For a naturally sourced bottled water, the quality of the water should be top of the list in terms of things to be concerned about. Without water of the highest quality, many companies fail. Story by Ric Horobin.
Maintaining the quality of your water is all about learning how a source works, understanding what can impact it and knowing what you can do to minimise these impacts. It's all about management and protection.
An ideal source for a naturally sourced water should have the following attributes:
- The travel time through the rock should be long to ensure the quality is maintained, ideally over many years.
- The area where water percolates into the ground (the catchment area) should be known and ideally protected to limit any development that may present a risk, such as any potentially polluting industry.
- The source construction should stop the water being contaminated on its way back to the surface, so boreholes for example should be properly sealed to prevent surface water getting in, and be constructed of suitable materials to maintain the quality.
- The aquifer should be able to supply the required volume, and sustainably. This means that the water being pumped out should not exceed the rainfall percolating in.
This is all ideal, but the real world is hardly ever ideal. However, the most important thing is to have a good understanding of what happens under the ground, because then you can see where your source is less than ideal and put in place things to protect it.
For example, if you know that the water takes several years to flow from the catchment area to the borehole, you can be confident that bacteria will not be a problem. Bacteria cannot normally survive in groundwater for long periods. That's not to say that a problem can't arise during withdrawal from below the ground, so ensuring good protection at the borehole will be important.
In terms of chemical contamination, it's important to note that once this gets into an aquifer, the problem can persist for many years, so, again, protection is important.
In addition to understanding the whole underground system, when I'm approached to look at a source, one of the most important things I look for is good data collection. An ongoing database of chemistry, microbiology, rainfall, groundwater level and abstraction rate is ideal, as it allows a review of the historic picture from which trends can be identified.
So, make sure you understand how water flows through the ground and what things can impact the quality and quantity of water available, make sure you have good recording and storage of information, and make sure the construction of the source is to a high standard.
Dr Ric Horobin is a PhD and MSc qualified hydrogeologist with extensive experience in water resources for high value uses, including for bottling of natural mineral water, spring water and other soft drinks.
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This article was first published
in Water Innovation.