Drinking Water Quality Standards and Water Quality Monitoring

The Drinking Water Management Act defines drinking water as (1) natural water commonly used for drinking, and (2) drinkable tap spring and deep sea water, which is treated adequately for drinking.

Drinking water quality standard specifies the safe level of water constituents considering their impacts on human health. The parameters of the standard and inspection period depend on types of the drinking water supply system such as tap water, spring water, deep sea water and public drinking water supply facilities. In the case of tap water, the drinking water quality standard regulates 59 (as of 2013), including 4 microbial parameters, 11 inorganic chemicals, 17 organic chemicals (12 volatile organic compounds and 5 agricultural chemicals), 11 disinfectants and disinfection by products, and 16 taste/odor compounds.

In addition to the drinking water quality standard, the Ministry of Environment set the supplementary parameters for monitoring, the recommendation levels and monitoring frequencies for source water (including groundwater), purified water (tap water) and spring water for drinking. And the ministry continuously monitors the supplementary parameters. The supplementary parameter for monitoring refers to chemical or compound that is monitored systematically to ensure the safety of drinking water even though it is detected at very low level and does not have to be regulated by the drinking water quality standards. The supplementary parameters are regularly monitored at DTWPs of large cities and the results are considered when the government revises the drinking water quality standard. For tap water, 27 items supplementary parameters have been monitored since October 2012.

Aside from the legal drinking water quality inspection by water service providers, the “Home Tap Water Checking System” examines household tap water upon application from customers. It helps customers to drink tap water free from care.

Management of Drinkable Spring Water

Drinkable spring water refers to the water manufactured by treating groundwater within rock aquifers or spring water for drinking. The market of drinkable spring water had grown rapidly and steady growth for the past 20 years. When the Drinking Water Management Act was enacted in 1995, there were only 14 manufacturers of the drinkable spring water. As of the end of 2013 this has increased to 66 manufacturers sold, more than 3.54 million tons of drinkable water annually.

The drinking water quality standard is also applied to the drinkable spring water to ensure public health. Because the drinkable spring water is mainly made from groundwater, the policy measures to prevent over-exploitation of groundwater are also implemented. Water quality standard for 50 parameters are currently established for drinkable spring water. The standard for drinkable spring water is similar with the one for tap water. Because the manufacturing process of drinkable spring water does not include the chemical disinfection step such as chlorination, the microbial parameters are complemented to the drinkable spring water standard. In order to obtain the permit for manufacturing drinkable spring water, the permittee should carry out an environmental impact assessment with respect to the development of spring water. The permit is valid for five years.

To protect groundwater resource from over-exploitation, a water quality improvement charge is imposed on the manufacturer who produces drinkable spring water, beverages and liquor with the extracted groundwater. The charge is proportional to the extracted amount of groundwater.

Management of Drinking Water Supply Public Facilities

As of the end of 2013, there were 1,440 public drinking water supply facilities such as mineral springs, wells and etc. 210,000 persons use the public drinking water supply facilities everyday all over the country. Public drinking water supply facilities are also subject to the drinking water quality standard and the local government regularly carries out water quality inspection.

The fail rate of the water quality inspection is continuously increasing. The microbial parameters such as total colony count and coliform bacteria account for 90% of the source of failure. Because public drinking water supply facilities are generally exposed to the pollution sources on the ground, it seems that such contamination results were caused by poor hygiene in surrounding areas and the inadequate management of the facilities.

The heads of local governments (si, gun and gu) inspect the water quality of public drinking water supply facilities every quarter. The inspection is carried out monthly during the third quarter, when a greater number of residents use the facilities and the exceedance of drinking water quality standard is more frequent. Any facility that fails to pass a water quality inspection is re-examined for at least two times at one-month intervals. If the noncompliance continues, the facility is prohibited from use.

Water Purifier Management

The water purifier market is also steadily growing. It is estimated that approximately six million water purifiers have been distributed throughout Korea and 1.1 million of water purifiers are sold annually. The Ministry of Environment regulates the structure, materials and performance of water purifier, and the water purifier which passes quality inspection can be sold on the market.

For more information, please contact us :
Public Relations Team  (mepr@korea.kr)   
Last modified : 2017-12-12 08:38

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