How To Find Out The Water Quality Of Freshwater Supply Sources (Groundwater, Lakes, Rivers etc.)

How To Find Out The Water Quality Of Freshwater Supply Sources (Groundwater, Lakes, Rivers etc.) For Different Uses

Freshwater supply sources come in several forms – groundwater, rivers, lakes, dams and so on.

These freshwater supply sources can be used for a number of uses such as supplying drinking water, supplying irrigation water and supply water to industry and power generation.

Because of the importance of freshwater sources to society, we’ve put together a guide on how to find out the water quality of these sources.


Different Freshwater Supply Sources

Drinking water generally comes from groundwater aquifers, or lakes, rivers and dams.

For other uses of water such as irrigation for example, water can come from dams, bores, wells, rivers, town water, channels and recycled water.

Different countries tap into different freshwater sources depending on their water strategy and what water is suitable and available.


Quality Of Drinking Water/Tap Water

We already wrote a guide on drinking water quality in different countries and cities.

Some notes from that guide that are relevant to the quality of drinking water are:

  • countries and/or states/provinces should have drinking water guidelines, and/or a drinking water Act for the safety of the general public, and so the general public can know what to expect from their drinking water
  • countries and/or states/provinces should issue yearly reports, or have a live site that indicates the testing done on water sources, and whether it meets drinking water guidelines
  • drinking water sources may be tested for what % clean the water is
  • there may be a water quality index, where a water source is ranks on an index, of say, 0-100
  • the colour, taste and smell of the water may be tested
  • other factors may be tested such as clarity (turbidity), minerals and natural substances like iron and manganese, colour, pH, bacteria, such as E. coli, chlorine and fluoride levels, and contaminants like fuel and pesticides
  • How the freshwater is filtered and treated at water treatment plants, and transported inside pipes, should also be communicated to the public


Water Quality Of Water For Irrigation, Industry & Other Uses

For all other uses of water other than drinking water, there can be different guidelines on the quality of water required for a particular water use, and different ways to evaluate the quality of the water.

If we take water used in agriculture for irrigation for example, it may be best practice to get the water quality assessed via chemical laboratory analysis by an independent and accredited laboratory.

Problems specific to water used for agricultural irrigation might include salinity, the water infiltration rate, specific ion toxicity, and other miscellaneous problems.

The water used for farming can impact the soil, yields and other factors.

The US and Australia both provide resources on irrigation water quality:

United States

  • Irrigation water quality –
  • Water quality evaluation information –



  • Irrigation water quality –
  • Water quality guidelines –, and









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