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Mineral water & saving oneself from chemical impurities
Sunday, 01 March, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Sreeparna Pal
Nowadays most of the people who travel are not likely to carry a water bottle with them. They spend money on buying a water bottle from the roadside vendor or while travelling by train and even in restaurants. Most of them are not even aware of what they are buying in terms of mineral water because it could be just plain packaged drinking water.

Among people, there is a tendency to think that all bottled water is the same. But in reality, there are two types of water that are bottled; one is packaged drinking water and the other one is packaged natural mineral water. This discrimination is not only the basis of diverse sources but also these two have various standards for purification of water. 

The mineral water is generally obtained from natural sources like lakes, rivers and also spring water which is free from pollutants. In this type of water, the mineral content is not disturbed because water is only allowed to pass through the mechanical filtration which does not render the composition of the water. Mineral water is almost free from contaminants and it is packaged close to the source. Hence, it is more expensive than potable drinking water.

On the other hand, packaged drinking water is usually obtained from potable water sources from the ground borewell, taps or public drinking water supply system like municipality supply. It is treated properly to make it suitable for human consumption through several chemical and microbiological treatments. This kind of water is treated with multiple processes such as decantation or various types of permitted filtration. The examination for this type of water should be more specific because besides impurities this water is examined for contaminants like heavy metals, pesticide residuals that are very often found in groundwater. Furthermore, sometimes minerals can be added in this water artificially.

Need for purification of drinking water and water testing
In India, like tropical countries, the least requirement of water for an average individual who weighs around 64 kg is 6 litre per day (WHO, 2004). This likens to around 153,000 litre of water consumed in a lifetime. If these 153,000 litre water contains a minute amount of contaminants like toxic debris or heavy metals this can accumulate in the body and can cause serious illness. Besides this, the presence of pathogenic microorganisms in water can cause water-borne diseases. Thus, drinking purified water can improve the quality of life by preventing a number of diseases.  

Packaged drinking water is purified by Reverse Osmosis (RO) with UV irradiation to meet the prescribed drinking water standards. RO removes 99.99% of all contaminants including physical and chemical. This method also removes the majority of good minerals that are needed by the body.

However, natural mineral water is not subjected to processes like RO or disinfection before packaging. The general chemical parameters that are examined include nitrogen, some active agents, total hardness, alkalinity, total solids, and various metallic ions. The water is tested for toxic substances such as pesticide residues, some toxic heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead are tested by the methods Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS).

Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filters are not good for health according to a recent warning issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). Reverse Osmosis employs a partially permeable membrane to remove ions, unwanted molecules and larger particles from drinking water. This may reduce the concentration of particulate matter including suspended particles, bacteria and algae, reducing the concentration of a range of dissolved and particulate substances. However, borewell water having high nitrates needs RO membrane filtering, as nitrates cannot be removed by boiling or other filters. The RO filter, meanwhile, removes all the essential minerals. RO overkills most of the times. If there are only physical impurities in the water, a simple candle filter is good enough. For biological impurities like bacteria or viruses in the water, then an ultraviolet (UV) filter can be used. If only chemical properties are bad like the presence of TDS, then an RO is necessary.

It should be noted that prior selling of packaged drinking water or packaged natural mineral water, various business operators need to obtain certification from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) before applying for an FSSAI licence. The BIS has all total 24 major policy guidelines on certification and importantly packaged drinking water needs to conform to guidelines issued both by BIS and FSSAI. Following are the specifications for packaged natural mineral water and packaged drinking water (other than natural mineral water):
  • Packaged Natural Mineral Water – As per Food Safety & Standard Regulations, 2011, and IS 13428: 2005.
  • Packaged Drinking Water (other than Natural Mineral Water) – As per Food Safety & Standard Regulations, 2011, and IS 14543: 2004.
From the foregoing discussion, it is obvious that “natural mineral water” is more competent and healthier for human consumption even though it is more expensive. As this water is naturally obtained so it carries a relatively lesser amount of harmful chemicals and toxic substances compared to potable drinking water. Although in recent years this potable packaged drinking water has engulfed the Indian market and it might not be safe. Therefore, before buying any kind of bottled water checking of BIS certification is highly recommended. 

(The author is M Tech Scholar, Faculty of Engineering and Technology at JAIN (Deemed-to-be University), Bangalore. She can be contacted at
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