Nothing is more important than secure and accessible drinking water. Without it, majority of life on earth would either suffer a great deal or would simply not exist. This is particularly true because humans need to consume an average of two litres of water each and every day. And given the fact that our bodies are composed of two-thirds water, it should therefore come as no surprise that we need so much of it.

But in spite of our immense need for drinking water, there are still people that are left without clean drinking water on an everyday basis. These days, nearly one in every nine people across the globe do not have access to safe drinking water nearby In gross terms, this comes to more than 840 million people. This statistic is absolutely mindblowing and simply put, unacceptable.

Horrendous figures prove that clean water access is a primary health concern all over the world. This problem was made worse since dangerous and even deadly diseases such as diarrhea are most of the time contracted by the ingestion of polluted water. Desperate for water, millions of people are content to drink tainted water as they are left without access to safe and treated water.

To help keep the massive loss of life caused by unsafe drinking water from ever happening, international groups and government organizations have crafted standards that pertain to drinking. Together, these standards make the bare minimum parameters that are needed for drinking water to be thought of as safe for consumption.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2017)

Back in 2011, Australian National Health and Medical Research Council released a list of references and recommendations for drinking water quality. Since that time, the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines have been the national specialist when it comes to the subject of drinking water. The most recent version, which was released last year, can be accessed here.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines were made after numerous scientific research established the fundamental standards for the safety of drinking water. Their Standards comprises both aesthetic and health-related issues. In Australia, the law implements them and every public water treatment center must abide by their directives.

European Union Drinking Water Directive

Earlier this year, the European Union (EU) and the European Environment Agency (EEA) issued the most recent edition of the Drinking Water Directive. It was founded through more than 30 years of scientific analysis that was backed by the European Commission. It was also made to guarantee successful supervising, supply, and quality when it comes to public drinking water on the continent.

Drinking Water Directive is applied to all public water distribution systems in Europe. It served more than 50 persons of the population. It is also applied to bottled water and suppliers of water to industrial locations. An overview of the latest edition of the Directive can be accessed here.

The following is the list of the EU Drinking Water Directive section on parametric chemical standards. Under EU law, no drinking water can contain contaminants in excess of the following concentrations.

  • Arsenic: 0.01mg/L
  • Benzene: 0.01mg/L
  • Copper: 2.0mg/L
  • Cyanide: 0.05mg/L
  • Fluoride: 1.5mg/L
  • Lead: 0.01mg/L
  • Mercury: 0.001mg/L

The United States Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

In the United States, federal legislation regulates all drinking water within the USA under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). That said, all public and private distributors of water must fulfill the same set of universal quality standards. These standards are also observed and continually updated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA’s drinking water standards are established to safeguard public health. In 1974, the SDWA has implemented basic minimum water pollution principles so that waterborne diseases are not consumed through drinking water. Hence, all Americans are shielded by benchmarks established under the SDWA today. A summary of the SDWA can be accessed from the EPA website.

Types of Contaminants Under the SDWA

The SDWA outlines four wide-ranging categories of drinking water pollutants. There are also many elements and chemicals that are classified into every category. They are all likewise regulated under the law. The following contaminant varieties are listed in the SDWA under the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL).

Physical Contaminants

The physical class of contaminants alters the appearance of the water, as well as its properties, and cellular level. Physical pollutants can comprise everything from soil to small sticks and seeds that go into a water supply through a river or delta.

Chemical Contaminants Drinking Water

The chemical class of contaminants has elements or compounds. In both situations, they can be organic or inorganic elements such as chemical pollutants that include bleach, lead, fertilizers, and salts.

Biological Contaminants

The biological class of contaminants holds organisms that can be found in the water supply. This class also embodies everything from microbial organisms to parasites. However, this class also depicts parasites, bacteria, and viruses.

Radiological Contaminants Drinking Water

The radiological class of contaminants includes chemical mixtures and elements that are unstable at the atomic level. And because of this instability, they generate ionizing radiation that is dangerous to biotic life. Radioactive materials included in this class are uranium and plutonium.

Chinese Drinking Water Standards

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has implemented national drinking water standards since the beginning of the mid-1980s. Across the nation, all Chinese citizens are placed under the very same protection from unsafe pollution in their drinking water. And just recently, updates to the Chinese drinking water standards have raised the number of tested contaminants from 35 to a whopping 106.

Additionally, the Ministry of Health in China makes use of their drinking water standards to implement water distributor’s acquiescence with the law. These standards do not only safeguard Chinese citizens from exposure to dangerous contaminants but they also serve to shield China’s public waters and rivers. Furthermore, the 2007 modified version of the Chinese Standards for Drinking Water Quality document can be viewed here.

World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality

The World Health Organization (WHO) is an international body that is focused on the advancement of public health all across the world. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and it is also an organization of the United Nations. The WHO is dedicated to all aspects of public health ranging from the elimination of infectious diseases to the advancement of sexual and reproductive health.

In 2017, the WHO released their most recent version of the Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality (GDWQ). Although these guidelines are not implemented by law, they establish the fundamental parameters for national governments to heed. For example, the Chinese and Canadian governments have both set national drinking water laws that are based on the WHO guidelines.

The WHO Recommended Limits

The GDWQ lists down a number of elements that should be supervised carefully by public health specialists and based on the inferences of a number of well-known studies. WHO’s list establishes the minimum standards for drinking water contamination. According to the WHO, any drinking water that goes over the following levels of contamination is not safe for human consumption.

  • Arsenic: 10ug/L
  • Barium: 10ug/L
  • Boron: 2400ug/L
  • Uranium: 30ug/L
  • Fluoride: 1500ug/L
  • Chromium: 50ug/L
  • Styrene: 20ug/L
  • The Risks of Water Contamination

If drinking water is not sufficiently treated, dire public health disasters can happen. Although a lot of government bodies establish rules and guidelines for water distributors to follow, these regulations almost always end up broken. This is because water treatment is expensive and infrastructure-intensive process that a lot of countries often cannot afford to deliver.

Water Pollution Statistics

When the international standards for safe drinking water are breached, disaster can often happen. Here are some of the most head-scratching figures that pertain to risky drinking water.

  • 3 billion people do not have access to a useable toilet.
  • 840+ million people do not have access to safe drinking water.
  • 30%+ of schools do not have access to safe drinking water.
  • 440 million school days are sacrificed annually due to waterborne illness.
  • If global drinking water standards were enforced worldwide, the number of diarrhea-related deaths would be reduced by over 33%.
  • Diarrhea contracted by consuming dirty water is responsible for the death of a child under 5 years of age every 2 minutes.

The Flint Water Crisis

Sometimes, even the mighty countries can be subjected to drinking water crises. The city of Flint, Michigan, in the United States, has suffered through a major public health crisis due to lead seeping into their water supply. According to PBS, the Flint lead water crisis has claimed a number of lives and has caused a stark drop in fertility rates.

Starting in 2014, the local officials in Flint switched their water supply to a system that used old leaden pipes. These pipes were not properly inspected, which led to harmful chemical elements seeping into their water supply. As of 2018, the crisis is still ongoing.

According to the WHO guidelines, lead cannot exceed a concentration of 0.015mg per liter of water. In the case of Flint, the local drinking water surpassed this concentration of lead several times over. Tragically, this crisis could have been prevented by proper monitoring. The Flint crisis proves that drinking water standards must be followed strictly to prevent future tragedies.

Water Filters

Another way to ensure that the water that is being used in your household is safe and secure is by installing a water filter. One of the most trusted and reliable kind is a whole house water filter, of which you can choose from a number of types, best suited for different situations.


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