1.5 l/2.6pt a day are lost through breathing, perspiration, and faces, and the additional amount lost in urine is the amount needed to keep the balance between input and output. In temperate climates, people cannot survive more than five or six days without water, or two or three days in a hot environment. A family of two adults and two children uses approximately 200 l/ 350 pt per day (UK figures). The British water industry was privatized in 1989, and in 1991 the UK was taken to court for failing to meet EC drinking-water standards on nitrate and pesticide

Properties of water
With a relative molecular mass of 18, water has unusual properties for a molecule of its size, and many of these properties have biological significance. It is a polar molecule with a slight positive charge at one end and a slight negative charge at the other. The oxygen molecule has a negative charge and attracts the positively charged hydrogen atoms of other water molecules, with the result that hydrogen bonds are formed between the water molecules holding them together. This makes water a very good solvent for other polar molecules and ionic substances which become more reactive in solution. Thus it provides the medium for metabolic reactions in organic cells and is vital in the transport of substances around the bodies of organisms. For example, food substances, hormones, and urea are dissolved and transported in blood plasma which consists of over 90% water. 
Water has a high heat capacity, which means that it requires large amounts of heat energy to produce small rises in temperature. Consequently, temperature changes in water are usually quite small, and this is important in cells where metabolic reactions are controlled by enzymes; externally, it also provides a fairly constant environment for aquatic organisms. A great deal of heat is required to change water from its liquid state to vapour and this is important in temperature control in mammals. When the body becomes overheated, the animal sweats; thus the heat used for the vaporization of water in sweat is lost from the body, thereby cooling it.

In liquid form, water cannot be compressed; when frozen, it expands by 1/11 of its volume. It has its maximum density at 4ºC/39.2ºF (one cubic centimeter of water has a mass of one gram forming the unit of specific gravity). When cooled below this temperature, the density of water
decreases so that ice floats on the surface. This has been an important factor for the evolution of life on Earth, particularly in Arctic and temperate regions. 

The individual molecules of water have great attraction for one another, producing high surface tension, and this is important in the conduction of water through the xylem tissue of plants. Plants require water to carry nutrients from the root zone into the body of the plant, to enable photosynthesis to take place, and to aid transpiration.

Human impact
Water is not evenly distributed across the planet's surface - in some places there is too little, in others too much. Expanding populations are making greater and greater demands on supplies, although human impact on the water cycle is mainly in the runoff sector, with water being diverted for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses. However, modern society interferes with almost all aspects of the cycle: agricultural and forestry practices disrupt evaporation and transpiration; boreholes and wells allow access to the groundwater system; and the construction of dams and reservoirs creates additional storage. Since the cycle is a closed system, human activities cannot deplete the overall supply, but excess withdrawal from the runoff or groundwater sectors can create localized shortages of water. Most human uses involve only short- term withdrawal from the system, but often the water is returned with its quality greatly impaired by pollutants. Pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture and weed killers from road verges are washed into ground water used for public water supplies; industrial chemicals get into drinking water from rivers.

Human consumption
The major demand is for fresh water, but the proportion of fresh water to saline is very small - only 3 %of the total volume of the hydrosphere. According to two UN reports in January 1997, large areas of the globe will start running critically short of water in the next 30 years. Total worldwide water consumption has been growing at 2.5% a year, roughly twice as fast as the population, and by 1997 it had reached 4,200 cubic kilometers annually. During the 20th century,
water consumption has risen six fold and, as many rivers cross national boundaries, there is a danger that growing demands for this resource in the future could lead to conflict.
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