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Water Quality

April 21, 2007

Many human activities and their by-products have the potential to pollute water. Large and small industrial enterprises, the water industry, the urban infrastructure, agriculture, horticulture, transport, discharges from abandoned mines, and deliberate or accidental pollution incidents all affect water quality.

Pollution may arise as point sources, such as discharges through pipes, or may be more diffuse, such as from run off from streets and buildings, or agricultural nutrients lost from fields.

The presence of contaminants and the characteristics of water are used to indicate the quality of water. These water quality indicators can be categorised as:

* Biological: bacteria, algae
* Physical: temperature, turbidity and clarity, colour, salinity, suspended solids, dissolved solids
* Chemical: pH, dissolved oxygen, biological oxygen demand, nutrients (including nitrogen and phosphorus), organic and inorganic compounds (including toxicants)
* Aesthetic: odours, taints, colour, floating matter
* Radioactive: alpha, beta and gamma radiation emitters.

Measurements of these indicators can be used to determine, and monitor changes in, water quality, and determine whether the quality of the water is suitable for the health of the natural environment and the uses for which the water is required.

The design of water quality monitoring programs is a complex and specialized field. The range of indicators that can be measured is wide and other indicators may be adopted in the future. The cost of a monitoring program to assess them all would be prohibitive, so resources are usually directed towards assessing contaminants that are important for the local environment or for a specific use of the water.

This water quality information can then be used to develop management programs and action plans to ensure that water quality is protected.

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  1. October 9, 2015 5:26 pm

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