Journal of Science and Technology 11(June 2013): 25-31


P. K. Roy, S. R. Roy, B. Roy, M. Sarkar and B. C. Sarker*

*Department of Agricultural Chemistry, Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University, Dinajpur 5200, Bangladesh

Received 07 August 2012, revised 25 August 2012, accepted 26 August 2012


Twenty seven Water quality assessment for drinking and irrigation groundwater and three surface water samples were collected from Homna Upazila of Comilla District, Bangladesh. The chemical properties of these samples were analyzed to assess the suitability for domestic and irrigation purposes. Most of the samples were alkaline in nature ranging pH from 6.81 to 7.8. The dominant ions were Na, Cl, Ca, Mg and HCO3 with the average values of 4.70, 6.35, 3.18, 5.11 and 4.60 meq L-1, respectively. The other ions like K, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B, SO4and NO3 were within acceptable limit for irrigation and drinking purposes. Arsenic (As) contamination was found in 46.66% water samples. Electrical conductivity (EC), pH, total dissolved solid (TDS), sodium adsorption ratio (SAR), and soluble sodium percentage (SSP) of the waters were used to classify determining their suitability. Some waters might be used for domestic and drinking as well as irrigation purposes. Water contaminated with As should be purified before human consumption to save public health.

Key words: domestic uses, irrigation uses, water quality


*Corresponding author: Dr. Bikash Chandra Sarker, Professor, Department of Agricultural Chemistry, Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University, Dinajpur-5200, Bangladesh, e-mail:, Cell Phone: +88 01715057609

Natural water is essential for every living organism. For domestic and irrigation, the major sources of waters are surface water (river water) and ground water (hand pressure tube well and deep tube well). Hand pressure tube well water is frequently used in country side for domestic purposes especially in drinking, cooking, washing clothes, utensils, bathing, etc. But the presence of ionic constituents in waters (water quality) over the country are not within the safety limit especially in the southern part of Comilla district (Islam et al. 2009). Most of the area of the southern part of Bangladesh is an As contaminated Commila district is also an As contaminated area. Both ground and surface water of the area were contaminated by As (Islam et al. 2009). As contaminated water affects skin, mainly hand and leg and its severe infection causes skin cancer. People had died from As contamination in the study area, and this situation is deteriorating day by day (Roy et al. 2010). Agricultural crops and soils are also contaminated by As which already

reported alarming conditions in southern part like Gopalganj, Jessore and Jhinedah districts of Bangladesh.

There are several factors such as ions, salts, heavy metals, toxic elements, fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, industrial wastages etc. that affect water quality and make the water quality poor. Using this poor quality water, it might deteriorate soil properties, crops yield and quality (Sarker et al. 2000). Alfalfa yield decreased by irrigating with poor quality water was reported by Prunty et al. (1991). High concentration of Na, B, Cl and HCO3ions of water affects directly the soils and crop yield (Sarker et al. 2000). Osmotic effects of excessive salinity cause adverse soil physical properties and reduce crop growth. Salts from the irrigation water accumulate in the soil profile and cause soil dispersion and surface seal development during irrigation, thus decreasing infiltration rate and amount (Sarker 2001). Davies et al. (1993) reported that 20% crop production loss occurred due to high concentration (20 ppm) of As in plant body. So,

water quality assessment is necessary prior to its safe use for domestic and irrigation purposes. The present study was designed to investigate the chemical properties of groundwater and surface water for assessing the suitability for domestic and irrigation purposes.

