KNOW YOUR WATER
Find tips and more information about how water quality affects your health and wellbeing.
WATER TREATMENT SYSTEMS & TECHNOLOGY
Water filters for municipal water use two different techniques to remove impurities. The first technique is physical or barrier filtration, which strains water to remove larger impurities. In other words, a physical filter can be compared to a sieve. Physical filtration will typically start at fine particle filtration, followed by micro, ultra and nano filtration. The ultimate physical filtration to remove impurities will be Reverse Osmosis (RO) technology.
RO water treatment results in too low TDS levels, which causes a flat taste and is on the acidic side of the pH spectrum. This is undesirable for many end consumers. However, remineralising of RO water is gaining immense popularity, and highly advisable from a health perspective.
Blue Water Solutions will not recommend the use of RO technology to treat municipal water primarily due to this technology’s water wastage problem.
The second technique is chemical filtration, where water is passed through an active material that removes impurities chemically by way of redox reaction. Redox is short for oxidation-reduction, which is a chemical reaction where electrons are transferred between molecules. In some cases, such as free chlorine, this transfer results in the formation of benign substances, such as chloride in this case, which then passes through the filter. In a similar way, copper, lead, mercury, and other heavy metals react to plate out onto the medium’s surface effectively being removed from the water supply. Redox reaction media, such as KDF and Active ceramics is very effective in significantly removing inorganic water-soluble heavy metals.
Physical or barrier filtration is the basis for conventional filtration. This refers to a media that’s used as a barrier to filter water through. The micron filtration of this media will determine what is caught within the barrier when the water is passed through it.
- Microfiltration refers to all filtration above 0.1 micron, where 1 micron is equal to a millionth of a metre or a thousandth of a millimetre. The smallest particle visible to the human eye is 40 microns and about 1 to 10 microns in length and from 0.2 to 1 micron in width.
- Ultrafiltration is a membrane type system that removes small colloids and large molecules from solutions. Ultrafiltration removes particles in size range between 0.002 to 0.1 micron range. Viruses are 0.004 to 0.1 microns in size, which is about 100 times smaller than bacteria.
- Nanofiltration is a membrane process that treats water between reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration the filtration/separation spectrum, but we currently do not specialise in this technology. Alternative approaches will be the use of Reverse Osmosis and Redox Reaction media.
- Reverse osmosis is a process for the removal of dissolved ions from water, in which pressure is used to force the water through a semi-permeable membrane, which will transmit the water but reject most other suspended and dissolved materials. It is called reverse osmosis because mechanical pressure is used to force the water to flow in the direction that is the reverse of natural osmosis, namely from the dilute to the concentrated solution.
Active ceramics contains a mixture of elements such as Platinum, Silver and Copper. When the ceramic spheres rub together, these elements create a redox reaction thereby inhibiting the growth of bacteria. KDF55 uses Copper and Zinc to create the same reaction, but because the elements used by active ceramics are further apart on the periodic table, the redox reaction for active ceramics is known to be up to 20 times stronger than using Copper and Zinc.
There are obvious differences between point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) water treatment products. For example, POE treats water for the whole house, or a majority of the house, while POU treats water for a single tap or multiple taps, but not a majority of the house.
The primary reason to install a water filtration or purification system is to get rid of the contaminants that are present in tap water and get ‘safe’ water. Although chlorine is widely used as a disinfectant for drinking water, chlorine forms many by-products, including trihalomethanes (THM) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). Formed when ammonia is added to chlorine, Chloramines are also used to treat drinking water as it provides longer-lasting disinfection as the as the water moves through pipes to consumers. Chloramine forms a significantly lower amount of THMs and HAAs, but also forms N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).
At elevated levels, THMs have been associated with negative health effects such as cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes. For the volatile THMs, approximately equal contributions to total exposure come from four areas: ingestion of drinking-water, inhalation of indoor air largely due to volatilization from drinking-water, inhalation and dermal exposure during showering or bathing and ingestion of food, with all but food exposure arising primarily from drinking-water. THMs can be reduced by adsorption with an activated carbon filter.
