Nature today | Water quality checks provide insight into the health risks of water in the built environment

Clean and microbiologically safe fountains, sponge pools and other water in the residential environment. That is the purpose of the water quality check The Norwegian Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). This one is orecently become available to municipalities, citizens’ initiatives or others involved in the construction of water in a city or village.

Ciska Sketch is a microbiologist at RIVM and project manager of various water projects. This also includes man-made water in the city, such as fountains, wading pools or trickles. “The idea for the Water Quality Check arose a few years ago, when we increasingly received questions from municipalities or designers of water concepts. For example, we helped The Hague municipality with the water playground Zuiderpret. There, the Water Quality Check revealed that contaminated water was actually always being pumped around. The water intake has been adapted so that fresh surface water is now always used.”

Water in the city is very important. It is one of the ways to adapt the living environment to climate change. If there is a lot of rain, it can be collected and thus prevent flooding. Water can also provide cooling. Especially in cities, it is good against heat stress. “It is therefore very positive to have water in a town or village,” says Ciska Sketch. “But also think about the quality of that water.”

Complete the questionnaire with all parties together

The water quality check consists of a questionnaire and a calculation module. “The questionnaire immediately comes up with advice when you answer the questions. It is also possible to make a final report. With that report in hand, you can then proceed, for example by taking action or starting a conversation about adjustments.”

The purpose of the questionnaire is also to gather all involved parties. The Water Board may know the answer to questions that a municipality cannot answer. Or the designer of the water feature in the city.

The calculation module is more about technical data. You can use this to calculate the infection risk for various pathogens that may be present in the water. Standard values ​​for dose and exposure are included in the calculation model derived from scientific literature. “But the user of the water quality check can also enter his own data and calculate accordingly,” says Sketch.

Gastrointestinal disorders

Water in the cityIf you’re just building a paddling pool or fountain, what could go wrong? Ciska Sketch: “The water can contain bacteria or viruses which, for example, cause gastrointestinal diseases. Whether you get symptoms depends on the amount of water you consume. But of course you want to reduce the chance of getting an infection through the water in advance.”

To fill a bath or fountain, one designer uses tap water, the other uses surface water. Water treatment is often required, such as UV lamps or disinfection with chlorine. “Many of these water features in the city were not built with the intention of even walking into them. They are often only intended for water collection, cooling or experience. But people and especially children walk in that water. So keep that in mind when you design. “

In the future, Ciska Sketch and her project team hope to expand the Water Quality Check to even more types of water concepts, but also for, for example, chemical substances. Even now, the water quality check is highly recommended. To whom? “For everyone who wants to do something with water in their living environment. From citizens’ initiatives and the municipality to the water board and designers of the water elements.”

The water quality check was established as part of RIVM’s strategic programme. This is the RIVM program for own research, innovation and knowledge development. RIVM looks ahead with topics that deserve extra attention because they may affect our public health and living environment in the future.

More information

Text: Mirjam Kroeze, Atlas Living Environment
Images: Sue Rickhuss, Pixabay; RIVM

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