In 1967, the Beatles released their hit song “All you need is love”. As catchy as it sounds, I’d like to rephrase it a bit. All you need is drinking water. Can you imagine your day without a cold and refreshing glass of drinking water? Have you ever wondered what drinking water is and what makes drinking water so tasty?
Understanding water: Part 2 – All you need is drinking water
by Ph.D. Brigita Dalecka
What is the drinking water journey until it reaches tap? In this blog post, we’ll highlight the most important things that need to be taken into account when building a dream house in a place where getting access to drinking water might be a challenge.
What is drinking water
Drinking water is water that is safe to drink or use for food preparation, personal hygiene, and washing. This type of water must meet the requirements (chemical, biological, and physical) and quality standards at the point where it’s not polluted and dangerous for the users. In other words, the quality of drinking water should comply with legal standards, and typically most of the references for each country’s legislation reference to the directives from the World Health Organization.
Furthermore, the United Nations has declared that access to safe drinking water is a fundamental human right, and a critical step for increasing living standards. In developed countries, drinking water consumers are connected to the drinking water distribution network and all drinking water issues are solved by engineers and water specialists.
But what do you do if there is no access to the distribution network for drinking water? The short answer would be: You are in trouble. Stay calm though – researchers and engineers have spent decades looking for possible solutions on how to help people to solve the problems related to drinking water.
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Data shows that almost 70% of the world is covered in water. That’s good, right? But the tricky part is that only 3% of it is freshwater. This data highlights two important things:
- Drinking water needs to be used in smart and sustainable ways.
- Getting access to drinking water can be limited depending on the location.
The main sources for producing drinking water can be groundwater and surface water. Groundwater is the first choice when selecting a source of water. If groundwater is not available or has poor quality, surface water can be considered as an option. Finally, if none of these resources are available, water recycling can be an option.
Nothing you can make that can’t be made
In my previous article on water security and management, I already mentioned I consider myself a super lucky human being. I live in Latvia where the main source of drinking water is groundwater. Due to the long underground retention time, groundwater is usually microbiologically stable and has high quality.
The great thing here is that there’s no need for specific and expensive treatment for this groundwater and the main issue, for instance, for Latvia is the removal of iron. The removal of iron typically includes air oxidation and filtration. Simply put, when groundwater is pumped to the treatment station, the dissolved iron reacts with oxygen forming the flocs which later can be removed by sand filtration. Easy and smooth.
However, the quality of groundwater depends on location. For example, groundwater quality can be affected by geological aspects and land use like pesticides and other chemical compounds. Therefore, if you’ve decided to build a house in a place with access to groundwater, constant monitoring of water (at least once a year) needs to be done in the laboratory to check the microbiological, chemical, and physical parameters.
NB: The water sample for analysis needs to be collected in a sterile container and delivered to the laboratory within 3 hours. Furthermore, the results of the parameter evaluation can not only provide insights into water quality but can also help you choose the appropriate treatment method for the successful preparation of drinking water.
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Surface water as a source of drinking water is commonly available. However, treatment and preparation require more attention, knowledge, investment, and money. The classical drinking water treatment plant system consists of screening, chemical addition, coagulation and flocculation, sedimentation and clarification, filtration, and disinfection. However, in a private house without access to the distribution network, the most commonly used treatment method is a filtration system where membranes are used to remove pollutants, including microorganisms. Based on the membrane type, this technology can be also applied to saltwater to get fresh water. However, these methods are complex and require constant operation and monitoring. So, before selecting the most appropriate treatment technology for drinking water preparation, you need to understand:
- What’s your source of water?
- What pollution needs to be removed?
- What’s the right balance between investment and options that you can stick to?
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game
Summing up, there are many places in the world without reasonable access to a water source. What do you do then? The “toilet-to-tap” scheme is a possible solution. It means that water is recycled in the system. In terms of private housing, you’d consume drinking water which would then create wastewater, which would later be treated again to become drinking water. However, surveys show that for most people the prospect of drinking recycled wastewater is still literally hard to swallow. Psychologist Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania and a team of researchers surveyed 2,000 Americans finding that while 49% were willing to try recycled wastewater, 13% refused and the rest weren’t sure.
What about you? How far are you willing to go and invest to supply your house with safe, drinkable water? And did you notice each title comes from the lyrics of “All you need is love”? Small details matter. Just like when it comes to the quality of drinking water.