Published: May 1969
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It is paradoxical that complaints about water quality are usually based on subjective properties, that is, odor, taste and appearance, but analytical emphasis is usually chemical, physical, or biological. The reason for this anomaly is that the latter properties are more readily standardized and values may be reported within relatively narrow numerical limits. Subjective properties must be measured by persons. Since people vary in sensory acuity it is much more difficult to establish either intensity or characterization values for subjective properties. Although one often sees threshold odor or taste data presented in absolute values, there should be cognizance of the implied uncertainty of such values. Individuals vary in sensory ability from day-to-day or within a day. Groups of individuals show even greater tendency to vary. Consequently, subjective data are best described in a statistical or probability manner. An average or median value plus the range or associated confidence limits tells much about the distribution of a sensory property.