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Total Dissolved Solids

Water is a good solvent and picks up impurities easily.  Pure water -- tasteless, colourless, and odourless -- is often called the universal solvent.   Dissolved solids" refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) comprise inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulphates) and some small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water.

TDS in drinking-water originate from natural sources, sewage, urban run-off, industrial wastewater, and chemicals used in the water treatment process, and the nature of the piping or hardware used to convey the water, i.e., the plumbing. In the United States, elevated TDS has been due to natural environmental features such as mineral springs, carbonate deposits, salt deposits, and sea water intrusion, but other sources may include: salts used for road de-icing, anti-skid materials, drinking water treatment chemicals, stormwater, and agricultural runoff, and point/non-point wastewater discharges.

n general, the total dissolved solids concentration is the sum of the cations (positively charged) and anions (negatively charged) ions in the water.  Therefore, the total dissolved solids test provides a qualitative measure of the number of dissolved ions but does not tell us the nature or ion relationships.  In addition, the test does not provide us insight into the specific water quality issues, such as Elevated Hardness, Salty Taste, or Corrosiveness.   Therefore, the total dissolved solids test is used as an indicator test to determine the general quality of the water.  The sources of total dissolved solids can include all of the dissolved cations and anions, but the following table can be used as a generalization of the relationship of TDS to water quality problems.

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