Village communities mostly use decentralized underground drinking water sources such as wells and boreholes for the population. These sources are vulnerable to the accumulation of pollution because in rural areas many factors negatively affect water resources. Unfortunately, there is often a lack of information about the quality of groundwater. Because of military aggression, people often use alternative, decentralized water sources not only in villages but also in towns and cities.
The population’s access to water in many regions of the country has significantly deteriorated. As a result of Russia’s armed military aggression against Ukraine, water treatment and purification infrastructure facilities are destroyed, and environmental components are polluted, in particular sources of drinking water and water bodies.
Public monitoring is an essential tool for studying and spreading information about water quality in communities to find answers to several questions. Is the water safe in this location? Does its quality change? How to reduce pollution? How to prepare this water for consumption? Together with six communities in the Kyiv, Zhytomyr and Ternopil regions, we have conducted such a study and are ready to share its findings.
Geography of the Study
Last year, during the In Search of Clean Water expedition, we focused on researching the state of water in rural areas but this time we studied only sources of drinking water, i.e. wells, natural springs, and boreholes (in particular, water supply networks). Priority was given to those interested communities that had detailed information about sources of drinking water used by a large part of the community as well as to those communities where there was a risk of contamination due to the proximity of hostilities.
Thus, representatives of Bucha amalgamated territorial community (ATC) (the settlement of Vorzel) and Hora ATC (the village of Hora, the village of Revne, the village of Martusivka) of the Kyiv region, Volytsia ATC (the village of Volytsia, the village of Novoivnнtske, the village of Stara Kotelnia), Kurne ATC (the village of Kurne) and Ovruch ATC (the village of Stuhnivshchyna, the village of Skrebelychi, and the village of Zasky) of the Zhytomyr region, as well as Chortkiv ATC (the town of Chortkiv) of the Ternopil region participated in this year’s initiative.
In the selected communities, two or three sources of drinking water were analysed but the number of monitoring points (selected samples) varies depending on the type of source. One water sample was taken for wells, natural springs and individual boreholes. For boreholes of local non-centralized water supply networks (waterworks), two samples were taken: 1) directly from the borehole or from the household closest to the borehole; 2) from the household farthest from the borehole. In this way, it is possible to learn about the impact on the water quality of the engineering network itself.
In August-September 2022, for physical and chemical analysis of water, a total of 25 samples in 5 wells (the settlement of Vorzel, the village of Volytsia, the village of Kurne), 2 sources(the town of Chortkiv), 2 individual boreholes (the town of Chortkiv, the village of Kurne), 8 waterworks (2 samples for each waterworks in Ovruch, Hora and Volytsia ATC) were taken. Based on the results of the analysis, the need for additional microbiological analysis of 16 (out of 25) monitoring points was discovered. Analyses of all samples for physical and chemical parameters of water were carried out in a private laboratory, covering 50 physical and chemical indicators. Microbiological parameters research was carried out in regional centres of the Ministry of Health, and the number of tested indicators could vary from 5 to 9 indicators, depending on the capacity of regional laboratories.
According to the results of laboratory tests, these drinking water sources were evaluated following the criteria of the state standard DSTU 4808 methodology, state sanitary rules and norms DSanPiN 2.2.4-171-10 guidelines, order of the Ministry of Health No. 683 and order of the Ministry of Health No. 721.
Monitoring Results in Communities
To visualize the generalized results of each of the monitoring points, a graphic model on the maps below was used. It demonstrates the assessment of water quality and safety of the water supply source according to several criteria:
- Zone I — the result of the analysis according to DSTU 4808;
- Zone II — the result of the analysis of general sanitary properties;
- Zone ІІІ — the result of the analysis of epidemic safety;
- Zone IV — the result of the analysis of organoleptic (taste) properties.
To display the results of the analysis, each zone is marked with a corresponding colour (Fig. 1).
Assessment of water quality and safety of the water supply source
For safety reasons, the detailed coordinates of water sampling are not shown on the maps, and the graphic designation of the sampling points should be taken as conditional.
