The purpose of this page is to provide a range of information collected from Government, academic and other research sources to assist people who are interested in learning more about water and its impact on health and the environment - and to encourage further enquiry into this fascinating subject.
Often, when a person is feeling under the weather, people commonly suggest, ''It must be something in the water.'' Many maladies are caused by waterborne contaminants or pathogens.
Today, the World Health Organisation predicts worldwide shortages of potable water within the next ten years. Much of the world's drinking water is contaminated by agricultural, industrial, pharmaceutical and domestic pollution. Many ground water sources harbour highly toxic natural contaminants. Consumption of contaminanted water over time can result in cancers, bone problems, nervous system damage, and other more subtle toxic health effects.
''Safe drinking water'' is a term which is relative to the kind of water that is actually available. For example, many areas in India contain high levels of naturally-occurring calcium fluoride which results in early onset of skeletal fluorosis. Because of the expense of defluoridation plants, the Indian Government has adopted simple, cheap solutions which substantially reduce the fluoride content. The defluoridated water is far ''safer'' but still poses problems arising from the use of alum treatment which can only be addressed when the country's economic status improves.
NOTE: All ''official standards'' for contaminant levels in water are set to achieve minimal risk to health, taking into account the best cost and technology available at the time. These standards are not 'written in stone.' With growing knowledge and improvement in technology, ''official standards'' become more stringent in order to further minimise risks to human health. Unfortunately, at the present time there is a lack of international regulatory uniformity of standards.
Originally, water treatment was introduced to prevent diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, dyphtheria, etc. Today, water treatment generally includes the removal of harmful toxic substances such as natural fluorides, arsenic and aluminium and bacteria which are immune to chlorination, as well as man-made pollutants.
In order to provide safe drinking water, utility companies use a variety of chemicals. Some of these are, of themselves, harmful to health. However, without water treatment, the risks of transmission of communicable diseases via drinking water would be much greater.
The NPWA's position, which it has maintained since 1960, is that drinking water should be as safe for consumption as is possible, with minimal chemical treatment. NO chemicals intended to medicate or treat populations should ever be added to drinking water.
NOTE: The National Pure Water Association believes that many official contaminant regulations cited in the following references should be more stringent. However, NPWA presents these sources as the best information currently available.
Note: In most countries, complete analyses of tap water can be obtained on request from individual water suppliers