pH is a measurement of how acidic or basic something is. It is measured on a scale from 0-14. Acidic values are from 0-7, with 0 being the most acidic. Basic numbers are from 7-14. A neutral pH is 7 (an example of this would be distilled water). The pH scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic. This means that each unit change (e.g., 5 to 6) is a tenfold change in the pH of the substance. Water with a pH of 5 is 10 times more acidic than water with a pH of 6. Water with an extremely high or low pH is deadly. Learn more about pH.
There are many types of bacteria that can be found in water. E. coli is a subgroup of coliform bacteria. Coliform bacteria are microscopic organisms. They originate in the intestinal tract of warm blooded animals and may also be found in soil and vegetation. E. coli, however, is only found in the intestines of warm blooded animals. Learn more about bacteria.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring semi-metal found on the earth's crust. Arsenic can be spread and enter water through natural pathways including volcanic activity, erosion and dissolving of rocks and minerals, or from human activities such as agricultural or industrial practices. As of January 23, 2006 all public water systems must comply with the arsenic standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb). Learn more about arsenic.
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can be found on earth's crust. Lead does not usually naturally occur in drinking water, but it can be present in household plumbing or water service lines and contaminate drinking water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Children have the highest health risk from exposure to lead. Since 1992 the drinking water standard for lead has been 15 parts per billion (ppb). Learn more about lead.
Nitrate is one form of dissolved nitrogen that occurs naturally in soil and water. When excess nitrates get into water this can pose a problem for human health. Some human activities that introduce nitrates into water are fertilizing, runoff from animal feedlots, leaky septic tanks, industrial wastes and wastewater treatment lagoons. A nitrate level up to 3 parts per million (ppm) is generally considered naturally occurring and safe for drinking in groundwater. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has set the primary drinking water standard for nitrates at 10 ppm. Learn more about nitrate.
Some examples of Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) are prescription and over-the-counter drugs, cosmetics, sun screen products and vitamins. These products can enter our waterways by being flushed down toilets. Although dosages found in water are extremely low (in parts per trillion) there is concern that these products are contributing to health and environmental problems. Some adverse affects on fish and other aquatic life from this include delayed sexual development, abnormal hormone levels, and impaired reproductive systems and immune systems. Learn how to properly dispose of unwanted prescription drugs and learn more about PPCPs.
Water is considered "hard" when it has relatively high levels of calcium (shown above) and magnesium (shown above on left) and other metals. The more minerals that are present the harder the water is. There are both benefits and problems with hard water. Hard water can be a source for nutrients like calcium and magnesium and it does not have a s much sodium as soft water. However, hard water can cause spotting on glass, deposits in hot water heaters and film on bathroom floor or stink. Learn more about hard water.