(Click on the image of the community map to open it in full screen)
Compliance with DSTU 4808 Standard (Criteria Group I)
State Standards of Ukraine No. 4808 establish hygienic and ecological requirements for water sources that can be used for drinking. The results of this public water monitoring show that all tested water sources are suitable for water supply and have significant potential for further purification or special treatment and preparation of drinking water. According to the DSTU 4808 criteria, all sources belong to the quality category I. Some sources are characterized by transitional water quality from ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ and ‘partially polluted.’
The worst source quality index is characteristic of communities in the town of Chortkiv, the village of Volytsia, the village of Revne and the village of Martusivka. These sources of water supply have all the signs of transition of the water quality category and require additional (periodic) monitoring, as well as analysis of retrospective data on water quality in these sources.
The general trend for the water supply networks of these communities is that the water quality is different in the monitoring points close to the boreholes and the remote monitoring points. The water quality is lower in the latter. This indicates the unsatisfactory condition of water supply networks and their impact on water quality.
General Sanitary Properties (Criteria Group II)
Most of the studied sources of water supply have good and satisfactory general sanitary water quality. However, the worst in terms of general sanitary parameters is the water from the well in the town of Vorzel, the village of Volytsia and the source of the town of Chortkiv. Unsatisfactory parameters are for water from boreholes in the village of Martusivka, the village of Revne, the village of Zasky and the town of Chortkiv. These water sources require additional water treatment or conditioning.
Laboratory analyses indicate a high content or contamination of underground sources of decentralized water supply by:
- Nitrogen compounds (nitrate ion, ammonium ion) in the town of Chortkiv, the village of Skrebelychi and the village of Zasky, in the well of the village of Kurne, the village of Volytsia, in the wells of the town of Vorzel, the village of Revne and the village of Martusivka;
- Iron and manganese in general forms in the village of Skrebelychi and the village of Zasky, the village of Novoivnнtske, in all studied sources of Hora ATC;
- Dissolved salts (with additional signs of increased content of calcium and magnesium ions) in the village of Stara Kotelnia and the village of Volytsia.
Constant consumption of water that has an excess of these elements or their compounds carries health threats, especially for vulnerable categories of the population such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases. An excess of salts and iron can negatively affect internal organs like kidneys, liver, pancreas, etc. Nitrate pollution affects the cardiovascular and endocrine systems, and for newborn children, consumption of water with nitrates is fatal.
Epidemic Safety (Criteria Group III)
Water samples from all sources (except for the village of Skrebelychi) meet the criterion of the total microbial count. Pathogenic enterobacteria, intestinal helminths, pathogenic intestinal protozoa and hepatitis A virus were not detected.
Common coliforms were found in most sources (except for the village of Stuhnivshchyna, the village of Zasky, the village of Kurne, the village of Stara Kotelnia and the church well of the settlement of Vorzel). In all cases, except for the town of Chortkiv, the village of Novoivnнtske, the settlement of Vorzel and the village of Skrebelychi, the bacteriological analysis did not reveal Escherichia coli (E.coli) and general forms of enterococci, so the result of the bacteriological analysis for other sources should be taken as a ‘false positive’ and not related to anthropogenic economic and faecal pollution. This conclusion is based on the absence of other evidence of the spread of infectious diseases of the population and domestic animals in this territory.
Results of bacteriological analysis of water in the wells of the village of Kurne and the village of Volytsia indicate significant bacterial contamination, so urgent sanitary measures and temporary restrictions on the use of sources for drinking water supply are necessary. Technical and sanitary cleaning should be carried out for these sources, and after a control bacteriological analysis, a decision should be made about the safety of water consumption.
Increased indices of epidemic safety of water sources in the town of Chortkiv require control bacteriological analysis after sanitary treatment of sources. The obtained data are not sufficient to confirm significant bacterial contamination of these sources. It is worth excluding other factors that could affect the quality of water, in particular pollution of the source.
The best results of the assessment of water quality and safety were demonstrated by the springs of the church well of the settlement of Vorzel, the well of the village of Kurne and wells of the village of Stara Kotelnia and the village of Stuhnivshchyna.
