The present study was designed to assess the impact of mass bathing and religious activities on water quality index (WQI) of prominent water bodies (eight) in Haryana, India. Water quality characteristics revealed significant increase in the values of nitrate, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), turbidity, total dissolved solids (TDS), conductivity, total hardness, total alkalinity, and MPN count after the religious activities. The computed WQI at all the eight selected sites varied from 47.55 to 211.42. The results revealed that there was a significant increase in the value of WQI after mass bathing or any other ritual performed. Out of eight water bodies studied three (sites 3, 4, and 5) were found under good water quality status; four sites (1, 2, 6, and 7) depicted medium water quality but site 8 was found under poor water quality after the religious activities. The good water quality status of water bodies was correlated with larger size of the water bodies and less number of pilgrims; however, the poor WQI values may be attributed to smaller size of the water body and heavy load of pilgrims on such sites. Therefore, water of these religious water bodies needed to be regularly changed after mass bathing to protect the aquatic component from different contaminations.

1. Introduction

Surface water bodies have been the basic resource to fulfill all kinds of human requirements but unfortunately today water quality of these water resources is under severe environmental stress and under threat due to various types of anthropogenic activities and the condition is more pathetic in lentic water bodies. Among various types of anthropogenic actions religious activities like immersion of flour, oil, soap, ash, detergents, floral offerings, and mass bathing are also one of the important causes that affect the water quality of a water body. The holy water bodies of state of Haryana, India, have their immense value in terms of religious aspect, as people of Haryana, Punjab, and other states also are associated emotionally and spiritually with these water bodies. The religious activities are deeply rooted in its cultural heritage; millions of people take holy bath and perform religious activities and also do Aachman (drinking water) regularly on occasions like solar eclipse and new moon day irrespective of thinking about the water quality of the aquatic bodies. According to WHO [1] about 80% of all diseases in human beings are caused by water; therefore a regular monitoring of such water bodies is very essential for physicochemical and microbiological analysis to know the suitability of water under use not only to check the outbreak of diseases and occurrence of hazards but also to prevent the water from further deterioration.

For taking a better picture of water quality the data of various quality indicating parameters data could be aggregated into an overall index called water quality index (WQI). WQI can be defined as “a rating reflecting the composite influence of different water quality parameters on overall quality of water” [2, 3]. WQI can be very important tool since it can be used for awareness of general public and policy makers to enhance the water quality. Therefore, the present study was conducted to depict the effect of religious activities and mass bathing on water quality in terms of WQI of the eight prominent lentic water bodies of Haryana where such religious activities are carried out.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. Study Area

A total of eight religious water bodies (lentic waters) in four districts of state of Haryana (Figure 1), India, were selected for the present study that were being used for the mass bathing and other religious activities (Table 1).

2.2. Sample Collection

Water samples for physicochemical analysis were collected two days before every religious activity and one day after religious activity from selected stations, in triplicate, in clean polythene bottles during February 2012 to March 2013 for physicochemical analysis. During the study period the religious activities were performed two times at stations Ban Ganga Tirth, Brahmsarovar, Jyotisar, Saraswati tank, and Pandu-Pindara Tirth; one time at stations Kapalmochan, Kulotaran Tirth, and Phalgu Tirth.

2.3. Physicochemical Analysis

Physicochemical parameters, namely, pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids (TDS), turbidity, dissolved oxygen (DO), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total alkalinity, chloride, hardness, total sulphate, and total nitrate, were determined using the standard procedures followed by APHA [11].

2.4. Microbiological Analysis

Concentration of total faecal coliform bacteria was reported as Most Probable Number per 100 mL (MPN/100 mL) following standard procedures APHA [11]. (i) Presumptive coliform test was done using multiple 5-tubes MPN dilution technique using MacConkey Broth. (ii) Conformation test for total coliform was done by inoculating 1 mL inoculum from positive tube from presumption test in Brilliant green broth. (iii) For completed test, EMB (eosin methylene blue) agar plates were prepared and inoculated with positive tubes of confirmed test by streak plate method and incubated at 37°C for 24 to 48 h and observed for faecal coliform colonies.

2.5. Calculation of Water Quality Index (WQI)

For computing the WQI three basic steps were followed [12]. All the parameters were assigned a weight according to their effect on the public health (Table 2).

Maximum weight of 5 was assigned to parameter like nitrate due to their major importance in water quality assessment [13]. pH, conductivity, TDS, DO, and sulphate were assigned the weight 4 according to Al-Mashagbah [14] and Srinivasamoorthy et al. [15]. MPN coliform was assigned weight 4 since it is the most important factor in India, where most of the serious diseases are waterborne [16]. Turbidity as well as total hardness was given the weight of 2 as it plays a fewer role in the water quality assessment [17]. In the second step, the relative weight () of each parameter was computed using where is the assigned weight of each parameter and is the number of parameters. Weight () and relative weight () values and the standards for bathing water quality for each parameter were given in Table 2. In the third step, quality rating scale () was calculated for each parameter using where is the quality rating, is the observed concentration of each parameter in the water samples, and represents the bathing standard value for each physicochemical parameter adopted from different recognized water quality organisations.

