by Dr Bharathi Prakash
Dept of Microbiology
Mangaluru, Jun 8: Water is a basic necessity of life. Our body has approximately 72%of water. ‘Save every precious drop of water’, ‘water is life’, ‘save water’ ‘conserve water’ are the slogans seen everywhere. Water tankers run in the city. People wait in a queue to fill water leaving all other jobs. Water become top priority in the water scarcity in the summer.
Drying water bodies, excess usage and mismanagement of water resources have completely imbalanced the water table. Increasing population demands more usage of water. There should be equal “give and take” strategy but unfortunately, we are only taking from nature and not giving any efforts to restore the water resources. Today majority of the country is facing acute water scarcity is one of the live example of it. Water has the highest utility but least value. May be in the days to come water will be valued more precious than petrol and diesel. Water scarcity slowly may lead to food shortage too. Water shortage has made cities so harsh and dry that colleges have declared holidays, hotels away from cities remain closed. This seems very strange as there were days when holidays were declared for excess rainfall.
In the water shortage scenario, city water suppliers identify new potable water resources in and around the city. Whether water is potable i.e. fit to drink or not, is the most important issue. Hence water is getting tested at various places in the city for its potability. Microbiological water test -MPN test, checks the potability of water. This MPN test (Most probable number) detects the presence of faecal coliforms. Certain kind of bacteria called coliforms which reside in our colon are discharged through faecal matter. Presence of these bacteria in the given water sample indicates that the water is contaminated by faecal matter or there is sewage water seepage near this water body. A bacterium, E.coli is the common resident of all human colon. Hence it’s presence in the drinking water is considered as the indicator of sewage contamination.MPN test comprises presumptive, confirmed and completed tests which takes 3 days to give the final report. But the presence of other microorganisms in the water can also be detected using various protocols. To check, whether water is fit for drinking or not MPN test is enough, if the colour and odour is normal. Whereas checking the other chemical parameters like PH, total hardness, Chloride, fluride etc. will give the complete details of the water quality. Generally, well water is sweet and bore well water is hard due to the salts in it.
Many people use their well water only for gardening, bathing and other activities. Only during water scarcity, well water is used for drinking purpose. If the well water is not used for several months, it may taste differently. So People do water testing with the complaint of bad odour, fishy odour, rusty taste or bubbles in the well water etc. If the faecal coliform test comes positive, water should be treated or can be used after boiling. Well Water can be treated by good quality bleaching powder or Potassium permanganate. Add it to the well, stir and allow to react for 24 hours. It is always advisory to test the water quality for microbial load before and after the water treatment. In some instances, people completely empty the well, treat with bleaching powder and then use freshly filled water for drinking purpose.
If MPN teat comes positive repeatedly even with treatment, it indicates the continuous seepage of sewage water into the water body. In such case, the nearby sewage sources need to be checked and diverted from the water source, if possible. Alternately, well should be protected and guarded to prevent seepage. Quality control departments of food, beverage and ice-cream etc. factories get their water tested regularly. Every well is recommended to be covered and get the water tested periodically. Usually pre and post monsoon water testing is done by water supplying agencies.
Water shortage is becoming common especially in summer and if proper preventive measures are not taken to conserve ground water table, we may experience the same in the summers to come. Recycling and reuse of water is the key to conserve water for future. As the remedial measures-buildings, offices, schools, colleges and apartments should install water recycling units, unnecessary wastage of water must be barred, and importance of water must be taught and implemented in schools and colleges with special emphasis. Wastage of water must be charged. Potable water should not be used for toilets. South canara receives quite a good amount of rain fall every year that need to restore by ‘rain water harvesting’. In fact, it shall be made mandatory to have a rain water harvesting unit in every house, apartment and building. It should be implemented in the rainy season. Otherwise days are not far when wars may be for water.
Every time, many concerned committees are formed to conserve and protect water bodies and they remain only on paper, lacking the fund and support. Three fourth of earth is covered by water. Most of our country is surrounded by sea water yet unfortunately sea water being salty cannot be used. It is an alarming wake up call for all of us to come up with an invention to convert salt water of sea into sweet water at a very affordable cost to a common man.
Environmental experts and economists say that any country with recurrent water shortage problems will be labelled as ‘water stressed country’. Once it happens, all the foreign grants coming to the country will gradually diminish. Subsequently, it will affect the country’s economy and overall development, drastically.
Hence, as Swami Vivekananda says, we need to arise, awake and stop not till the goal is achieved to conserve water. Each one must realise the grim of the situation and take a step forward.