NDMA can also occur in drinking-water from several industrial processes and is also a contaminant of certain pesticides. NDMA has been classified as carcinogenic to humans. NDMA is not removable by even reverse osmosis and requires UV irradiation.
To reduce the risk to you and your family, consider BOTH a POE and POU water filtration or purification systems.
Activated carbon filter manufacturers will provide you with a guideline for how often you should change your carbon filter. Although only a starting point, your usage habits, water quality fluctuations and presence of purification media such as KDF (extend the life of carbon) will determine the lifespan of your water filter cartridge/s.
The process to remove contaminants from water using activated carbon is called adsorption (not to be confused with absorption). When carbon adsorbs contaminants like chlorine, the molecules, ions or atoms from the chlorine collect like a film, called adsorbate, on the carbon. There is only so much space for the adsorbate to collect on the carbon and once saturated, the carbon is no longer effectively and may even release certain pollutants in favour of other ones.
Another important factor is back contamination from you’re your systems faucet. Activated carbon media is not recommended to reduce microbial contaminants. If anything, carbon particles are prone to shedding heterotrophic plate count bacteria and other colonizing microbes into the water. Even faecal coliforms and other opportunistic bacterial pathogens are capable of colonising carbon particles.
As a guideline and for all practical purposes most countertop-top or under-counter carbon type filters should be replaced on at least an ANNUAL BASIS.
For every 1 litre RO water you drink, you can waste up to 7 litres off tap water…let that sink in for a moment!
An RO creates drinking water by forcing tap water through a semi-permeable membrane to fill a 9lt water (capacity) tank. As the tank fills, increasingly more tap water is wasted as a result of the increase in back pressure. As this back pressure increases, less water is able to pass through the membrane and more water is flushed down the drain.
So simply stated, when an RO fills an empty 9lt (water capacity) holding tank it wastes +- 45lt of tap water, but when you draw water continuously throughout the day from a full tank, an RO will waste a lot more water to top up its tank.
Let’s say a typical household uses 1lt at a time and a total of 5lt of water per day. After every 1lt of water drawn from the tank, the RO will begin to top-up its tank. To fight the back pressure to fill a 90% full tank will waste 85% + of the tap water used. As a result you ca waste up to 7lt of water to refill the 1lt use, depending on age of membrane and tank pressure. At this rate your household will waste 35lt of water per day or almost 13,000lt of water per year.
WATER & YOUR HEALTH
The quality of your drinking, bath & shower water can impact the health of your family. Are you willing to take that risk?
1. HIGHER RISK OF DEVELOPING CANCER
One of the most significant risks of drinking chlorinated water is its potential to cause a higher risk of developing cancer. If chlorine as a disinfectant is capable of eliminating pathogens in the water, consider the impact it has on your body. In fact, published studies reveal a relation between chlorinated water and certain types of cancer.
2. CELL DAMAGE
Chlorine might be also be significantly impacting the functioning of your body. Some studies show the relation between consuming chlorinated water and cell damage. A study conducted in China shows the relation between liver cell damage and frequent consumption of chlorinated water. Chlorine may also damage good gut bacteria where 70% of our immune system operates.
3. INCREASED RISK OF ASTHMA
According to a study conducted in Europe, drinking chlorinated water may exacerbate allergy symptoms, including in children. Likewise, showering in chlorinated water may make the problem even worse, especially in children. The chlorinated steam created by the shower maybe intense enough to trigger an asthma attack.
4. POTENTIAL HEART PROBLEMS
Drinking tap water might be harder on your heart than you think. In fact, some studies show links between drinking chlorinated water and increased risk of heart problems.
The ingestion of harmful chemicals from drinking water may not be the primary route of exposure!
