Water testing is a general description for different procedures which are used to assess water quality. The quality of water is essential to many different industries and activities in Australia such as agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry. Due to the centrality of water to these businesses, it is essential that water quality is regularly tested to determine the health of the water and maintained to ensure successful production and the sustenance of flora and fauna life.
- Soil entering the water through events such as erosion, land clearing and overgrazing.
- Chemicals entering the water through fertilisers, pesticides and leeching
- Pollution entering the water from the refuse of factories, sewage systems, mines and service stations
- Rubbish disposal (both small scale and from landfill)
In order to assess water quality, commonly conducted tests include:
- Temperature – helps to determine the rate of biochemical reaction in an aquatic environment and indeed whether they are able to occur at all. If the water temperature is too elevated, this can limit the water’s ability to hold oxygen and decrease organisms’ capacity to resist particular pollutants.
- pH – measures the acidity of water. Most aquatic organisms are only able to survive within a pH range of 6 to 8.
- Chloride – usually present in fresh and salt water. However, its levels can be exacerbated as a result of minerals dissolving and industrial pollution
Salinity – measures the total of all non-carbonate salts dissolved in water. Measuring groundwater salinity indicates how salty your topsoil may become if the watertable rises.
- Dissolved oxygen – measures the amount of oxygen dissolved in water. Without this, aquatic life is unable to conduct cellular respiration and is thus a key indicator of water health.
- Turbidity – measures the amount of particulate matter that is suspended in the water, or more simply, how clear the water is. If high levels of turbidity are present, photosynthesis is affected as light is unable to penetrate, increasing water temperature.
- Nitrate and phosphate – essential nutrients for aquatic life in moderation. Their presence is a good indicator of strong plant life. However, the addition of artificial nitrates and phosphates through detergents, fertilisers or sewage can be harmful and result in eutrophication, generally in the form of unwanted algal blooms.
- Pesticides – measures whether any pesticides are present and their concentration levels.
- Other – petroleum hydrocarbons (TRH), Monocyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (BTEX) and Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs, including benzo (a) pyrene)
- Redox – measurement of the reduction-oxidisation potential of a solution which indicates the electron activity. Micro-organism growth is highly dependent on these levels.
- Electrical conductivity – estimates the total amount of solids dissolved in the water. This can be a good indicator of the level of salinity in the water.
- Metals – indicates the presence of a suite of metals which are not naturally occurring in water.
Regular water testing can be helpful over a long period of time to monitor any changes that occur in water quality. If this occurs, it is essential that the monitoring occurs at fixed intervals from the same point. However, it can also be a good idea to conduct water testing in response to an unexpected event such as a chemical spill.
All laboratory work and reporting such as water testing is done in accordance with:
ISO/IEC 17025:2005 – General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories
Other relevant standards applicable specifically to water quality monitoring include:
- NEPM Groundwater Investigation Levels, National Environment Protection Measure 1999, Schedule B(1);
- Circular on Target Values and Intervention Values for soil remediation, Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment, Netherlands 2000;
- Australian and New Zealand Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Waters, 2000, (ANZECC);
- Australian drinking water guidelines, National Health and Medical Research Council, 2004 (NHMRC); and
- Guidelines for the Assessment and Management of Groundwater Contamination, NSW DEC 2006.
Water samples collected by ADE consultants are taken back to ADE’s own in-house laboratory for testing. ADE Environmental Laboratory is NATA accredited for the majority of chemical tests commonly required for water quality assessments. For full scope of NATA acredited test methods check NATA scope accreditation.
ADE Environmental Laboratory is operational 24 hrs 7 days a week and is equipped with the latest range of analytical instruments and scientific equipment. This in-house laboratory service ensures that ADE is capable of responding to urgent situations, when required.
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