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Should Drinking Water Provided on a Music Festival Site be Lab Tested for Safety

Andy Robertson

There is an expectation from festival-goers that clean drinking water will be provided on music festival sites. The consequences of having contaminated drinking water can be far reaching affecting people's health as well as the event’s reputation and potential legal issues. Regular laboratory testing of drinking water supplies may help to prevent any potential problems.

Music festivals tend to be in remote locations and are obliged to provide safe drinking water to festival-goers. Sourcing this water can be logistically demanding and with large toilet and bathroom facilities also on site the risk of contamination increases. There isn't a universal requirement for lab testing of drinking water at music festivals, however, the regulations and recommendations can vary depending on country and region. 

Water Supplies. 
A remote location may require drinking water to be brought onto a site using container trucks or if organisers are lucky it may be possible to tap into a local municipal mains supply or even a local well. Each source will probably benefit from regular testing to ensure compliance with any prevailing local health and safety regulations. There can also be strict rules regarding transportation and the installation of site pipelines for example. In the absence of any specific lab testing requirements there may be health and safety guidance that needs to be referred to. Festival organisers should appoint someone to be responsible for the safe delivery of drinking water for the duration of the event. 

Health Issues of Contaminated Water. 
The most common issues that arise are from leaking sewage close to drinking water supplies and this can result in a number severe illnesses. Most typical would be various forms of gastrointestinal Illnesses such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps because of pathogens like E. coli, norovirus, and other bacteria. Pathogens in water can also lead to skin, ear, and eye infections. Aside from the immediate impact of consuming contaminated water there may be longer term risks from other contaminants like heavy metals (lead, arsenic) and chemicals (pesticides, nitrates) that can cause long-term health problems, including neurological damage and cancer. 

Reputation and Legal Issues. 
Illnesses as a result of consuming contaminated water can spread quickly on a festival site and it won't take long for festival-goers to realise it is the drinking water. This adverse news can quickly spread on social media and across to mainstream media impacting on the festival’s reputation. This can have a negative effect on the organisers ability to attract ticket buyers for future events. If the contamination has led to any severe illness the organisers may also be subject to legal action from both affected festival-goers and local health authorities who may also implement heavy fines for non-compliance. 

Lab Testing Planning and Implementation.
A proactive lab testing plan can help to mitigate any potential issues from contaminated drinking water on a festival site. Any plan should include regular testing of all drinking water sources several times a day using a certified approved local lab or on-site lab facility. The plan should also include an action plan for discovery of contamination which would include closure of specific water sources to the public. Testing can be arranged with certified local health authorities or with the contracted supplier of water who often can provide their own certified lab testing facilities. 

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Image by Edward Jenner via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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