Frequently Asked Questions About Water Filtration


What is the hydrological cycle?

natural water filtationThe water that is on this earth is the same water that was here billions of years ago.  Nature has created a natural water filtration and purification process called the Hydrological cycle.   Water evaporates from the heat of the sun and into our atmosphere.  During this process, only pure water can evaporate.  All impurities are left behind on the earth.  Evaporated water accumulates in the atmosphere forming clouds.  The clouds soon fill to a point where pure water is returned to the earth as rainfall.  As water falls to earth and runs through rivers and streams, it begins to pick up many minerals, bacteria and impurities.  Nature has provided a ways to assist in keeping our water clean and fresh.  Did you ever notice how water in lakes and ponds has a tendency to become full of algae growth, but water in streams is always more fresh and clean?  Moving water does not allow bacteria and algae to grow because it is aerated.  Oxygen will kill anaerobic bacteria.  Ultraviolet Rays from the sun penetrate exposed surface water, preventing bacteria growth.   When water reaches the earth, it penetrates though different levels of soils and rocks.  This is called mechanical water filtration.   There are many natural underground springs and aquifers deep down below the earth’s surface that contain fresh, clean water.   Water can be contaminated by living things through their own biological cycles, heavy metals, mineral concentration and by commercial and industrial products produced by mankind.  For billions of years, nature has developed an amazing way to provide humans and all living things the water needed to sustain life.  In summary, nature provides four ways of water purification:  Evaporation, Aeration, Ultraviolet Disinfection, and Mechanical water Filtration.

 What is Hard Water?

Hard water is calcium and magnesium that at is dissolved in the water.   It is absorbed as water travels in streams and through the ground on its way to its source.  Calcium is mainly responsible for all the hard water problems that need to be treated.  It is classified as temporary hardness.  Magnesium is permanent hardness and is rarely an issue.   Water hardness is responsible for some types of water spotting, scale build up and can play havoc with soaps and detergents.  Extreme hard water can make water undesirable to drink and can be harmful to humans and animals.  Hard water can be treated with water softeners and water conditioners.  Hardness is measured in grains per gallon (gpg).  A simple way to describe this measurement is to take an aspirin tablet, it is 5 grains.  If water is 20 grains hard, that would be the equivalent to 4 aspirin tablets of calcium and magnesium dissolved in one gallon of water.  Water Hardness can be effectively treated with Water Conditioners and Water Softeners depending on the desired results.

What is Soft Water?

Soft water is water that has never been exposed to calcium or magnesium or these elements have been removed through a process that replaces calcium or magnesium with sodium chloride (table salt).  The term softened water reflects the hardness minerals have been exchanged through a mechanical process called a water softener.

How does a Water Softener work?

A water softener removes calcium and magnesium hardness and replaces it with either sodium or potassium salts. It can be done with sodium chloride (table salt) or potassium chloride.  This is called ionic exchange.  Inside the water softener is a synthetic mineral which is a petroleum byproduct called resin.  As water flows over the resin, it attracts hardness minerals to it, similar to a
magnet.  In exchange, the resin beads give off sodium which is absorbed into the water.  The resin beads only retain a specific amount of sodium and can only exchange a certain amount of hardness.  This is called softening capacity.   Once the softening capacity has been exhausted, salt water is needed to reverse the exchange process that has occurred.  A water softener goes through this process called regeneration.   Although a water softener looks complex, the actual process of regeneration is simple, consisting of drawing salt water from a salt tank, introducing the salt to the exhausted mineral, rinsing the retained hardness down the drain and rinsing the excess sodium down the drain as well.  Once this has occurred, the softener is ready to begin the softening process again.

Why does Soft Water feel slimy or silky?

Soft water does not naturally produce that slimy or silky feel.  It is softened water from a water softener. Soap is still produced today by fats and salts.  The combination of natural body oils (lanolin) and sodium produces that slick feel on your skin.  The added sodium is the reason for extra suds in the bath, laundry and dishwasher.  If you go to the beach and watch the tide, you will notice some days, there is foam on the beach.  This is produced from salts and fat or oil waste in the water. Many people find the taste of softened water undesirable due to the sodium increase through the chemical exchange process.  Softened water is not recommended for people who are on salt restricted diets as well.