Roy et al./Water quality assessment for drinking and irrigation


Thirty water samples were collected from different locations at Homna thana of Comilla district in April, 2007. Samples were collected from two different sources: hand tube well and river. After collection, the samples were immediately brought to the laboratory of Agricultural Chemistry, Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University, Dinajpur; for chemical analysis. The pH and EC of sampled waters were determined by using pH meter (Hanna instrument-211) and EC meter (Hanna instrument-H18033). The values of TDS of waters were estimated by evaporating a measured aliquot of filtered samples. The Na and K ions were estimated by flame photometer, and Ca and Mg ions were determined by complexometric titration method. The other cations like Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, B, and anions like Cl, NO3-N, SO4-S, HCO3, and CO3 were determined as per standard procedure. The toxic element, As was detected qualitatively. Irrigation water quality parameters viz. SAR, SSP, and HT were used to classify the suitability of waters, along with pH, EC, and TDS. The values of SAR, SSP and HT were calculated from the analyzed data using following formula:

a) Sodium Adsorption Ratio,

b) Soluble Sodium Percentage,

c) Hardness or Total Hardness,

HT = 2.5×Ca2+ + 4.1×Mg2+

Correlation coefficient analysis was done for all possible combinations among the quality parameters.


Chemical properties of groundwater and surface water: The pHvalues of waters were ranged from 6.81 to 7.8 with an average value of 7.20. It indicates that the pHof all sources of waters were within the normal range 6.5 to 8.4 for irrigation (Ayers and Westcot 1985) and these waters might not be harmful for domestic uses (WHO, 1971). The higher pH values were probably due to the alkalinity, i.e., the presence of higher amounts of Ca, Mg, Na and HCO3 (Micheal 1987). Regarding pH values, water samples are might not be harmful for soils and crops. Similar observations were revealed by Sarker (2001), Hassanuzzaman et al. (2007) and Nasirullah et al. (2007).

The major ions such as Ca, Mg, Na, K, Cl and HCO3 distributed at various concentrations in the water samples. The concentrations of major ions have been presented in Table 1. According to WHO (1971) standard, all waters ware within acceptable limits and were suitable for domestic and irrigation purposes with respect to these major ions. The concentrations of SO4 and B were found within the range of 0.02 to 0.26 and 0.05 to 0.19 mg L-1, respectively which were in acceptable limits (Ayers and Westcot, 1976; Acceptable limit: <0.75 mg L-1; WHO 1971).

The concentrations of Mn, Zn, and Cu were nil and was very low in case of Fe. So, the waters were free from the toxic effect of heavy metals and suitable for domestic use and crop production. A semi-heavy toxic metal As was tested qualitatively using AgNO3. In the study area, both surface and ground waters contain As at different levels. Out of 30 samples, 14 (46.66%) were As contaminated by different levels. Arsenic concentration in different places varies might be due to As containing parent material. Among 30 samples, 16 samples were As free; 9 samples contained low level which were not harmful for domestic and irrigation purpose. High level of As contamination was found in 5 samples in both sources. High level of As increases skin lesions, cardiovascular and cancer death. So, it needs careful use of As contaminated water.

EC, TDS, SAR, SSP, RSC, B, and HT: Electrical conductivity of waters varied between 660 and 1800 μScm-1 with an average value of 1084 μS cm-1. TDS of waters varied from 466 to 1305 mg L-1 with an average value of 741 mg L-1. Most of the waters (25 samples) contained less than 1000 mg L-1 TDS and were suitable for drinking (WHO 1971) and irrigation purpose (Carroll 1962; Freeze and Cherry 1979). Few samples (5) contained high amounts of TDS. The high TDS in water affects primarily on crops productivity. The important quality parameter viz. SAR, SSP and HT computed from the analyzed data are depicted in Table 2. The computed SAR of water samples were within the range from 0.70 to 4.79 with the mean value of 2.35. A high SAR can disperse soil aggregations, which in turn deduce the number of large pores in the soil which are responsible for aeration and drainage resulting soil sealing and crust formation (Gratton 2002). The water with SAR less than 10.00 might not be toxic for agricultural crops (Todd, 1980). The SAR values of the waters were far less from 10.0. So, the waters of all sources were safe for irrigation purpose. The calculated SSP values of all water samples were varied from 12.04 to 71.39 with the average of 40.79. Wilcox (1955) categorized that SSP with >80 are unsuitable for irrigation. So, the waters contained less than 80 SSP were not harmfully affect irrigated crops and soil. The calculated HT values of all water samples varied from 114.70 to 923.29 mg L-1 which were in acceptable limit (>3000 mg L-1) (Saweyer and McCarty 1967).

