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What are the chemical parameters of good water quality?

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Alkalinity is one of the first considerations when it comes to the chemical quality of a source water. Alkalinity is not a pollutant. It is a total measure of the substances in water that have "acid-neutralizing" ability. Don't confuse alkalinity with pH. pH measures the strength of an acid or base; alkalinity indicates a solution's power to react with acid and "buffer" its pH - that is, the power to keep its pH from changing. To illustrate, we will compare two samples of pure water and buffered water. Absolutely pure water has a pH of exactly 7.0. It contains no acids, no bases, and no (zero) alkalinity. The buffered water, with a pH of 6.0, can have high alkalinity. If you add a small amount of weak acid to both water samples, the pH of the pure water will change instantly (become more acid). But the buffered water's pH won't change easily because the Alka-Seltzer-like buffers absorb the acid and keep it from "expressing itself."

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Alkalinity is important for fish and aquatic life because it protects or buffers against pH changes (keeps the pH fairly constant) and makes water less vulnerable to acid rain. The main sources of natural alkalinity are rocks, which contain carbonate, bicarbonate, and hydroxide compounds. Borates, silicates, and phosphates may also contribute to alkalinity. Limestone is rich in carbonates, so waters flowing through limestone regions generally high alkalinity - hence its good buffering capacity. Conversely, granite does not have minerals that contribute to alkalinity. Therefore, areas rich in granite have low alkalinity and poor buffering capacity.

Chlorine is a greenish-yellow gas that dissolves easily in water. It has a pungent, noxious odor that some people can smell at concentrations above 0.3 parts per million. Because chlorine is an excellent disinfectant, it is commonly added to most drinking water supplies in the US. In parts of the world where chlorine is not added to drinking water, thousands of people die each day from waterborne diseases like typhoid and cholera. Chlorine is also used as a disinfectant in wastewater treatment plants and swimming pools. It is widely used as a bleaching agent in textile factories and paper mills, and it's an important ingredient in many laundry bleaches. Free chlorine (chlorine gas dissolved in water) is toxic to fish and aquatic organisms, even in very small amounts.

However, its dangers are relatively short-lived compared to the dangers of most other highly poisonous substances. That is because chlorine reacts quickly with other substances in water (and forms combined chlorine) or dissipates as a gas into the atmosphere. The free chlorine test measures only the amount of free or dissolved chlorine in water. The total chlorine test measures both free and combined forms of chlorine. If water contains a lot of decaying materials, free chlorine can combine with them to form compounds called trihalomethanes or THMs. Some THMs in high concentrations are carcinogenic to people. Unlike free chlorine, THMs are persistent and can pose a health threat to living things for a long time.

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