Skin absorption rates are tremendous. People with pools and hot tubs especially take note! The total body burden of volatile chemicals, such as chlorine, will be distributed roughly one third from inhalation during showering, one third from oral ingestion and one third from washing/bathing. In effect, this easily doubles or triples our exposure to the harmful chemicals found in water.
Based on skin absorption and inhalation exposure, having a proper water filter in-house or drinking healthy bottled water may not adequately protect you and your family from the many harmful chemicals commonly found in water supplies.
Ideally, one should consider a whole house filtration system to remove the organic volatile chemicals from bathing water.
Over the years many studies have been published on the relationship between drinking water and cardiovascular mortality. Two beneficial factors continually stand out – hardness and TDS (also see post from 6 Jan 2020) as both have been associated with lower mortality from heart disease. Hardness refers to the amount of Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg), or calcium carbonate in the water. The more Ca, Mg, or calcium carbonate, the harder the water.
The first major study on drinking water and heart disease was in 1960 and the conclusion was that drinking hard water results in less cardiovascular disease than drinking soft water. Yet, over the years there have been several published reports analysing specific elements in drinking water and their possible relationship to heart disease.
One researcher studies zinc, another copper, another selenium, and so on. And as you read this material, you find an inconsistent and confusing picture.
But, if you look at the broader picture and if you look at the studies on hardness, you will find very consistent results: The harder the water, the less heart disease deaths.
Alkaline water has a higher pH level than regular drinking water. Normal drinking water generally has a neutral pH of 7. Alkaline water typically has a pH of 8 or 9. The five primary alkalizing, ionic minerals are Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese, and Iron.
Alkaline water and it’s benefits is one of the newer trends to have made its way into the already overcrowded wellness and healthy eating world. Drinking alkaline water, it is said, offers more health benefits than one. It helps slow down the ageing process, regulate pH levels of the body and prevent various chronic diseases.
It is believed that alkaline water helps people with excess acidity as it helps neutralise the acid in the body; thanks to its alkaline nature. This process of neutralising acids in the body helps prevent various ailments.
CHEMICAL & BIOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF WATER
pH stands for ‘potential of Hydrogen’ which measure the acidity or alkalinity of water soluble substances. The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution ranges from 0 to 14. Anything below a pH of 7 is considered acidic and anything above 7 is considered alkaline.
The pH scale is logarithmic so a 1 point shift in pH is equivalent to a tenfold difference in acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 8 is therefore ten times more alkaline than a pH of 7 and a pH of 9 is a hundred times more alkaline than a pH of 7. When we refer to the “optimal body pH” we are referring to the pH level of blood. It should be slightly alkaline at a pH of between 7.35 and 7.45. Blood pH of less than 6.8 or greater than 7.8 is considered, according to medical and physiology text, incompatible with life.
Your blood’s pH level is regulated by a complex system of buffers that are continuously at work to maintain your optimal body pH. Think about balanced pH level in your body as a game of tug of war between acid and alkaline. The unhealthy foods and drinks tend to tug us into a state of excess acidity. Our buffer system neutralizes acidity to bring us back to slightly alkaline. However, our buffer system becomes strained when there is a heavy acid load. To neutralize excess acid, our body pulls healthy alkalizing minerals from our bones, depleting healthy mineral stores and rendering our bones weaker.
To fight the acid load we need to make healthier dietary choices like eating alkaline foods such as leafy greens, root vegetables, seasonal fruits and drinking mineralized alkaline water. This helps keep our body in balance at its optimal pH.
Water described as “hard” is high in dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. Hard water is not a health concern, but a nuisance because of mineral build-up on fixtures and poor soap and detergent performance.
Heated hard water forms a scale of calcium and magnesium minerals that can contribute to the inefficient operation or failure of water-using appliances, e.g. geyser elements. Pipes can become clogged with scale that reduces water flow and ultimately requires pipe replacement. The hardness of your water will be reported in milligrams per liter (mg/l) or parts per million (ppm).
