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Many areas of South Africa are affected by water pollution and microbial water-bound contaminants like Cholera. The increased demand on water suppliers has often lead to water that is unfit for human consumption, being inadvertently supplied to your tap. This is often the case in many smaller towns throughout South Africa. Where river water is consumed: upstream contamination, via sewerage and human use (washing of clothes etc.) is an important consideration for water quality.

Concerns about personal and family health may lead you to question the safety of the water you are using. Recent publicity about water pollution problems and their effect on water used in the home for drinking, cooking,washing and many other purposes. You may be particularly concerned about the quality of your drinking water if you  rely on
your borehole or other private water supply. With the availability of modern water treatment equipment and the often aggressive marketing of these devices, you may wonder about the need to install such equipment in your home and what if anything some of these filters do. Agricultural water requirements are often neglected. Suitable water leads to improved livestock production.
 Why Test Your Water
There is no such thing in nature as "pure" water. Nearly all water contains contaminants, even in the absence of nearby pollution-causing activities. Many dissolved minerals, organic carbon compounds, and microbes find their way into your drinking water as water comes into contact with air and soil. When pollutant and contaminant levels in drinking water are excessively high, they may affect certain household routines and/or be detrimental to human health.
Obvious water problems, such as staining of plumbing fixtures and laundry, as well as many objectionable tastes and odors, may be evidence of excessive levels of contaminants in your household water supply. Many of these contaminants are naturally occuring and are considered more of a nuisance than hazard, presenting no danger to a persons health. The presence of most harmful contaminants, however, is not always obvious and such contaminated water may not cause health-related symptoms for many years. As a result, the only way that you can ensure that your water supply is safe is to have a periodic laboratory water analysis done on your drinking water.
Drinking Water should conform with the requirements of SABS 241 ( Drinking and Potable Water for Human Consumption ). Long term exposure to contaminated water can lead to serious health risks.
An example of natural water contamination:
The mineral Flourspar occurs in many areas and can lead to excessive Fluorine in drinking water taken from borehole's. Chronic Fluoride poisoning is manifested by weakness, weight loss, general ill health, joint stiffness, brittle bones, discoloration of teeth ( during tooth formation ), and anemia.
Pesticide residue and industrial pollution in drinking water is a constant problem.
What to Test For
The list of potential water contaminants is very lengthy and impractical to test for in its entirety. Such water testing would be very expensive and unnecessary. In the event that you could have every potential water contaminant tested for, relatively few have established standards, or recommended levels, allowing one to evaluate how serious the pollutant contamination may be. Knowing which water contaminants are most likely to be a problem and being aware of the warning signs of certain contaminants can make such testing more meaningful and economic.
Several analytical tests reveal the severity of specific impurities, and indicate the likelihood of other contaminants being present in drinking water. For example, low pH, a measure of the acidity of water, may lead to corrosion of plumbing and water supply, such as copper and lead, which may dissolve and reach unhealthy levels in drinking water. In addition, high nitrate levels usually indicate contamination by drainage which may convey other harmful pollutants, such as pesticides, into drinking water supplies. It is a good idea to conduct regular testing, as often as annually, for the following:
Borehole water testing should preferably be after a rainy period, but can be conducted year round. When considering the purchase of a new home, at the very least, these tests should be performed on the existing drinking water supply. Banks may require these and/or additional tests before approving a loan.
Article by SMI Analytical Laboratory Services.
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