How to Test Drinking Water – Permaculture Safety Tips
Water quality is dependent on:
- The water source:
- Town water.
- Bore water.
- Dam water.
- Water transport & storage:
- Pipes to storage.
- Storage container material & cleanliness.
- Pipes from storage.
Other factors to consider:
- Regularity in which it is topped up.
- Open/closed to contamination.
- Cross contamination.
- Heated/cooled during the day (growth of organisms, physico-chemical changes).
- Degradation of materials (containers, piping etc).
HOW TO TEST DRINKING WATER QUALITY:
pH (acidity and alkalinity) of the water, is largely dependent on dead and decomposing organic matter (which will cause acidity). Target pH = 7 (neutral) however pH = 5-9 is acceptable. If you find:
- pH = 1-5 Fill a bag with carbonate mineral & hang into water, this will adjust to pH = 7.
- pH = 6-14 Add “pH up” from aquarium shop or diluted hydrochloric acid (1 part acid : 10 parts water) to adjust dropwise to pH = 7.
You can buy “pH strips” from EBay for $1
“Salt” is a positive + negative ion which comes together when dried, but is dissolved between water molecules when in water. It can be many ions – most of which are metals. It is measured as EC (electrical conductivity) and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). Safe drinking water = 0-1500 us/cm.
You can buy a EC meter for $20 on EBay.
Turbidity or cloudiness will tell you if clay minerals are present. Clay particles suspend between water molecules to the point that when holding up a glass of water, light from a torch will not shine through. If clay minerals are present – it will need to be removed via filters.
Heavy metals may dissolve in groundwater & be transported to your location.
You can buy a “heavy metals water test kit” on EBay for $15
Micro-organisms include bacteria, protista, fungi, plants & animals. Your aim (what you are doing) determines whether they are detrimental or beneficial.
- Bacteria….are too small to see or identify by themselves. These will need to be cultured (grown) into a colony for identification. Add a drop of the water to be tested to sterilized (boiled) agar on a small glass dish (also sterilized). Place into an enclosed fishtank (all sides & air sterilized via antibacterial spray). Allow the colony to develop for one week. If something grows – you have bacteria. You may attempt to identify which strain via online research into colour & colony shape.
- Protista, fungi, plants & animals…if you obtain a list of common harmful organisms in you area – you can identify some of them yourself by researching online what they look like – then using a USB microscope camera to find them. Take a drop of the water, mix with microscope slide stain (to see the organism + kill it so it stops moving), place it on a slide – then place the camera over it. Use x 1000 magnification.
Microscope x 1000 from EBay $20
Microscope slide form EBay $1
Microscope stain from EBay $7
Got any more ideas? Add them in the comments below…