For the calculation of WQI, the SI (subindex) was computed for each given parameter as per the following equations:where is the subindex of th parameters. WQI values were classified into six categories (Table 3), Ramakrishnaiah et al. [18] and Mishra and Borah [4].

3. Results and Discussion

Mean values of all the eleven physicochemical parameters (mean ± SE) before and after the religious activities from February to March 2013 are represented in Figures 2 and 3. Significant () increase in the values of conductivity, TDS, turbidity, BOD, total alkalinity, total chloride, total hardness, and total nitrate and significant decrease in DO were observed at most of the sites after the mass bathing or other ritual activities. Similar observations were also reported by Vyas and Bajpai [19] and Sharma et al. [20]. The high organic matter and pollution load of pilgrims on the water bodies like bathing, adding ashes, flour, floral offerings, and urination may increase the chloride and nitrate contents of water in conformity with the findings of Kiran et al. [21], Gupta et al. [22]. Munawar [23] indicated that high concentration of chloride indicates high degree of organic pollution. Increase in the chloride may further be responsible for elevating the values of total dissolved solids and total hardness after the pilgrim’s activities. Increase in the TDS further directly affects the conductivity as increase in the ion content will in turn increase the conductivity due to increase in the pollution load; similar observations were also recorded by [22]. Increase in total alkalinity may be attributed due to presence of basic salts of potassium and sodium along with those of calcium and magnesium as recorded by Jadhav et al. [24]. Overall minor differences were observed in pH before and after the religious activities. But the values of some parameters like conductivity, pH, TDS, turbidity, DO, BOD, and total alkalinity were recorded above or below the permissible limit at some sites suggested by water quality guidelines for bathing given by various organizations (Table 2). Among all the sites the values of maximum water quality indicating parameters were recorded beyond the permissible limits of water quality standards of bathing waters at sites 6 and 8. Minor fluctuations in the values of chloride and sulphate were observed after the religious activities; however, all the values were recorded within the permissible limits (Table 2). Bacteria of coliform group are considered the primary indicators of faecal contamination by Raina et al. [25] that have been correlated with the incidence of gastrointestinal disorders (Morace and McKenzie [26]). The link between poor microbiological water quality and infectious diarrhea is well established [2729]. An increase in MPN index of total coliform population was also recorded at all the site after mass bathing or any other religious activity which may be due to high level of pollution caused in the form of immersion of flour, floral offerings, bathing, urination, and so forth during these peak bathing dates. A probable reason behind this may be the addition of organic materials and faecal waste due to mass bathing of millions of pilgrims and the religious activities performed by them, supporting the earlier findings of Sood et al. [30].

On the basis of physicochemical and bacteriological variables before and after the religious activities, WQI was calculated for all the selected sites, which is shown in Table 4. On the basis of WQI values the sites 3, 4, and 5 were found to have good water quality status before and after the religious activities. The status of sites 1, 2, 6, and 7 was recorded under the medium water quality after the religious activities. However, the water quality of site 8 was changed from good water quality to medium water quality after the Sharadh period and from medium water quality to very poor water quality after the solar eclipse period due to increase in the values of water quality index (Table 5). These results depicted that pollution load was maximum at sites 6 and 8 after the religious activities and these were not found suitable for the bathing purpose or for the holy dip. This may be attributed to smaller size of these water bodies and heavy pilgrims load on these sites.

Pollution status was found to be lower at the sites 1, 3, 4, and 5 indicating their good water quality status that was suitable for bathing purpose may be attributed due to larger sizes of the these water bodies and less number of bathers or pilgrims.

The higher values of water quality index at maximum sites after the religious activities were observed mainly due to increase in the values of physicochemical parameters, namely, nitrates, turbidity, BOD, TDS, total alkalinity, and total hardness, and also due to decrease in the values of DO.

4. Conclusions

The results of the present study clearly depict that there is an increase in the value of water quality index after the religious human activities due to increase in the values of nitrates, turbidity, BOD, TDS, total alkalinity, total hardness, and MPN and decrease in the values of DO. Out of eight water bodies studied three were found to be under good water quality status and four (1, 2, 6, and 7) were designated under the medium water quality status whereas site 8 fell under the category of poor water quality after the religious activities. The sites with good WQI status (sites 3, 4, and 5) may be considered suitable for bathing purpose.

Regular change or mixing of water after mass bathing to protect the water body from different contaminations is recommended. Educational campaigns for awareness of the public regarding suitable use of water bodies without impairing the water quality are also required. To ensure that water quality standards are not violated, there is need of regular monitoring and surveillance of water quality in terms of physicochemical, biological, and bacteriological parameters taking suitable remedial measures to control pollution and prevent the depletion of the quality of lentic waters.

Conflict of Interests

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.