Organoleptic Properties (Criteria Group IV)
The obtained results indicate that in most communities the water in the water supply sources does not meet the taste (organoleptic) quality criteria. The worst organoleptic properties are in the sources of the village of Revne, the village of Martusivka, the village of Zasky and the village of Skrebelychi. The results of the analysis revealed that in the village of Novoivnнtske, the village Stuhnivshchyna and the village of Hora, there is a significant deterioration of the taste quality of the water under the influence of the engineering network. This information requires additional study and elimination of the causes of secondary water pollution.
Detailed analysis of the sources of the village of Hora, the village of Novoivnнtske, the village of Stara Kotelnia, and the village of Stuhnivshchyna discovered one common feature. With other satisfactory quality parameters, water from the sources of these communities has unsatisfactory taste properties. According to a formal sign, the water from these sources does not meet the sanitary and hygienic criteria and requires purification. Comprehensive analysis shows that the waters of these sources require improvement in terms of their taste properties and the water supply networks require purification.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Within this monitoring mission, individual recommendations were given to representatives of the ATCs and local self-government bodies of communities for each tested source, and it is possible to single out certain common recommendations regarding the choice of cleaning methods for all studied sources. These recommendations must, first and foremost, be organized at the community level to ensure the population’s access to high-quality and safe water.
- Sources of water supply with an unsatisfactory assessment of water quality require purification (reduction of turbidity and the number of suspended substances in water) and, in some cases, reduction of water colour. For these purposes, it is better to use technological filtering systems with fast filters with combined loading.
- Due to the poor condition of the water supply networks, the quality of water in distant points of waterworks is noticeably worse, so additional purification is necessary for these places. For these purposes, it is worth using technological systems of filtration with fast pressure filters (with polymer wound multilayer filter element, filter-bulb type) installed directly in the inlet well or individual slow filters (with combined loading, filter-jug type).
- The revealed fact of increased content of salts in water (and increased content of calcium and magnesium compounds) substantiates the general recommendation for additional purification of water at the bottling points (at the end consumer). For these purposes, it is worth using technological filtration systems followed by ion exchange or reverse osmosis. From an organizational point of view, it is better to separate the incoming water flow and carry out special purification of water exclusively for drinking and cooking.
- For all sources of water supply, where a high content of nitrogen compounds (nitrates, ammonium) is detected, to improve the quality of water, comprehensive measures should be taken, starting with control confirmation of analysis results and establishment of causes to the organization of special water purification. The high content of nitrogen compounds (nitrates, nitrites) in water is a significant problem that complicates the purification technology, makes it economically unprofitable, and sometimes technically impossible. That is why it is strategically important to prevent the contamination of water supply sources with nitrogen compounds. The high solubility (activity) of nitrogen anions in water makes it impossible to apply simple and cheap cleaning methods. Especially if it is a question of significantly exceeding the standard of quality.
Common recommendation: use of a technological system of filtration followed by complete reverse osmosis of water intended for drinking. Given that reverse osmosis is a pressure water purification technology, and most of the identified sources are wells, citizens who are forced to consume water from these sources are essentially deprived of the technical ability to further purify it.
- Given the conditions in village communities, alternative approaches should be used to ensure citizens’ access to clean drinking water. For example, installing a collective paid machine for special water purification for drinking needs is an organizationally and technologically simple scheme of a collective decision regarding water purification in the community.
Although the data of this public monitoring is limited in scope and time limits, they can indicate significant damage to water quality from long-term unsustainable agricultural practices, irrational handling of fertilizers, plant protection products, soil pollution, improper handling of waste, sewage and return water. Accordingly, all this requires monitoring, supervision and control. In addition, these practices cause pollution that is difficult and expensive to control (and in some cases impossible), such as nitrate pollution. That is why it is, first and foremost, necessary to prevent the occurrence of pollution by implementing better ecological management and monitoring practices.
The work was prepared within the framework of the Perspectives for Sustainable Development of Rural Areas project, which is implemented in cooperation with the international charitable organization Austausch e.V. and with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany.