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Water, water everywhere? But how much can we drink?

Team TFS
Team TFS

pugdrinkingwaterMarch 22nd 2020 was World Water Day, started by the United Nations and has been held every year since 1993. This is a day to raise awareness of water issues, and this year was focussed on the link to climate change.

The takeaway learnings are:

“Adapting to the water effects of climate change will protect health and save lives.

Using water more efficiently will reduce greenhouse gases.

We cannot afford to wait.  Everybody has a role to play.”

It is important to think about water as not just drinking water, but also wastewater, rivers, basins, and groundwater all leading to our oceans.  Most environmental pollution from air or land will ultimately end up in our waterways and hold a potential threat to our health and safety.


The effects of environmental pollution in those areas of the world, which lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation, (something that we, in the developed world often take for granted) is well documented.  But how good is the water in your region and what measures are taken to ensure that the water you are drinking is safe?

The United Nations have a whole site dedicated to water, after all, water is life.  There is also an interactive map showing how good the water quality is in your region in terms of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation (SDG 6). It’s an interesting and somewhat shocking read: only 71% of the global population has access to clean drinking water and just 45% to safely managed sanitation*.

In Europe, we have the EU Drinking water directive, recently reviewed to include feedback from the European Citizens' Initiative 'Right2Water', which was a campaign backed by 1.8 million Europeans to allow citizens to put issues on the EU political agenda. Power to the people!

One of their main concerns was that around 2 million Europeans do not have access to clean drinking water and sanitation. We can also thank the Right2water campaign for the addition of water disinfection byproducts, such as haloacetic acids and chlorate to the drinking water directive.


With concerns come solutions

Environmental threats such as pesticides, heavy metals, pharmaceutical products such as hormones and antibiotics, persistent organic pollutants and the latest scandal of the forever chemicals - perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are some of the threats which are cause for concern as well as the disinfection byproducts of HAAs, chlorate, and perchlorate.


Disinfection byproducts, such as haloacetic acids (HAAs) have been routinely analyzed by GC-MS but require additional sample preparation by either extraction or derivatization.  Ion chromatography coupled to a mass spectrometer offers an alternative direct approach as discussed in this white paper covering the 9 HAAs proposed by the EU.

PFAS is the latest hot topic in water. Analytical methods tend to involve manual solid-phase extraction (SPE) then HPLC coupled to a triple quadrupole or high-resolution accurate mass (HRAM) mass spectrometer.

Labor-intensive extractions can now be automated using the Autotrace 280 designed for low background PFAS which is featured in this blog post:  Automate Sample Preparation for PFAS Analysis in Drinking Water.

Finally, did you know that you can also analyze PFAS by Combustion Ion Chromatography?

You can discover more about PFAS in our PFAS learning centre.

Any questions on your environmental analysis?  Speak to an expert, we are here to help.


Free webinars for further learning on water and environmental challenges:

Fast, robust and sensitive analysis of haloacetic acids using IC-MS/MS

Rapid Photometric Detection for Environmental Applications

A New Integrated, Sample-to-Result Analytical Workflow for the Sensitive and Reliable Analysis of Po...


Related Blog Articles:

The silent threat of emerging contaminants 

Monitoring trace elemental contamination in the environment

*Data from 2017