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What you need to know about water safety in the summer

The most abundant resource on Earth: Water!

Water is a fundamental resource for ensuring our survival. It is utilised in practically most tasks we perform during the course of the day, including drinking, cleaning, food production, agricultural, industrial, medical, as well as leisure activities like swimming. Thus, having access to clean, easily available water is crucial for maintaining the general public's health. As per the global distribution, just 2% of the water is freshwater, and only 1% of it is what humans have access to (found in lakes, rivers, and surfaces). 

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that any flowing water is pure and safe. According to WHO numbers, at least 2 billion people throughout the world consume water that has been contaminated with feces. One of the biggest threats to the safety of potable water is pollution.


Water Safety in Warmer Temperatures

Given that several factors such as geology, geomorphology, and climate, influence the water quality it should go without saying that our region is more vulnerable to water contamination and pollution, particularly during the summer and high-temperature waves. 

Studies have shown that warm air and water conditions have a direct impact on food and waterborne illnesses. Since their habitat, transmission, seasonality, and viability are changed, toxins and pathogens including Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Cyanobacteria, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and Vibrio bacteria among others spread more quickly. Thus, the warmer the air and the water conditions the more disease incidences more specifically gastrointestinal infections. 

Households, businesses, and communities that are actively involved in agriculture and production are all impacted by the reduced availability of freshwater during summer. A connection between temperature rise, water evaporation, and the growth rate of pathogens exists; the concentration of bacteria is considered higher in stagnant water and in low water volume.  

Perceptible Water-borne illnesses Symptoms and Effects

Not everyone consuming contaminated water will get sick, however, the symptoms if visible can range from mild to severe and may include Diarrhea, Vomiting, Fever, Malaise, Loss of appetite, Nausea, or Abdominal pain.

The usual incubation period of water-borne illnesses can begin a few hours after exposure to polluted water or can take several days. The symptoms typically last from one to seven days in most cases, although hospitalization may occasionally be necessary, especially if serious infections like typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis manifest.

Diarrhea is the most widely known disease linked to contaminated food and water. There are as many as 4 billion cases of diarrhea worldwide each year due to consumption of contaminated water.

Water-borne diseases are the second leading cause of death in children below the age of five years. 

Food poisoning is also frequently linked to contaminated water since we use it for a variety of activities, such as making ice cubes, washing produce and cleaning tools, irrigating our gardens, drinking water, and consuming toxic seafood. Most symptoms are common, which makes it hard to differentiate the actual source of the hazard.

Hence, our responsibility is to ensure the safe consumption of water and this is becoming more and more challenging.

washing vegetables

Water safety is a foundation for the prevention and control of waterborne diseases.

The main reasons behind consuming unsafe water are the pollution of water at the source-most of the time uncontrollable from our side- the contamination of distribution pipelines, leaking pipes, Improper wastewater collection systems or simply by internal cross-contamination. 

The best approaches to fight water-borne diseases include better sanitation, safer food, and adequate water treatment; by stopping the contaminated water from entering our property or by managing it and lowering the risks. The ultimate goal is to have access to adequate supplies of safe drinking water and usage.


How Food Establishment can play a role in providing safe water 

The key to good water safety and quality is for all food establishments to have effective programs in place to control water from all aspects; Microbiological, Chemical, and Physical aspects. This can be done by resorting to proper water treatment that removes grime, disease-causing bacteria, chemicals, dissolved minerals, microorganisms causing diseases, and other unwanted particles. Water treatment also controls unpleasant taste and odor if any. 

The general principle of water treatment is the same and its purpose is to provide safe drinkable water for everyone. The choice of water treatment system should be according to the targeted contamination removal, water usage, and budget. There are several common disinfection procedures used to prevent contamination in water systems. 

  • Shock chlorination can be used to disinfect a well or spring by supplying a high concentration of chlorine to the water over a short period. This is like a one-stop quick-fix method of coliform removal.
  • Full Reverse Osmosis: is chemical-free and is an economy-friendly method used to improve the taste and odor of the drinking water. The RO system produces clean, filtered water by forcefully introducing tap water through a semi-permeable membrane, where then the filtered water is collected in a holding tank.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection involves the use of UV light but can change water quality.
  • Ozonation involves the use of ozone gas to disinfect water. 
  • Chemical disinfection involves the use of chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide, or peracetic acid to disinfect water.

It is also required to routinely test the water at the point of use at least on a quarterly basis for microbiological parameters and once per year for chemical parameters and heavy metals. These laboratory tests verify that the water meets specified requirements for both direct and indirect product uses.

As noticed, water treatment employs a variety of standards and disinfection methods, but the ultimate objective should be to provide everyone with safe drinking water!

washing berries

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