WATER QUALITYWhat Does TDS Have to do With Water Quality?

April 7, 2022

Total Dissolved Solids, or TDS, are both organic and inorganic material or compounds found in water. Metals, minerals, salt and traces of organic matter become dissolved in water. Overall, what does TDS have to do with water quality?

The organic matter present in water and the environment overall can be essential for life. Some can be harmful. The same is true of inorganic matter. It can become harmful when the levels are higher than what is meant to be ingested by or in contact with our bodies.

The TDS in water can be a leading factor for sediment, colors, smells or tastes in drinking water. If it remains unfiltered, TDS in home water can cause numerous diseases.

We can measure TDS in water, which is a measurement of the combined organic and inorganic solids. This measurement is basically finding anything in water except pure water molecules. The likely TDS matter can be minerals, salt and organic matter.

Knowing More About TDS

All water from natural sources will have dissolved solids in it. TDS includes natural salts, potassium, calcium, chlorides, sulfates, magnesium and more. Water will have natural contaminants, usually in low enough levels to not cause damage or risk – like dissolved metals.

In water, TDS is measured and it’s recorded in parts per millions, or ppm. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not have a requirement or maximum TDS limit for what’s safe or allowable. The EPA does recommend, however, that a TDS ppm of 500 or more is not a good level for drinking water. A TDS level of 500 or more may not necessarily be a health risk. The taste, smell and look of water may be affected and noticeable at this level or higher. A TDS test will not show exactly what substances, or in what percentages of levels, are in the water.

TDS and Drinking Water

Since the matter which results in higher TDS levels can be from a wide range of natural sources, sewage, pollution, wastewater, chemicals or other causes, it makes sense you might want to know more before drinking it. More causes of TDS include salt deposits, mineral deposits, seawater, carbonates, agricultural run-off, water treatment solutions or minerals and road run-off.

A TDS test or reading is giving a measurement of the total dissolved solids concentration in a sample of water. It’s testing the total positive and negative ions in water. The test gives the total dissolved ions, but doesn’t find ions by type of substance.

water may be affected and noticeable at this level
A TDS test is a good indicator for the general water quality in an area.

Additionally, a TDS test does not give more information about the specific water quality problems such as mineral content, metal content, taste, corrosiveness or other examples. So a TDS test is a good indicator for the general water quality in an area. The source of the TDS still has to be determined.

What are More Examples of Contaminates in Water?

Various materials make up the overall TDS level in water. Natural vegetation in water and the nearby environment, which can include bacteria and viruses, makes up some solids in water. There are organic compounds in home water.

Chemicals in water and water supplies can consist of metals, salts and even pharmaceutical drugs, which come from human waste. These contaminate a water supply. Iron, potassium and sodium may be present in safe levels in drinking water.

Water coming naturally from springs or in lakes may have salt and natural organisms and microorganisms in it. Water goes to a public water treatment plant and is treated to acceptable levels.

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are compounds which include some chemicals and are in products and solutions used in homes, businesses and schools. These can pollute water.

What’s a Safe TDS Level in Drinking Water?

TDS levels are measured in parts per million (ppm) or milligrams per unit (mg/L). For drinking water in the U.S., the EPA recommends, but doesn’t dictate, a level of lower than 500 ppm or 500 mg/L.

What Changes TDS in Water?

  • Flow Rate

The water, or body of water, is a big factor in a water supply’s normal TDS concentration level. Fast running water creates more sediment and erosion and there’s normally a higher TDS level. Heavy rains or other weather events are factors. Clay, sand, silt, leaves and dirt can be at varying levels in a body of water. The direction, speed and level of water can change with conditions.

  • Soil Erosion

Erosion is soil or other material running into a body of water. Some human activities can change erosion, such as logging, mining and construction. Some erosion is entirely natural. The eroding soil, plant life, microorganisms, minerals and other matter goes into groundwater or directly into a body of water. The TDS level in water can rise or fall depending on erosion.

  • Urban Effects

Many types of substances can go from more urbanized areas into a water source or supply. Debris, particles, pollution and organic matter from industrial, commercial and residential areas can run into water. Due to paved areas in cities, some very near water sources, run-off may move and be dispensed quicker than it would in a non-urbanized area.

  • Septic and Wastewater Matter

TDS matter from septic systems and wastewater plants can add to TDS in a water supply or body of water. Most solids are treated and removed in plants and facilities, but not all and not all water runs through such plants before going into a natural body or source again.

  • Animals and Plants

Animals and plants create quite natural waste, decay and solid matter which stays in water. This can increase the TDS level in a region. Even bottom-feeding fish and organisms move sediment and vegetation in water and has an impact.


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