J. Sci. Technol. (Dinajpur) 11 (2013): 25-31

Specific ions: In the present study, the ions like Ca, Mg, Na, K, Cl, SO4, HCO3 and As were in dominant quantities but the remaining detected ions (Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B, NO3 and CO3) were also recorded in trace amounts. The ions having excess quantity reduce crop growth, production, quality and/or cause specific injure due to ionic toxicity. The level of Ca in water is related closely to the geology of the source areas, the Ca being derived by weathering of processes from minerals such as gypsum, limestone and dolomite (Nasirullah et al. 2007). Calcium contributes to the hardness of the water which may cause soil crust and infiltration problems. Chemical reactions of Mg in the water are similar to those of Ca and cause water hardness. A considerable amount of K was present in the water. This might be due to the presence of K bearing mineral in the parent material in soils like sylvite (KCl), nitre (KNO3) in the aquifers (Karanth 1994). The high concentrations of Na and Cl ions were found in hand tube wells. The presence of high Na and Cl ions are considered potential threat for sodium hazard and salt problem. Thus, the soils of this area are assumed to cause sodicity and salinity problem in future. Irrigation water containing high Na ion might induce K deficiency. Where Na/Ca ions ratio is high, some cereals, such as, rice, wheat, maize and barley showed severe deficiency of Ca ion (Grieve and Mass 1988; Grieve and Fujiyama 1987). Sodium ion causes disturbance of Ca nutrition. On the other hand, the beneficial effects of Ca and/or Mg ions are well known for controlling the negative role of Na toxicity. The high amount of Cl ion can contribute osmotic stress and some cultivars of soybean that tend to accumulate excessive and toxic amounts of Cl ion (Parker et al. 1983). Many woody species and fruit cultivars are also susceptible to Cl ion toxicity. The presence of heavy metal Fe was found in very low concentration and had no toxic effect. The other heavy metals, like, Mn, Zn and Cu were in trace. The NO3-N, SO4-S, and B played an important role for crop nutrition but their relative concentrations were very low. So, the heavy metals, Mn, Zn and Cu and other ionic groups, NO3-N, SO4-S and B had no effects on agricultural crops. Considering CO3, only 2 samples contained high amount. The presence of high concentration of CO3 in water due to high residual sodium carbonate must be given special attention because of its tendency to precipitate Ca and Mg as carbonates in the soil. High bicarbonate water has been shown to induce iron chlorosis (Finkel 1993). Arsenic contamination was found in different levels and was found more in the groundwater than on the surface water. The occurrence of As in groundwater is considered to be a process by weathering of As containing parent materials and by changing redox conditions whereby As is selectively desorbed in response to the reduction of Fe3+ to Fe2+ (Bhattacharya et al. 1999). High concentration of

Table1. Chemical composition and computed parameters for suitability classification of the study water.

