Arsenic content in ground and canal waters of Punjab – A paper by Punjab Agricultural University

Arsenic in drinking water can impact human health and is considered to be one of the prominent environmental causes of cancer mortality in the world

This paper published in the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment attempts to determine arsenic content in deep tube wells, shallow hand pumps and canal waters in order to explore their suitability for human consumption and domestic use by the urban and rural population of Punjab. Arsenic in drinking water can impact human health and is considered to be one of the prominent environmental causes of cancer mortality in the world. The World Health Organization and US Environment Protection Agency established a new maximum contaminant level of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for arsenic in drinking water.

Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for more than 95 per cent of the population in Punjab. As per this study, the arsenic concentration of deep water tube wells located in Amritsar city used for domestic supply for urban population ranged from 3.8 to 19.1 ppb with mean value of 9.8 ppb. Arsenic content in hand pump water varied from 9 to 85 ppb with a mean value of 29.5 ppb.

According to the safe limit of arsenic, 54 per cent and 97 per cent, water samples collected from deep water tube wells and hand pumps, respectively, were not fit for human consumption. Arsenic content in canal water varied from 0.3 to 8.8 ppb with a mean value of 2.89 ppb. Canal water has got higher oxidation potential followed by deep tube well and hand pump water.

It is evident from this investigation that water extracted by hand pumps from shallow aquifers of Punjab, northwest India usually has arsenic content above the safe limit and should not be used for drinking purposes. The present study suggests the regular monitoring of arsenic content in deep tube well and shallow hand pump waters by water testing laboratories. The consumption of water having elevated concentration of arsenic above the safe limit must be discouraged.

In future, the incidence of arsenic related health problems should also be monitored annually from the locations supplied with drinking water with arsenic content below and above the safe limits. Arsenic content in water supplied from deep water tube wells to urban populations in Amritsar city by water works departments should be monitored on monthly basis in order to ensure the supply of drinking water containing arsenic below the safe limits. The canal water contain arsenic well below the safe limits and should be suitable alternative for human consumption than ground water.

The paper can be downloaded here

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