Water can dissolve many minerals or chemicals and transport microbiological contaminants. Testing of drinking water is common practice in Western Australia, particularly in mining settings, where semi-permanent and permanent mine camps require adequate and clean drinking water for all employees and camp users.
The Department of Health (DoH) has outlined guidance on Standard Drinking Water Tests (SDWT) which provides a base set of analyses designed to detect chemical and microbiological contaminants that are most commonly found in Western Australia waters.
The analysis is designed to tell you the following:
- How safe your water is for drinking purposes?
- The levels of contamination in your drinking water
- The aesthetic quality of your drinking water.
SDWTs conducted by participating laboratories within WA comply with National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) requirements. Results provided by these laboratories are accepted by the Department of Health.
The microbiological analysis will identify total coliforms (a type of bacteria) and faecal coliforms in drinking water. The total coliform test will show the total bacterial loading found in the water sample. The faecal coliform test will indicate the level of faecal contamination in the water and how safe the water is to drink.
Chemical Quality Tests:
The chemical quality test is made up of a range of chemical elements and compounds. Some of the elements are heavy metals that may pose a risk to your health while others may only affect the taste, odour and appearance of the water (aesthetic characteristics).
Astron in conjunction with ARL laboratories have devised a standard drinking water test, with reference to the DoH guidance which is shown below. This should be adapted to include any site specific potential contaminants. This example would require the following sample collection bottles, per sample.
1 x 500 mL plastic bottles for the collection of inorganics
1 x 100 mL plastic bottle for the collection of metals
1 x 600 mL sterilised plastic bottle for the collection of microbiological analysis
It is important that you identify any additional hazards that may indicate the need for additional analytical testing. A qualified environmental scientist can assist with providing technical advice. Some of the potential considerations are as follows:
• intensive agriculture, industry or mining
• fuel and chemical storage areas
• poorly maintained septic tanks and other liquid waste disposal systems
• excessive or inappropriate use of fertilisers, animal manures, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides
• accidental spills of chemicals.
If you find any of these activities or items in or on the catchment area you may need to consider additional testing.
The cost varies between different laboratories and prices may increase over time.
Stay tuned for Part 2 which explains the collection of drinking water samples and how collection should be done in a manner that limits the potential for unwanted contaminants.