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Chemical Characteristics of Water

Water DropThe chemical characteristics of water are numerous.  Every substance that dissolves in water can be called a chemical water quality characteristic.  This would include gases (like oxygen and carbon dioxide), salts, substances that stimulate plant growth (such as nitrates and phosphorus) and other naturally occurring and man-made substances.  Some naturally occurring chemicals such as iron and manganese which are often present in groundwater, can be responsible for staining clothes and plumbing fixtures.  Other chemicals, such as Dioxins and Furans are tested in specific sites where their presence is known to occur.  There are hundreds of other chemicals that might be tested or monitored, but only a few are done routinely because of the cost and effort involved in such testing.

The amount of dissolved oxygen (DO) available in water is a very important factor in determining the types of organisms that can survive.  Trout, for example, cannot survive if the dissolved oxygen concentrations are less than 5.5 milligrams/litre.  Dissolved oxygen is one of the most standard water chemistry tests.  Other common tests include determining pH and phosphorous values.

Reprinted from Focus On Water Quality  (1993) with permission of Alberta Environment.

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