Drinking Water Analysis

Drinking Water Analysis

Analysis of drinking water

Drinking water – the most important foodstuff of all – must always maintain the same high level of quality.

It is therefore necessary for Swiss drinking water to fulfil specific microbiological, chemical and physical requirements. It must also be flawless with regard to appearance, smell and taste.

Do you need support in monitoring the quality of your drinking water? As an accredited Swiss contract laboratory, we can test all common and necessary parameters in accordance with current legislation. Fast, competent and reliable.

Would you like to know which points need to be considered for the commission? We can help you to select the relevant testing parameters as well as the appropriate sampling approach. We provide the necessary vessels for this free of change.

Just ask – We will be happy to advise you.

Continue reading in order to learn which points need to be taken into consideration – or simply get in contact.


Legal principles

Drinking water examination in the laboratory
Drinking water examination in the laboratory

The microbiological, physical and chemical criteria are specified in the legislation. The definitive legislation here is the FDHA regulation on drinking water and water in publicly accessible pools and shower facilities (Verordnung des EDI über Trinkwasser sowie Wasser in öffentlich zugänglichen Bädern und Duschanlagen - TBDV). Compliance is regularly checked during official controls. Furthermore, there is a legal duty to carry out internal checks, as there is for all food business operators (chapter 4 of the Food and Commodities Ordinance LGV).

Those who operate their own springs must therefore be able to provide proof of the chemical and microbiological purity of the water. This occurs up to four times per year, depending on the quantity delivered.

Water quality requirements for food companies

Drinking water is of crucial significance in the context of industrial hygiene. In the HACCP concept (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points concept) water is considered to be an environmental factor. Additionally, as a raw material, drinking water must also be seen as a food ingredient under the heading “product quality”. As a foodstuff, drinking water must fulfil high quality requirements, as it has a great influence on the hygienic, technological and sensory properties of the finished products. 

It should be noted that the quality of externally-provided water can also vary with major changes in the weather (dryness, rainy periods, snowmelt). In Switzerland, more than 80 percent of drinking water comes from spring water and groundwater.

The remainder is obtained through the treatment of lake water, which is mainly available in the more heavily populated areas in the Swiss Plateau and the lake regions neighbouring the Alps. With regard to nitrate content, seasonal variations are observed in the groundwater.

The influence of water pipeline systems on the quality of water

The quality of the water has a direct influence on the quality of a product: The washing procedure in the processing of foodstuffs
The quality of the water has a direct influence on the quality of a product: The washing procedure in the processing of foodstuffs

There is also variation over time in water quality within a company’s internal water pipeline system. Depending on conditions (temperature, corrosion, limescale, flow characteristics) substantial populations of bacteria can form up to the level of biofilms, which represent a constant source of contamination.

It is therefore necessary to obtain an overview of the water quality at each respective point of withdrawal.

If the drinking water which is fed into the system fulfils the legally required criteria, it can be used for cooling, washing and production processes as well as for personal hygiene. When used as a foodstuff during processing, then the natural constituents of the water (e.g. minerals --> water hardness) can also have an influence on the end result. A variety of preparation procedures (filtration, decalcification) also affect drinking water with regard to the substances it contains, which can then influence cooking time, texture, and the colour of the other ingredients, as well as the smell and taste of the product. An overview of the possible treatment processes and their effect on the quality of the water is given in a leaflet produced by the Swiss Gas and Water Trade Association (SVGW) (Schweizerischen Vereins des Gas- und Wasserfaches SVGW).

The influence of the water on food quality

During food processing, the quality of the ingredients used is of crucial importance for the end product. It is therefore wise, when establishing specifications, to define the requirements applying to the drinking water which is to be used as an ingredient, including technological and economic aspects and the frequency with which it is to be monitored. Some examples have been compiled in the table that show, for each sector, which water parameters may have an influence on the quality of the product.

Drinking water parameters and their effect on the manufacturing process

Sector Parameter Effect
General pH Disturbs enzymatic processes
  Micro-organisms Alters the product characteristics
  Line pressure Contaminates the pipeline system
  Sodium, hydrogen carbonate Vitamin degradation
Manufacture of baked goods Iron, manganese, humic substances Discolouration, fat degradation
The beverage industry Hardness, chloride Flavour
Spirits Hardness Cloudiness
Milk processing Iron Flavour, colour
  Hardness Flavour, flocculation

 

Source: L. A. Hütter, Wasser und Wasseruntersuchungen; 6. Auflage, Verlag Salle und Sauerländer (Water and Water Testing, 6th edition, Publisher Salle und Sauerländer) (mod.)

The importance of water quality for milk processing companies

Water sources in mountainous areas can, under certain circumstances, be susceptible to contamination, as the cleaning capacity of their soils is relatively poorly developed. Consequently, the faecal matter of animals on grazing land can quickly pass through the thin layer of soil; the resulting filtering out of bacteria is insufficient. The indicator bacteria Escherichia coli and enterococci can be detected quickly and provide an indication that other pathogens may be present.

Similarly, cloudiness in the water indicates a lack of filtration on the part of the soil, representing favourable conditions for the multiplication of bacteria due the particles contained (minerals, organic substances, micro-organisms). Without the use of additional filtration, some pathogens can only be removed to an insufficient level, even after a disinfection process (UV radiation or chlorination).
Water quality is subject to strong additional variations as the quantity of water extracted varies with the weather. 

Such shortcomings in hygiene can also then have an effect on the production of foodstuffs by firms which are based in the Alps, if perfectly clean water is not available for processing and cleaning purposes. As a result, contamination of foodstuffs can occur due to equipment (e.g. butter churns) not being clean enough. During the production of raw milk products, it is particularly important to ensure that water quality is good enough.

At the same time, hygiene problems regarding drinking water can also occur in the case of dairy operations in rural valley regions which are not connected to public water supplies. Here, the primary cause of the presence of faecal bacteria is the spillage of farmyard manure into areas upstream of the water source.

Water quality for meat processing companies

Meat processing companies must provide evidence that the water used is of drinking water quality
Meat processing companies must provide evidence that the water used is of drinking water quality

As part of the approval procedure, meat processing companies which are permitted to export within the EU must provide proof that the water used by the company is of drinking water quality and complies with the requirements of the “98/83/EC Guideline from 3rd November 1998 on the quality of water for human consumption”.

Sampling should take place such that the samples are representative of the quality of the water which is used over the course of the year.

Customer-focussed water analysis

We have testing programmes which cover a range of different scales in order to accommodate the most frequent questions. These cover the most important microbiological and chemical requirements of the FDHA’s regulation on drinking water and water in publicly accessible pools and shower facilities (TBDV).

Please find the services which we provide listed in the directory of services.

We will be happy to prepare a quotation for you on request.

Sampling

If you take the samples yourself, we will be happy to provide you with the sample vessels (sterile disposable bottles) free of charge upon request. Our trained field staff are at your disposal for independent and professional sampling.

Please contact our customer service department.


contact person

Head of Order Management Food & Feed Services

Susanne Täuber Graduate chemist

Tel. +41 58 434 42 00 Fax +41 58 434 42 01 service@ufag-laboratorien.ch

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