Water quality (differs from steam quality) is a term used to describe chemical and/or physical characteristics of a water stream or source as they apply to its ultimate use. It is usually expressed as a list of limiting concentrations for various contaminants. Water quality refers to the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of water that determine its suitability for various purposes, including drinking, recreational activities, irrigation, industrial processes, and ecosystem support. It is a measure of the condition and cleanliness of water.
Several factors are considered when assessing water quality
- Physical Characteristics - These include temperature, color, turbidity (cloudiness), and odor. Physical characteristics can affect the aesthetic appeal of water and its suitability for certain uses.
- Chemical Composition - The presence and concentration of various substances in water are evaluated, such as dissolved minerals (calcium, magnesium), heavy metals (lead, arsenic), organic compounds (pesticides, pharmaceuticals), nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus), and pollutants (industrial chemicals, pollutants from human activities). Chemical composition analysis helps identify potential health risks, environmental impacts, and compliance with regulatory standards.
- Biological Factors - Biological indicators, such as the presence of bacteria, viruses, algae, and aquatic organisms, are assessed to determine water quality. Elevated levels of harmful bacteria or pathogens can indicate contamination and pose risks to human health.
- Dissolved Oxygen - The amount of oxygen dissolved in water is essential for aquatic life. Low dissolved oxygen levels can harm fish and other aquatic organisms, indicating poor water quality.
- pH Level - The acidity or alkalinity of water is measured on a pH scale. Extreme pH levels can be harmful to aquatic life and affect the effectiveness of water treatment processes.
Water quality is regulated by various governmental and environmental agencies to ensure public health and protect ecosystems. Standards and guidelines are established for different water uses, such as drinking water standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) or environmental quality criteria set by regulatory bodies. Regular monitoring, testing, and treatment processes are conducted to maintain and improve water quality. This may involve filtration, disinfection, sedimentation, and chemical treatments to remove contaminants and ensure safe and clean water for consumption and other purposes.