More than water in your taps?

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When water levels in dams drop to low levels, the water may take on an 'earthy' taste. This is because the concentration of sediment (sand) is higher in less water. Agreed, in some areas in South Africa, water may contain small concentrations of geosmin. It contributes to the earthy, musty-type odour/taste in the water. Geosmin is a naturally occurring compound produced by bacteria in soil and algae found in surface water. Cold temperatures kill off algae in surface water, and the dead algae release the geosmin.

While the taste and odour can be unpleasant, geosmin is not toxic or harmful. Your  tap water remains perfectly safe to drink, as the quality of drinking water in South Africa is closely monitored via a large number of water samples analysed according to the stringent South African National Standards (SANS 241: 2015) requirements. On-going testing continues to show an absence of harmful bacteria and other pathogens in our water.

Not sure about the safety of your water?

If you’re not sure about the safety of your water because of flooding, a broken pipe, low water levels in dams or something else, you can try the following two easy disinfecting methods:

  1. Boil it. This should get rid of any bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that can make you sick. One minute is enough to get the job done -- 3 minutes if you’re 5 000 feet or more above sea level. To improve the flat taste of boiled water, add one pinch of salt to each litre of water, or pour the water from one clean container to another several times.
  2. Bleach it. It sounds a little strange, but it’s an approved way to disinfect water in an emergency situation or to clear bacteria from water. Only use regular, unscented chlorine bleach products that are suitable for disinfection and sanitation as indicated on the label. Do not use colour safe, or bleaches with added cleaners. If the water is cloudy, let it settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter.
    • Locate a clean dropper.
    • Only use fresh liquid chlorine bleach or liquid chlorine bleach that is stored at room temperature for less than one year. The label should say that it contains 8.25% of sodium hypochlorite.
    • Use 2 drops of bleach for every 1 litre of water.
    • Stir and let it stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odour. If it doesn’t, repeat the dosage and let it stand for another 15 minutes before use.
    • If the chlorine taste is too strong, pour the water from one clean container to another and let it stand for a few hours before use.

Safety tip:  Remember to use bottled or safe, disinfected water to brush your teeth and for washing dishes.

Sources:
www.epa.gov
www.dwa.gov.za
www.iol.co.za

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