S/N Source pH Ca Mg Na K
meq L-1
1 River 7.28 1.00 1.61 6.10 0.001
2 HTW 7.05 1.00 2.93 6.30 0.003
3 HTW 7.11 6.21 8.8 5.80 0.003
4 HTW 7.05 2.60 4.04 6.10 0.003
5 River 6.96 1.30 1.92 5.80 0.001
6 HTW 6.81 3.00 3.64 5.20 0.002
7 HTW 7.80 2.20 3.13 4.10 0.002
8 HTW 7.32 0.60 1.72 5.80 0.003
9 HTW 7.34 7.11 11.13 2.50 0.003
10 HTW 7.00 7.01 11.63 5.30 0.002
11 HTW 7.23 2.20 3.54 5.90 0.002
12 HTW 7.18 3.50 5.36 4.80 0.004
13 River 7.24 1.00 2.12 5.10 0.001
14 HTW 7.17 6.41 11.23 2.80 0.003
15 HTW 7.27 6.01 10.32 3.60 0.002
16 HTW 7.46 3.80 5.56 2.80 0.003
17 HTW 7.56 1.10 1.92 5.60 0.002
18 HTW 7.24 6.21 2.02 5.50 0.003
19 HTW 7.10 4.00 7.99 2.13 0.003
20 HTW 7.73 4.50 6.47 2.34 0.002
21 HTW 7.01 1.90 7.69 4.80 0.002
22 HTW 6.97 1.70 2.73 5.10 0.001
23 HTW 7.10 2.30 2.12 5.30 0.002
24 HTW 7.16 2.40 4.55 5.10 0.002
25 HTW 7.22 3.50 3.54 4.80 0.003
26 HTW 7.09 3.50 2.32 4.60 0.002
27 HTW 7.16 3.60 5.36 4.20 0.004
28 HTW 7.21 3.20 10.01 2.30 0.003
29 HTW 7.16 0.10 4.75 5.80 0.001
30 HTW 7.19 2.40 3.13 5.60 0.001
Mean 7.20 3.18 5.11 4.70 0.002
SD 0.21 2.00 3.23 1.29 0.001
CV 2.95 63.0 63.34 27.4 33.31

Key: HTW = hand pressure tube well, H= high, L= low, ND= not detected.


Roy et al./Water quality assessment for drinking and irrigation

Table 1. Contd.

S/N B Cl SO4 HCO3 Arsenic
meq L-1
1 0.19 5.20 0.08 2.00 H
2 0.11 4.80 0.18 4.10 ND
3 0.11 8.70 0.15 8.60 L
4 0.13 6.00 0.03 4.60 L
5 0.12 5.20 0.09 2.40 H
6 0.11 6.80 0.18 3.40 ND
7 0.14 5.60 0.09 2.10 ND
8 0.08 4.60 0.08 2.40 ND
9 0.13 8.30 0.09 8.80 ND
10 0.11 12.4 0.09 7.60 ND
11 0.05 5.20 0.02 4.80 H
12 0.14 6.00 0.04 5.40 H
13 0.05 4.80 0.07 2.20 H
14 0.05 8.60 0.04 8.50 ND
15 0.11 8.40 0.26 9.00 ND
16 0.11 5.20 0.04 5.00 ND
17 0.13 5.30 0.03 2.30 ND
18 0.19 6.00 0.03 6.10 L
19 0.05 6.20 0.14 5.40 ND
20 0.12 5.60 0.02 5.40 ND
21 0.12 5.80 0.18 6.20 ND
22 0.08 5.60 0.09 2.20 L
23 0.11 5.20 0.18 3.10 ND
24 0.15 6.60 0.26 3.40 L
25 0.13 6.50 0.14 3.40 L
26 0.12 5.60 0.18 3.40 ND
27 0.11 6.80 0.02 4.20 L
28 0.10 6.80 0.02 6.20 L
29 0.05 6.40 0.23 2.80 L
30 0.08 6.40 0.14 3.10 ND
Mean 0.10 6.35 0.11 4.60
SD 0.03 1.60 0.07 2.19
CV 33.5 25.2 66.7 47.74

As might be problematic for long-term irrigation and crops, like rice, vegetables, and human beings.Arsenic is getting into rice, Bangladesh’s staple crop, through irrigation water pumped from contaminated soils. People of that area are contaminated severely by having those crops and drinking As contaminated water.

Table 2. Chemical composition and computed parameters of groundwater and surface water.

