Water quality is not only important to the health of you and your family, but also is very important to your livestock and your bottom line.
Cleaner water equals livestock consuming more water, which means more feed consumption, which increases your profits with healthier, heavier animals. Research has shown that when cows have the option to drink from a trough or from an un-fenced creek, 80% of the cattle will use the trough. Access to clean water increases animal performance, and has shown improved growth in yearlings by up to 23%.
Water is the essence of life, yet how often do we think about it. Testing your water is essential to knowing if your water is safe for you and your family to use and to ensure that your water resource is protected. Over time, land use changes, storm events, contaminant storage issues, or structural degradation of an aging well (or dugout) can change or affect water quality. Testing your water on a regular basis provides a baseline of water quality, which can be very important if things go wrong. A baseline is important information to have if another party negatively affects your water source. Without it there is no way to prove that changes have occurred.
Knowledge about what is in your water is vital for your health and wellbeing. Contaminants can enter your water source and negatively affect your health. Nitrates for example, can indicate nutrients (fertilizer, manure and/or sewage) are entering your water source and can be fatal to infants and the elderly or people with other illnesses. Coliforms (fecal) in your water may indicate that human or animal waste are entering your water source, making it undrinkable.
Arsenic has become a more prominent issue in Northern Alberta. Many of the wells being tested in the area have been positive for this heavy metal. Arsenic has two forms, organic (arsenic five [As(v)]) which is found in plants, animals and some foods or an inorganic form (arsenic three [As(III)]) that is found in water, soil or the air. Arsenic in drinking water can be attributed to both natural sources and human activity. North Eastern Alberta has high arsenic levels in the groundwater, which may be due to the type of bedrock found here containing pyrites which are enriched with arsenic.
Arsenite (As(III)) is more toxic than organic arsenic (As(v)) and is more prevalent in groundwater due to the low oxygen concentrations. In the Beaver River area As(III) is approximately ten times more prevalent than As(v).
Generally we are exposed to low levels of organic arsenic through our food; this form of arsenic we can metabolize and excrete in our urine. The arsenic found in the groundwater is more toxic and can affect our gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system and our nervous system. The maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) is 0.01mg/litre.
It is important to test your well water on a regular basis as levels can fluctuate. Water treatments are available to reduce the amount of arsenic or change As(III) into As(v) though oxidation. Reverse osmosis combined with a pre-treatment can remove the majority (roughly 85%) of arsenic from your water. Distillation is an effective method however you must maintain and clean your distiller and replace the carbon filter within the recommended time. Make sure that your treatment systems meet the NSF/ANSI standards. Conducting a pre-treatment and post-treatment analysis is the only way to prove the effectiveness of your system.
Alberta Health Services in partnership with the Beaver River Watershed Alliance have been gathering information and testing local wells for several years. To view the full report on the Drinking Water Quality and Human Health Assessment, Click here.
Ways to Protect Your Water Source:
- Attend a Working Well Workshop or visit www.workingwell.alberta.ca
- Maintain your well (clean, shock chlorinate, test your water)
- Attend a Septic Workshop
- Attend a Water Treatment Workshop
- Attend a Dugout workshop and monitor your dugout for changes in structure and water quality
- Test your Water! It is cheap and easy to do through your Alberta Health Unit. Click here to find out times and locations.
- Review your water analysis and understand it with The Rural Water Quality Information Tool
- Talk to Alberta Health Services about having your water tested for heavy metals, especially Arsenic, which can be done in this area at a reduced cost due to naturally high levels. For more information on arsenic visit http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/Padis/hi-padis-faq-arsenic.pdf and FAQ’s http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/news/rls/ne-rls-bkg-2014-12-04-arsenic-faq.pdf