December 1, 2005 Playing a role once reserved for environmental engineers, children are now helping to test the health of water in their local communities. A new kit comes equipped with everything needed to test the water's temperature, oxygen content, acid level, and clarity. One test revealed low oxygen conditions, indicating that fish might be having difficulty breathing in the water.
WASHINGTON--How do you really know if the water you drink, cook, and shower with is clean and healthy? It's simple to find out, and today kids are even helping to test the earth's water supply.
You wouldn't dare drink water if you knew trash was floating in it. But water that ends up in your kitchen might start off in rivers and lakes that can get polluted. Brian Van Wye, Anacostia Riverkeeper for the Earth Conservation Corps in Washington, says, "Monitoring the water is important because if you don't know what's going on with your river, you don't know if it's healthy."
Traditionally, environmental engineers test water's health, but now, this new water test kit makes it so easy, even kids can do it! Robbi Savage, president of America's Clean Water Foundation in Washington says, "It's inexpensive. It's easy to do. It's fun, and it allows our students and young people to be a part of something that's global ... And it's good for the world."
The kit comes equipped with everything you need to test the water's temperature, oxygen level, how much acid is in the water, and how clear the water is. Results from testing this particular water in Washington showed low oxygen levels, which means fish might have a hard time breathing in it.
"It's kind of like getting the vital signs of the river or the water body," Wye says. Researchers encourage kids to do monthly testing -- a process that could improve water quality, while adding knowledge to young minds. "Kids a lot of times are very open to learning and to figuring out what they can do to make a difference and try to protect their river." And it's a learning experience that won't end up down the drain.
The water monitoring test kit can be used up to 50 times. You can buy it on line for $19 at www.worldwatermonitoringday.org.
BACKGROUND: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsored a World Water Monitoring Day for kids on October 18. The kids monitored water flowing household taps, as well as in nearby streams and rivers, and sent that information back to EPA so that scientists could analyze them. They students tested samples for dissolved oxygen, pH levels, temperature and clarity (technically called turbidity). The global clean water event began in 1992 as a U.S. project and quickly became international in scope. In 2004, more than 50 nations participated, with just under 50,000 participants.
IS BOTTLED BETTER? Bottled water isn't necessarily safer than tap water; the FDA merely requires manufacturers to meet the basic tap water standards set by the EPA. So it largely depends on the brand: some brands are treated just like tap water, others are purified more. Anyone with a compromised immune system should carefully read the labels of bottled water to make sure it is sufficiently purified for their protection.
SECONDARY STANDARDS: Even if your tap water meets the EPA's basic requirement for safe drinking water, some people still object to the taste, smell or appearance of their water. These are aesthetic concerns, however, and therefore fall under the EPA's voluntary secondary standards. Some tap water is drinkable, but may be temporarily clouded because of air bubbles, or have a chlorine taste. A bleachy taste can be improved by letting the water stand exposed to the air for a while.