Week 6: Managing Environmental Health Risks: Potable water

Welcome to this week topic: Potable water. I must say, this is an interesting topic as potable water is one of the most important thing in our daily life. We can’t live without water. In fact, “water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight, every system in your body depends on water”. Moreover, various studies show that you need to consume at least 2 litters of water per day. So well yeah, potable water is important.

To start with, you probably wonder what is potable water, right? Potable water, also known as drinking water, is water that suitable for human consumption.

There are 2 main sources of potable water:

  • Groundwater/artificial groundwater
  • Surface water


Groundwater Surface water
Characteristics •Fresh water in the rock and soil layers beneath Earth’s land surface.

•Makes up more than one-fifth (22%) of Earth’s total fresh water supply

•Determined by the geology of the area

•Move slower

•Found over the land surface in streams, ponds, marshes, lakes or other fresh water sources.

•Move faster

Contamination Occurs when products such as gasoline, oil, road salts and chemicals, pharmaceuticals… or microbes due to poorly managed waste water treatment get into the groundwater. Can be affected by numerous physical variables such as

•topography, land cover,

•soil conditions, mineralogy, and ground-water conditions.

Contains microorganisms and bacteria.

Less contaminated due to natural filter More easily contaminated

Since groundwater and surface water are interconnected, the contaminants may share between these two. Moreover, neither of water source can ever be entirely free from water contaminants.

To determine water quality, you need to consider physical, chemical and microbiological properties of water. More information can be found here.

Next part of the lesson, we learn about water treatment.

Water treatment is “the act or process of making water more potable or useful, as by purifying, clarifying, softening, or deodorizing it.”

This treatment usually deals with viruses, bacteria, parasites and with changing physical characteristics such as turbidity, chemical contaminants (oil or gasoline residue, pesticides and herbicides) and organic material.

However, in my country, water treatment was sadly not being paid the attention it deserves. As a result, people in my country can only drink water from a bottle or boil water from the tap but not directly from the tap like in Finland.

References and further reading:









0674258592.01.MZZZZZZZ Environmental Health Revised Edition, Dade W. Moeller.


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