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BIS standards for drinking water

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The BIS drinking water specification (IS 10500:1991), which is a voluntary standard, was drawn up in 1983. It was last revised 17 years ago. A revision initiated in 2003, is still in its draft stage.

It was occasioned by a report on pesticides in bottled water by the New Delhi-based research and advocacy organization Centre for Science and Environment's report on pesticides in bottled water. The revision was also necessary to deal with new contaminants and also make the country's standards at par with international specifications on drinking water.

The revision was taken up by bureau's chemical division's sectional committee on water quality. Draft standards were finalized, but the responsibility was then transferred to food and agricultural division--because water was brought under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA).

In February 2007 a new sectional committee was formed. The committee is headed by Prakash S Kelkar of the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute. It aims to review limits set for different contaminants. The current standards specify desirable and permissible limits. The difference between the two is actually a lot and most water utilities actually go by permissible limits.

The draft has introduced limits for 18 pesticides and four disinfection byproducts. There is also a debate on a minimum level of salts and minerals that water must have. The emergence of RO filters makes this debate very topical. It remains to be seen whether the BIS will look into this issue.

The bureau has made it clear that it is attempting to elevate only drinking water standard in the country. But its 2003 draft is silent on water quality management. The document also does not say whether the standards will be legally enforceable.

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