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Energy resources: Water quality

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Water is arguably the most important physical resource as it is the one that is essential to human survival. Understanding the global water cycle and how we use water is essential to planning a sustainable source of water for the future. In the UK there are areas where water supplies are limited, shown by recent droughts. Globally, there are many areas that do not have enough water to support the current population adequately. Decisions will have to be made on the best way to use water in a world where there is climate change. Energy resources: Water quality is a free course that helps explain the options.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • describe the chemical compositions of natural waters, and explain how and why these compositions vary
  • describe the main sources of water pollution, the main types of pollutant and how each type may be controlled
  • outline the extent of water pollution in the UK and in selected global locations
  • identify the criteria for drinking water acceptability in the EU, and outline the processes used to treat water for a public water supply
  • outline how sewage may be treated before discharge to the environment.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 10 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 22nd March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Environmental Science
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Energy resources: Water quality


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To judge what constitutes poor quality or polluted water, we must first understand the properties of naturally occurring waters. Natural water is not just H2O: all natural waters contain dissolved and suspended substances - seawater is an obvious example of water containing dissolved salts, but freshwater does also, although at a far lower concentrations. Water pollution is defined as a change in the quality of the water due to human activity that makes the water less suitable for use than it was originally. It is difficult to set absolute standards of purity that apply for all uses of water however, because water that is considered clean enough for one purpose may be too polluted for another.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 2 study in Environment & Development [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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