What is Water Sanitation?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2019
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Water sanitation is the process of cleaning water to make it safe for drinking, bathing, cooking, and other uses. Clean water is important to people in every country because harmful substances in water can cause illness and even death. For example, untreated water may contain viruses, bacteria, and other dangerous substances that represent health risks for those who consume it.

While people in developed countries may take access to clean water for granted, there are many people who do not have safe water. In fact, there are over a billion people around the world who do not have daily access to clean water. Additionally, every year, millions of people face fatal diseases that may be linked to unsafe drinking water and other sanitation problems.

In developed countries, people are typically free from worries about water sanitation. Municipal treatment plants take care of disinfecting water before it flows through the municipal pipes and into homes and businesses. However, those who live in areas without water treatment facilities and those who drink well water may still have water sanitation concerns on their hands.


Common methods of treating water include flocculation, filtration, adsorption, ion exchange, and disinfection. Flocculation involves using a substance to combine smaller particles into larger particles and then separating the larger particles from the water; filtration involves filtering particles like microorganisms, clay, organic matter, and certain metals from the water. Adsorption requires employing activated carbon to absorb and remove undesirable organic contaminants, colors, and tastes. Ion exchange is done by exchanging positively and negatively charged versions of molecules called ions and then getting rid of the unwanted ions; it can remove certain inorganic contaminants, and it may be used to move arsenic, nitrogen, and uranium from water. Disinfection is another process used to treat water, which involves killing microbes using chlorine, chloramine, ultraviolet and ozone radiation or another disinfectants.

Those with well water may employ water filters to clean contaminants from their water when necessary. However, some well water can become so contaminated that it is necessary to dig new wells. Testing can help to determine whether well water is safe for drinking.

In the absence of chemicals and filters for water sanitation, there are some methods of cleaning water that may make it safer for use. However, using these methods may not make the water entirely safe. One popular method of water sanitation is boiling it; it involves heating water to a roiling boil and then allowing it to simmer for several minutes. Another option is to add 1/8 teaspoon (.616 milliliters) of bleach to 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water and letting it sit for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy instead of clear, it’s better to use a 1/4 teaspoon (1.23 milliliters) to 1 gallon (3.78 liters) of water.


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