µS cm-1 mg L-1 mg L-1
1 660 485 129.76 4.53 69.93
2 860 624 194.49 4.01 61.53
3 1660 1200 743.79 1.78 27.86
4 1010 731 329.42 2.83 47.82
5 710 513 159.73 3.85 64.25
6 920 677 329.54 2.37 43.88
7 820 504 264.57 2.11 43.41
8 720 475 114.70 4.80 71.39
9 1660 1168 903.40 0.70 12.05
10 1780 1305 923.29 1.48 22.12
11 940 696 284.48 2.96 50.65
12 1210 785 439.24 1.93 35.10
13 690 466 154.66 3.55 61.98
14 1680 1151 873.31 0.81 13.69
15 1800 1184 808.46 1.08 18.06
16 1040 698 464.22 1.09 22.99
17 670 500 149.71 3.89 64.91
18 1160 858 410.20 2.04 40.03
19 1240 781 593.74 0.75 15.07
20 1260 751 544.11 0.84 17.55
21 1280 831 473.59 2.00 33.34
22 700 518 219.60 2.91 53.47
23 820 573 219.79 2.88 54.46
24 1000 671 344.29 2.35 42.28
25 1020 665 349.61 2.09 40.50
26 860 616 289.86 2.13 44.07
27 1200 730 444.25 1.67 31.88
28 1220 858 653.24 0.80 14.81
29 920 597 239.02 3.68 54.42
30 1020 635 274.59 2.81 50.25
Min. 660 466 114.70 0.70 12.05
Max. 1800 1305 923.29 4.79 71.39
Mean 1084 741 410.75 2.36 40.79

Suitability classification:

For the irrigation water, EC, SAR and SSP are considered to be the major criteria for assessing suitability classification, whereas TDS and B are minor. On the basis of EC values following Richards (1954), 6 samples belonged to good (C2) class and 24 were in permissible (C3) class.

J. Sci. Technol. (Dinajpur) 11 (2013): 25-31

Table 3. Quality classification and suitability of groundwater and surface water for irrigation purpose.

S/N Suitability classification
EC TDS SAR SSP Boron Alkalinityand salinityhazard Proposed suitability classification
1 Good Free Excellent Doubt Excellent C2S1 Moderate suitable
2 Permissible Free Excellent Doubt Excellent C3S1 Permissible
3 Permissible Brackish Excellent Good Excellent C3S1 Permissible
4 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
5 Good Free Excellent Doubt Excellent C2S1 Permissible
6 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
7 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
8 Good Free Excellent Doubt Excellent C2S1 Moderate suitable
9 Permissible Brackish Excellent Excellent Excellent C3S1 Permissible
10 Permissible Brackish Excellent Good Excellent C3S1 Permissible
11 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
12 Permissible Free Excellent Good Excellent C3S1 Permissible
13 Good Free Excellent Doubt Excellent C2S1 Moderate suitable
14 Permissible Brackish Excellent Excellent Excellent C3S1 Permissible
15 Permissible Brackish Excellent Excellent Excellent C3S1 Permissible
16 Permissible Free Excellent Good Excellent C3S1 Permissible
17 Good Free Excellent Doubt Excellent C2S1 Permissible
18 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
19 Permissible Free Excellent Excellent Excellent C3S1 Permissible
20 Permissible Free Excellent Excellent Excellent C3S1 Permissible
21 Permissible Free Excellent Good Excellent C3S1 Permissible
22 Good Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C2S1 Moderate suitable
23 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
24 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
25 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
26 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
27 Permissible Free Excellent Good Excellent C3S1 Permissible
28 Permissible Free Excellent Excellent Excellent C3S1 Permissible
29 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
30 Permissible Free Excellent Permissible Excellent C3S1 Permissible
The suitability classification was based on Wilcox (1955), Freeze and Cherry (1979), Todd (1980), Wilcox (1955), Eaton (1950), Richards (1954), and Sawyer and McCarty (1967), respectively. C1, C2, C3, and C4 represent low, medium, high, and very high salinity hazard; and S1, S2, S3, and S4 represent low, medium, high, and very high sodium hazard, respectively.