How does a Water Conditioner work?

Water conditioners are capable of doing multiple treatments in one system.  Depending on the chemistry of the water to be treated, conditioners are capable of removing, chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals, scale prevention, iron removal, hydrogen sulfide removal (rotten egg smell) taste, odors, clarity,  sediment some forms of bacteria as well.  Most of these systems are filled with different types of media to treat the water.  In addition, the distributor systems inside the units can have scale preventers installed which renders the hardness minerals (calcium and magnesium) harmless, preventing scale in water heaters, plumbing and plumbing fixtures.  Depending on the type of water conditioner required, some have back-washing valves that require drain and electrical, while others have an effective up flow process that do not need automatic backwash.

Do Magnetic Water Conditioners Work?

The theory that magnets alone change the molecular structure of the water is unfounded and there are no tests that prove otherwise.  With that being said, magnets can be effective if pre-treated with a catalytic device to create hardness “seeds” that will respond to a magnetic field.  There are patented and tested devices that work well in the treatment of scale prevention.  Water flows through a spring loaded pressure chamber that causes a pressure drop in the water.  The drop in pressures causes calcium crystals (seeds) to begin to form in the water.  The water then flows through a catalytic chamber which produces more crystals.  Then, the water flows over neodymium magnets, a rare earth form of magnet which reacts with the crystals rendering them harmless and preventing them from attaching themselves to plumbing and fixtures for a specific period of time, typically up to 48 hours.  Before purchasing any water conditioners with magnetic properties, it is strongly recommended consumers request documentation of proof, testing, references and patents of the proposed equipment.  There are many unfounded claims made with magnetic devices.  Consumers need to be certain they are working with a reputable dealer or manufacturer that is marketing a product that truly performs up to its claims.

What is a Whole House Water Treatment System?

Whole House Water Systems typically treat water to make it more palatable (easy to drink) and cleaner for the entire home.  It is installed at the main water line so every fixture in the home will have treated water.   Depending on the claims from the manufacturer, Whole House Water Treatment Systems can include, Water Conditioners, Reverse Osmosis, Filtration and Ultra Violet Disinfection.  Water Softeners are not classified as a Whole House System because they have a single task of softening the water and many people do not find softened water favorable to drink because of the added sodium and taste.  An alternative treatment option is a Whole House Reverse Osmosis System.  This water to be treated enters a water conditioner which removes chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals.  The distribution system inside the conditioner has a scale prevention device which is critical for the reverse osmosis process.  The water then passes though two filters to remove any additional sediment or chlorine.  The next step is to pressurize the water up to 180 psi through a pump system.  The water is then pushed through the reverse osmosis membrane.  The product water is sent to a storage tank where it is stored until the consumer opens a faucet in their home.  Through another pumping system, the water is drawn back to this system, passes through Ultraviolet Disinfection and into the home. 

 What is Reverse Osmosis?

Reverse Osmosis commonly referred to as R.O. is used to remove solids and impurities from water.  It is done through membrane technology and can be enhanced with carbon water filtration if used for drinking water purposes.  In reverse osmosis, water is typically pre-treated for heavy sediment removal, scale prevention and chlorine removal.  This will extend the life of the membrane which is the heart of the system.  Pre-treated water enters the membrane capsule.  Water pressure (called osmotic pressure in technical terms) forces the water against the membrane.  Any molecule that is the size of a water molecule or smaller will pass through the membrane, (permeate or product water) anything larger is retained on the back side of the membrane (concentrate or reject water). Because the product water is produced at a much slower rate than the flow required, the water is sent to a storage system.  It will remain there until the water is demanded from the consumer.   The reject water and its impurities are sent to the drain or is used for other purposes where quality water is not needed.   When product water is desired, it is pumped or pressurized by hydro pneumatic tanks to its source.  Many reverse osmosis systems will provide additional carbon water filtration at this point to “polish the water” just before it reaches its final destination.
Reverse Osmosis is effective in the removal of impurities and minerals and can be used in most cases where distilled water is required.  Laboratory grade water for hemodialysis and injection are always produced through some form of reverse osmosis process.  Reverse Osmosis is commonly used in the aerospace industry to recycle human waste in space stations.  Personal yachts up to giant Navy aircraft carriers use Reverse Osmosis to produce seawater into drinking water.  Many consumers believe you need the essential minerals that have been removed from the water through R.O.  It is the belief of most nutritionists it is better to drink water that has been purified.  A simple but truthful analogy is “you get more essential minerals from one baked potato than you do from a bathtub full of municipal water.”

