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What is meant by the term "water quality"?

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Water quality is a measure of its suitability for a particular need. Drinking water is held to a different standard than gardening water or water for scientific experiments. The dirty water (bad quality) that is not safe for human consumption may be safe (good quality) for a houseplant.

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Water quality is determined by analyzing physical properties such as hardness, pH, salinity, turbidity, conductivity and color. Water is also analyzed for contaminants, which can be naturally occurring or resulting from human activity. Breakdown of rocks and sediment can increase metal levels, particularly iron and manganese. As a result of urbanization, local water sources have fallen victim to increased levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, acid rain, industrial waste, oil, toxic metals, litter and pesticides.

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