All water samples were classified permissible to good for EC. So, these sources of water might not cause any harm for agriculture purpose. As per TDS values, 25 samples out of 30 were fresh (Carrol 1962; Freeze and Cherry 1979) and 5 were brackish which were not suitable for irrigation. TDS can increase through the continual addition of salts by both natural weathering process and human activities, such as discharges of domestic and industrial effluents and runoff from urban and rural areas. The value of TDS is directly proportional with that of total soluble mineral ions and other dissolved substances in water bodies (Sarker et al. 2000; Sarker et al. 2003). In addition to this, Puntamkar et al. (1988) indicated that the degree of soil properties deterioration depends on the total dissolved salt contents in irrigation water. With respect to SAR, all samples were graded as excellent class.

Roy et al./Water quality assessment for drinking and irrigation

All the samples were rated as low alkalinityhazard (S1) class for irrigation as per SAR value (Table 3). In the study area, alkalinity problem might not occur using this water. From the calculated value of SSP, 12 samples were permissible, 6 were good and other 6 were excellent in class. Based on suitability class of B, all waters were graded as excellent for irrigation and can safely be used for successful crop production.

The EC, SAR, and SSP belonged to the excellent to good category water are considered as suitable class. No water was found in this class. The waters were categorized as moderate suitable when SAR, EC and SSPfor excellent, good and permissible, respectively. In the study area, only 4 water samples (S/N. 1, 8, 13 and 22) were categorized in this class. The permissible category comprised the samples that were excellent, good and permissible for SAR, EC and SSP, respectively. Most of the waters (26) ware in the permissible category.

Relations among pH, EC, SAR and SSP: Correlation coefficient was determined amongst the parameters viz. pH, EC, SAR and SSP in all possible combinations (Table 4). It was evident that pHvalue was not significantly correlated with EC, TDS, SAR and SSP. EC value was significantly correlated with TDS, SAR and SSP at 1% level of significance. It indicates that EC had influence on TDS, SAR and SSP. TDS value was significantly correlated with SAR and SSP at 1% level of significant. SAR value showed a close relationship with SSP at 1% level of significant. There were significant correlations among EC-TDS, -SAR, EC-SSP; TDS-SAR, TDS-SSP; and SAR-SSP. This results support that the quality of free soil solution may indicate the distribution of Na ions in the absorbed phase. The presence of Na in irrigation water influences the physical properties of the soil, particularly the permeability by affecting the swelling and dispersion of the clay (Finkel 1993). Besides, when the excess carbonate (residual) concentration becomes too high, they combine with

Table 4. Correlation matrix among the water quality parameters.

EC -0.052NS
TDS -0.1372NS 0.978**
SAR -0.124NS -0.771** -0.707**
SSP -0.104NS -0.852** -0.791** 0.978**

Legend: NS, and ** indicate not significant, and 1% level, respectively

Ca and Mg to form a solid material which settles out of the water. The end result is an increase in both the Na percentage and SAR (Johnson and Jhang, 2003). At the same time as per result, it may create alkali hazard in soil and may encumber successful crop production. On the other hand insignificant correlation coefficient among pH-EC, pH-TDS, pH-SAR and pH-SSP indicated that the increase of one parameter will result in the decreasing of the aforementioned parameters.


Chemical analysis of different water samples show good for domestic and irrigation purposes. Some water samples contained undesirable level of EC, TDS, and SSP but the SAR and B contents were within safety limit. Undesirable level exerted a significant impact on the crop production and the soil properties. In the study area, the suitable and moderately suitable waters could be used for domestic and irrigation purposes without any detrimental effects. Higher EC value helps to the development of soil salinity that has deleterious effect on soil properties if uses for prolonged period. In this study, 53% water samples were As free and can be used safely; but 47% contained As in different levels which have harmful effects on domestic and irrigation uses.


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