How does carbon filtration work?

Activated Carbon, Carbon Filtration is an inexpensive and effective way to remove organics and improve the overall aesthetics of the water.  There are three grades of carbon: Coal based, Lignite (wood), and Coconut Shell.  The surface of carbon has a natural tendency to attract organics such as insecticides, pesticides, oil and gasoline.  Municipal water supplies are commonly disinfected with chlorine and chloramines.  Carbon provides an economic and impressive way to eliminate them.  Coconut shell is the most common type of carbon used in the water treatment industry. Whole house water systems, reverse osmosis and simple water filtration devices depend on carbon pre treatment or final treatment, depending on the application.  Activated carbon has a specific life and can become ineffective if not properly maintained.  Because of the porous nature of carbon, it can become a harboring area for bacteria when the life of the carbon has become exhausted and is no longer useful.  It is imperative carbon be replaced on a regular basis to prevent this.  Carbon can be 100% recycled  and regenerated back to its original state through a burning process.  There are many companies who provide such a service in large bulk quantities.  Carbon can be found in many different industries, including air water filtration, alcoholic beverage, sugar, automobile, diamond and glass cutting, fuels, tools (drill bits) and the common writing pencil that most confuse as lead.

What is Ultraviolet disinfection?

Ultraviolet disinfection is one of nature’s way of sterilizing.  It can easily be reproduced by mankind though ultraviolet lamps.  One of the most common uses of ultraviolet sterilization is the disinfection of domestic water supplies.  Water to be sterilized enters into a chamber with ultraviolet lighting present.  As the water flows through the U.V. chamber, the ultraviolet rays penetrate the organism.  It causes a molecular rearrangement of the DNA and prevents it from reproducing.  If the cell cannot reproduce, the organism is considered dead.  The advantage of U.Vs is there are no chemicals such as chlorine used to disinfect the water supply, making the water supply safe and healthy for the consumer.  Water treatment specialists will typically use U.V to treat the water as a final step just before it reaches the point of use because it does not affect the taste of the water.  U.V is effective with a 99.99% kill rate and is used in air and water purification, sewage treatment, food and beverage protection.   It will lose It’s strength and effectiveness over a period of time.  Service and bulb replacement is required to assure the best protection that U.V can provide.

 What is the best water treatment device for me and who should I buy it from?

A good water treatment specialist will be able to guide you through this process.  First they they should listen to your concerns.  Is it taste? Staining? Water Spotting? Health Concerns? Once this has been established, a sample should be taken and a 24 hour test should be done.
If a water treatment specialist brings out their little box and takes out some powder and some litmus paper, beware, this is not a complete water analysis.  A true water test should go to a laboratory and should at least be tested for:

1. Color as drawn
2. Color as received at lab:  Sign of Iron Bacteria
3. Odor as drawn
4. Odor as received at lab:  Hydrogen Sulfide can “gas off”
5. Hardness (grains per gallon)
6. Iron (parts per million)
7. pH
8. Alkalinity   (ppm)
9. TDS (parts per million)
10. Silica  (ppm)
11. Nitrates (ppm)
12. Manganese (ppm)
13. Presence of oil
14. Iron bacteria

Once the results are compiled, product recommendations and pricing can be made to meet the consumer’s needs. A viable water treatment company will not charge you for this type of testing.  They want your business and want to recommend the correct equipment for your type of application. It can be achieved only by proper testing.  Beware of companies that are charging thousands of dollars and are making claims that one system can do everything.  Unfortunately, like many industries, there are companies that will take advantage of a consumer’s inexperience in water treatment.  Don’t be afraid to ask for references, make sure they are not working out of their home or garage and have a physical address, not just a P.O. Box.    Do your homework and good luck!