FAQ – Water

Frequently Asked Questions

1Should I get my effluent water tested?
Chemical and microbiological parameters in effluent water gives an indication of the potential environmental impact this water will have when disposed of into the surrounding area. Testing the safety of effluent water gives a guideline into water treatment procedures that may need to be implemented before disposal of this water. Effluent water that adheres to a specific standard may further be re-used, perhaps for irrigation, but this can only be depicted once chemical and microbiological parameters of effluent water are known.
Three packages are available at Vinlab H2O for effluent water testing adhering to different legislation set out by the Department of Water and Sanitation, namely the Integrated Production of Wine Scheme (IPW), River disposal special limit, and River disposal general limit. For more information on these packages Water Packages
2Do I need to get my drinking water tested?
If you use your own water source for drinking water, such as a borehole, it is necessary to get that water tested to ensure there are no harmful concentrations of chemicals or pathogens. Drinking water should also be aesthetically pleasing with regards to taste, odour and appearance.
SANS 241 and GlobalGAP are two drinking water specifications executed by Vinlab H2O, along with various other packages for drinking water. These specifications along with various other drinking water packages (chemical, microbiological or both) are available to ensure there are no harmful levels of chemical and microbiological contaminants if water is intended for human consumption.
3Irrigation water testing – is it necessary?
Irrigation water not only has a direct impact on plants, but it effects the soil, the plants grown in that soil, and the irrigation equipment used. Knowing the quality of the water used for irrigation allows you to plan for necessary water treatments that may need to be implemented, especially since irrigation water commonly has elevated iron levels, hardness and salinity. Waterborne pathogens present in irrigation water may also lead to contamination of fresh produce.
Legislation set out by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, complying with the Integrated Production of Wine Scheme, as well as, GlobalGAP are two irrigation water specifications executed by Vinlab H2O. These specifications along with various other irrigation water packages (chemical, microbiological or both) offered by Vinlab H2O aid in determining whether water is suitable to be used for irrigation purposes.
4Is there a water sampling procedure that should be followed if I would like to submit a sample?
Yes. A detailed explanation of how to go about water sampling is available:
See our article on Water Sampling Procedure
5How much sample volume must be sent in?
Sample volumes are dependent on requested analysis. For further information on packages listed below:
Water Packages
PackagesSample volume (mL)
Effluent water
(IPW/DWS)
250 mL
Effluent water
(DWS) River disposal Special limit
500 mL
Effluent water
(DWS) River disposal General limit
500 mL
Irrigation water
(DWAF/IPW)
500 mL
Irrigation water
Chemical
500 mL
Irrigation water
Microbiological
250 mL
Irrigation water
Chemical and microbiological
500 mL
Drinking water
Potability chemical
750 mL
Drinking water
Potability chemical and microbiological
750 mL
Drinking water
SANS 241 Chemical
750 mL
Drinking water
SANS 241 Chemical and microbiological
750 mL
Drinking water
Full SANS 241Chemical, microbiological, parasites and organic determinants
3 L
Bottled Water
Sans 1657
1 L
Drinking water
Global GAP
750 mL
Irrigation water
Global GAP
500 mL
Microbiological250 mL
6When is it a possibility that there might be high levels of iron or manganese in your water?
Elevated levels of Iron and Manganese alter the aesthetics of water with the oxidation of iron and manganese forming particles that settle out. These particles may come from corroded iron pipes or from the water supply itself. Both iron and manganese are common metallic elements in the earth’s crust that can be carried to ground water by the action of water percolating through soil and rock dissolving these minerals.
Iron and manganese are generally in their dissolved states in water supply systems where oxygen content is low. This iron/manganese containing water will be clear. Oxidation of dissolved iron particles in water results in a red-brown solid particle that will settle out of the water. If the iron does not settle out, it will remain suspended in the water leaving the water with a red tint. Manganese, which is less common than Iron, can occur in shallow wells as colloidal manganese leaving water with a black tint. Iron will, therefore, cause reddish-brown staining of laundry, porcelain, dishes, utensils and glassware, whereas, manganese will cause a brownish-black stain.
7My water has a high microbial count – what should I do?
