Water disinfection

The importance of water in transmitting diseases has been proved often. One example is that cholera was present for centuries all over Europe, and water was the main medium of transmission. This problem does not exist today in industrialized countries due to the treatment of water for public consumption. Other hazards persist, however.

The only possibility of guaranteeing water safety, that is, its potability, is chemical treatment. Only water for urban consumption is treated. Bottled water does not need to be treated, since it is drawn directly from springs under suitable hygienic conditions.

The water in natural watercourses unfortunately does not usually meet the minimum hygienic requirements for its consumption without heath risks. Water in springs is safe, but as it descends river courses it is subject to contamination, such as contact with dead animals and faecal matter from farms, cattle or human activity.

As you can see, water contamination is not only possible in today’s society, but certain to happen. This shows that drinking water without treating it first is a primary risk. Different treatments have been proposed to solve this problem. Some of the most used are chlorine and ozone treatments. Chlorine is the treatment used in the majority of countries since it is highly effective and inexpensive, and guarantees the suitable disinfection of drinking water. It should be noted that chlorination is able to eliminate large quantities of bacteria, virus, fungi and even parasites.

In Europe, all of the Mediterranean countries and the United Kingdom use chlorination, while the Nordic countries do not, since they are not willing to put up with the smell and taste provided by chlorine. This is why they use ozone, although it is not as effective.

Water chlorination is, consequently, a crucial safety measure for water sources. Eliminating this treatment today would have many more disadvantages than advantages.

For all of these reasons, and leaving personal tastes aside, potable water for any use should be drawn from the tap if it has been treated. Water used in all urban settings should be treated. If it is not, and especially if it is drawn from a well, it may be used for personal hygiene and household cleaning, as well as for food preparation which uses heat. If heat is not used, or for drinking, bottled water is the best choice.

Did you know...

Fresh horchata (a traditional drink usually made from ground tigernuts) should be kept refrigerated at a maximum temperature of two degrees Celsius.

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