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25 of June 2014 Age: 4 yrs

Sessions on Water Quality of Natural Systems at Science Educator’s Training in Hoshangabad, Jun 8-15, 2014

Ankush Gupta, a member of the Saph Pani team at IIT Roorkee conducted a series of training sessions on water quality of natural waters, and water infiltration at river banks as a part of annual Workshop for Teachers and Teacher Educators conducted by an non-governmental organization (NGO) Eklavya. Eklavya works with the goals of enhancing quality of education in Indian Schooling system. The workshop involves sessions with hands-on activities on various topics of science. This year the workshop was organized in the Hoshangabad campus of Eklavya from Jun 8- 15. Other sessions in the program were on “Electricity”, “Nature of Science”, and “Our Immune System”. The participants included school teachers, teacher educators from DIETs (District Institutes for Education and training), senior members from various education related NGOs such as Azim Premji Foundation, Pratham, and members of state committees for curriculum and text book development. The participants came from several Indian states such as Uttarakhand, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Chattishgarh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajashthan, and Telangana.

The key criterion for the activities in these programs is that the experiments/tests should not require many resources and should be doable by teachers in places that do not have much infrastructures or financial resources. The sessions on water quality study included measurements of temperature, pH, smell/odour, Cl-, and total hardness in water. For assessing bacterial contamination in waters arising from faecal origin, test for Sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) was conducted based on the method developed by Manja et al. (1982), and subsequently adopted and investigated by other researchers. Compared to the tests for total and fecal coliform, test for SRB is simpler, has easier visual identification for layman, and has shorter incubation period. SRB is found to have good correlation with total coliforms in waters (Nair et al., 2001).

The sessions were started with a visit to one of the sandy banks of River Narmada (The Narmada basin in this region is marked by layered igneous bedrock and loose soil and sand layer are thin and limited to a few regions). Temperature and pH of the waters were noted on-site with thermometers and pH paper strips. The following indoor sessions discussed general public’s perceptions of water quality, various water quality standards as per Indian and global drinking water standards, and the process of natural water infiltration into soil. This was followed by assessment of concentration of Cl- and total hardness in the water samples by titrimetric methods with AgNO3 and EDTA reagents, respectively. The procedures were simplified versions of the standard laboratory methods. The titration was done without using pipettes and burettes, using plastic syringes which are easily available in various sizes at most localities. Smaller volumes samples (10-50 mL) were used which reduces the chemical usage and thus cost. Such a simplification has lower precision than standard methods, but gives reasonable estimates of the ionic concentrations which are sufficient for most cases of water quality for these parameters.

The river water showed very high concentrations of SRB while handpumps and tubewells showed negligible contamination. The small contamination observed in handpumps and tubewells can also come from crude methods of sample collection and bottle sealing as it was done without laminar flow box facility. Nonetheless, the test could differentiate between high faecal contamination in the river water and negligible fecal contamination in the handpumps located close to the river.

Overall, the participants highly appreciated the sessions and found this topic of great relevance as safe drinking water is becoming an increasing problem everywhere in the country. These groups felt that topics of water quality and groundwater recharge of importance in school education. Discussing various aspects of quality of natural water at school level was found to be a good way to engage people with the issue of natural and sustainable water supply systems.


Ankush Gupta (front) illustrating the concept of bank filtration at the bank of River Narmada.

Participants making field observations.

The indoor sessions involved lectures as well as hands-on experiments.



Manja, K. S., Maurya, M. S., and Rao, K. M. (1982). A simple field test for the detection of faecal pollution in drinking water. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 60 (5): 797-801.

Nair,  J., Gibbs, R., Mathew, K, and Ho, G. E. (2001). Suitability of the H2S method for testing untreated and chlorinated water supplies. Water Science and Technology, 44 (6): 119-126.