New Delhi: You will soon be able to walk to a government accredited laboratory near you with a sample of your tap water, and get it tested to ensure it is of the prescribed quality.
The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS), which is supervising the Modi government’s ambitious Har Ghar Nal Se Jal scheme, has directed the states to open up water testing laboratories to the public.
While the scheme envisages ensuring potable drinking water in all 17.87 crore rural households in the country by 2024, the department also wants to empower the public to be able to ascertain the quality of water being provided.
“Apart from the agencies such as the state’s Public Health Engineering Department that carry out regular water quality monitoring, people too should have access to these laboratories. They can get their water samples tested at a nominal rate,” said an official of the DDWS, which comes under the Union Jal Shakti ministry.
“Also, wherever the agencies concerned collect water samples, the results will have to be shared with the community,” the official added.
To start with, the official said, states will soon launch the mammoth exercise of setting up water quality testing laboratories at every district as well as the block level. The labs will have to be accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
The NABL, an autonomous body under the Department of Science and Technology, provides third party assessment of the quality and technical competence of testing and calibration laboratories.
Currently, there is an abysmal shortage of standard water quality testing laboratories in the country. The testing standards are also inadequate.
There are just 2,233 drinking water testing laboratories in the country of which only 54 are NABL accredited. Of these, 19 are state labs while 35 are district labs.
Also read: Plumber, mason, mechanic — new roles for rural women under Modi govt’s Jal Jeevan Mission
Every district to have NABL accredited laboratory
One of the mandatory guidelines under the Har Ghar Nal Se Jal scheme is that states will have to establish water testing laboratories at all levels — state, districts and blocks.
To ensure that the quality of water supplied adheres to the norms prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards, the ministry has also mandated that each and every district in a state will have to have a water-quality testing laboratories accredited by NABL.
“It’s a massive exercise as currently we do not have an adequate number of water testing laboratories,” said the official quoted above. “Besides the rural water supply department setting up laboratories, states can build them under the Public Private Partnership mode.”
The official added that the department is assisting and facilitating states and Union Territories (UTs) in setting up, upgrading and improving the functioning and strengthening of drinking water quality testing laboratories by providing technical and financial support under the Jal Jeevan Mission.
The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation is also training five people, mostly women, in every village in using the Field Test Kit for water quality surveillance.
Also read: Why new policies are needed to tackle India’s orphaned wells with no water
Priority in drinking water to villages in quality-affected areas
Among the villages, those in which the quality of drinking water sources (surface and groundwater) is affected, will get priority while putting in place the infrastructure to supply potable water.
In districts where the groundwater is affected by arsenic and fluoride, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation is mandating that states set up community-based water treatment plants that will supply between 8-10 litres of water per person per day until permanent water infrastructure is put in place.
As on date, there are 27,544 habitations in 16 states where the surface and groundwater is contaminated by fluoride and arsenic.
Also read: Despite big push, Modi govt still has no guidelines to check illegal groundwater extraction