To treat hard water a water softener should be used. Water softeners operate on the ion exchange process where water passes through a media bed of softening resin. The hardness minerals attach themselves to the resin beads and when the resin becomes saturated with calcium and magnesium, it must be recharged. The recharging is done by passing a salt (brine) solution through the resin.
The classification, which may differ from other companies is as follow:
Soft water = 0 – 17.1 mg/l
Slightly hard water = 17.1 – 60 mg/l
Moderately hard water = 60 – 120 mg/l
Hard water = 120 – 180 mg/l
Very Hard = 180 mg/l & over
The correct scientific definition of TDS measurement is in fact the determination of the Total Dissolved Salts. The important information obtained from this analytical measurement is very plain and simple – how much mineral salt is dissolved in the water under investigation.
No other information can be obtained or deduced from the simple TDS analytical test. TDS is therefore not a measurement of how good your water purification system is or how ‘pure’ or healthy your drinking water is as TDS is but one of the 20 analytical parameters required to gauge the quality of a water source.
TDS levels in the natural environment range from 10mg/l (or ppm) for rain and snow to 250,000 mg/l for the Dead Sea. The TDS of sea water is 35,000mg/l and 0 mg/l for distilled water. The World Health Organization concluded that TDS below 20mg/l is TOO LOW and will result in long-term slow loss of minerals from the human body, i.e. negative health implications!
Proper levels of hardness (primarily calcium & magnesium) and TDS (depending upon individual mineral spread) are two of the beneficial properties in drinking water constituting a healthy drinking water and we should try to drink water that has approximately 170 mg/L of Hardness. Research shows a reduction in cancer deaths if the drinking water contained a moderately high level of TDS (around 300 mg/L), if the water was Hard and if the water had an alkaline pH, i.e. above 7.0.
Iron occurs naturally in ground waters in three forms, Ferrous Iron (clear water iron), Ferric Iron (red water iron), and Heme Iron (organic iron). Each can exist alone or in combination with the others.
With Ferrous iron the water is clear when drawn, but then turns cloudy when it comes in contact with air. The air oxidizes the ferrous iron and converts it into insoluble, reddish brown ferric iron.
Ferric iron is visible in the water when drawn, hence the name “red water iron”.
Heme iron is organically bound iron complexed with decomposed vegetation. The organic materials complexed with the iron are called tannins or lignins. These organics cause the water to have a weak tea or coffee colour. Certain types of bacteria use iron as an energy source where they oxidize the iron from its ferrous state to its ferric state and deposit it in the slimy gelatinous material.
Treatment – Ferrous iron (clear water iron) can be removed with a softener provided it is less than 0.5 ppm for each grain of hardness and the pH of the water is greater than 6.8. If the ferrous iron is more than 5.0 ppm, it must be converted to ferric iron by contact with an oxidizing agent such as chlorine, before it can be removed by mechanical filtration. Ferric iron (red water iron) can simply be removed by mechanical filtration. With the relative recent introduction of specialised water treatment media ranging from absorbent media to advanced catalytic filtration, it is now possible to remove even higher levels of iron.
Manganese is present in many soils and sediments and is used in the manufacturing of steel to improve corrosion resistance and hardness. Manganese is considered essential to plant and animal life and can be derived from such foods as corn, spinach, and whole wheat products. It is known to be important in building strong bones and may be beneficial to the cardiovascular system. In drinking water a health-based value not exceeding 0.4 mg/l is recommended.
Concentrations higher than 0.05 mg/l cause manganese deposits and staining of clothing and plumbing fixtures. The stains are dark brown to black in nature. The use of chlorine bleach in the laundry will cause the stains to set.
The chemistry of manganese in water is similar to that of iron. High levels of manganese in the water produces an unpleasant odor and taste. Organic materials can tie up manganese in the same manner as they do iron, therefore destruction of the organic matter is a necessary part of manganese removal.
Treatment – Removal of manganese can be done by ion exchange or chemical oxidation followed by filtration.