There are many treatment options to remove microbiological populations from water sources, including pre-treatment, coagulation, flocculation and sedimentation, and filtration.
Broadly speaking pre-treatment refers to the modification of the microbial quality of the water before the water enters, or at the entry of water to a treatment plant. The application of roughing filters, microstrainers, off-stream storage and bank infiltration are all pre-treatment processes that may be implemented to remove algal cells, high levels of turbidity, viruses and protozoan cysts.
Chemical coagulation is a conventional treatment process known to be effective in the removal of microbial pathogens. When large populations of bacteria, viruses and protozoa are present, coagulation, flocculation and sedimentation implemented together aid in decreasing microbial populations effectively.
Filtration techniques such as granular media filtration and slow sand filtration are also widely used. However, this is generally in conjunction with pre-treatment or coagulation, flocculation and sedimentation.
Disinfectants, which inactivate microbial cells through various chemical pathways, are also frequently used. These disinfectants are generally in the form of oxidants such as chlorine, chlorine dioxide and ozone.
8Is it important to test water for faecal coliforms, total coliforms, E. coli and heterotrophic plate counts?
Microbial contaminants are an important water quality parameter as various pathogenic viruses, protozoa and bacteria are transmitted by water and may be the cause of a wide variety of diseases. Drinking contaminated water, recreational exposure to contaminated water, and the consumption of raw food that has been irrigated with contaminated water are all known causes of the spread of water borne diseases.
Indicator organisms like faecal coliforms, total coliforms, E. coli and heterotrophic plate counts aid in the routine monitoring for the potential presence of pathogens. These indicator organisms fulfil a specific criterion ensuring water is safe for consumption, irrigation, and disposal into the environment.
A detailed explanation of the each of these parameters in water is available: Importance of Drinking Water
9SANS 241 vs. potability – which should I choose?
The South African National Standard (SANS) 241 is a drinking water specification that states the minimum requirements for potable water to be considered safe for human consumption. These requirements include the microbiological, chemical and physical properties of water. SANS 241 is necessary for an audit or when the municipality requires results from a laboratory to enable public water use, particularly in communal places like guest houses, resorts and hotels.
If you use your own water source for drinking water, it is necessary to get that water tested to ensure there are no harmful concentrations of chemicals or pathogens. Drinking water should be aesthetically pleasing with regards to taste, odour and appearance. Therefore, when wanting to monitor the standard of your drinking water for personal use, potability testing will suffice.
10What does potable water mean?
Simply put, potable water is water that is safe to drink or use in food preparation without risk of health problems. Potable water has the following characteristics; it should be free from harmful contaminants, both chemical and microbiological and it should be aesthetically pleasing in that it is transparent (free from suspended impurities), colourless and odourless.
Vinlab H2O offers two drinking water potability packages, one in which microbiological and chemical determinants are tested, and one in which only chemical determinants are tested.
Water Packages
11Is it necessary to choose microbiological tests when wanting to recycle water for use in your garden?
If this water is going to be used for the irrigation of fruits, vegetables or edible plants faecal coliform testing is recommended. Not only can these micro-organisms manifest and multiply, but ingestion of this contaminated food may result in the spread of waterborne diseases. However, if water is just going to be used for general gardening purposes only “Irrigation water chemical” is required.
12When I send in borehole water used for swimming pools which test should I select?
The Irrigation water chemical package offered by Vinlab H2O is an ideal test to select when wanting to use borehole water for swimming pools. Borehole water frequently has high levels of iron and other metals. Getting borehole water tested prior to topping your swimming pool up aids in determining a treatment process for the removal of high levels of metals before addition of water to the swimming pool. Microbiological is not a necessity as chlorine is frequently added to swimming pool water as a disinfectant. However, when selecting “Irrigation water Chemical + Microbiological” ensure chlorine additions have taken place before submitting your water sample, enabling a more accurate reflection of the chemical and microbiological contaminants present in the water sample.

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