Back to MISSION, GOALS & TARGETS
Rationale: The main purpose of providing water systems is to help people gain access to safe drinking water supplies that they will use to improve their health and well being. To do this, the water has to be both safe, and pleasant enough to encourage beneficiaries to consume the water.
This operational target is perhaps the most intuitive of all. Unsafe water sources like shallow open wells, stagnant streams and swamps need to be replaced by safe drinking water supplies. Water from new drilled wells should not cause people to get sick.
There are literally thousands of water quality tests. But testing for all substances would cost tens of thousands of dollars and require high quality laboratories that are not locally available.
Many serious diseases, such as typhoid fever and dysentery, can be traced directly to harmful microorganisms in polluted water. To determine if they are present, Lifewater uses a Pathoscreen field test.
This test is simple to perform, requires incubation at tropical room temperatures, and requires sample observation for 3 days to detect the presence of any dramatic changes which indicate that hydrogen sulfide-producing bacteria are present. These bacteria are usually associated with the presence of fecal contamination and are used as indicator organisms.
Nitrate and Nitrite are measures of a nutrient that is present in nature at low concentrations. It is commonly found at high concentrations in sewage and fertilizers. These substances may not be tasted in water, even at high concentrations, but excess levels can cause methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby" disease.
Drinking water must comply with Canadian Drinking Water Standards, having nitrate levels below 10 mg/L and nitrate concentrations less than 1 mg/L.
For water to be deemed safe to drink, there should be no hydrocarbon odours present. Fortunately, benzene (the most carcinogenic component of gasoline) can be smelt before it reaches the Canadian drinking water limit).
Turbidity (particles suspended in the water) make water look cloudy, and can cause a gritty taste when using it to drink or in cooking. In addition, turbidity can create maintenance problems by rubbing moving pump parts like sandpaper, causing rapid pump failure that may require changing expensive below-ground components like the cylinder.
Turbidity may be a sign that a well was not properly constructed, and that below-ground formation caving or well screen placement adjacent to clay layers may cause the well to pump coloured water, sand and grit forever. However, sometimes mechanic surging and well development pumping can clear the turbidity and provide users with a viable source of safe drinking water.
Water may be safe, but for users to want to drink it, the water must be free of offensive odour and pronounced hardness or iron.
Although these are aesthetic parameters that do not directly affect water safety, they make water unpleasant to use, driving users back to unsafe past sources that do not have these offending smells, taste or appearance.