Water quality has been in the news a lot lately. Lead and PFAS chemicals have been hogging the headlines, but copper and various kinds of micro-organisms can cause problems, too. In response, many homeowners are considering whether to install or upgrade water treatment equipment.
Why treat your water?
Municipal water passes through sophisticated treatment and filtering processes before being delivered to city homes. Despite this, as events in Flint, Michigan, showed, contaminants can still get through. Even when municipal water is completely safe to drink, it can carry an unpleasant odor or taste (often the result of disinfection with chlorine).
People relying on well water need to take care of treatment themselves. A good starting point is to determine what’s in the water coming from their well. This could include chemicals, bacteria, and protozoa such as Salmonella and Cryptosporidium. Once contaminants have been identified, it’s possible to determine the kind of treatment needed.
Another problem is hard water, which is due to the high levels of calcium and magnesium that are absorbed as water percolates down through rock. These minerals can build up in pipes and water heaters and make it difficult to produce a good lather for washing.
The solution is to install a water softener. These use salt to replace the calcium and magnesium with sodium.
Water treatment options
There are two approaches to water treatment: treating at point-of-entry (at the water meter or pressurized storage tank) or at point-of-use. Point-of-use treatment includes filters on faucets and in refrigerators, as well as specialized water pitchers. Something of a hybrid option is to install an under-sink filter system and have that plumbed to a separate faucet.
Point-of-entry water treatment systems are connected to the water main where it enters the residence and just after the water meter. When installing a treatment system, it’s good practice to provide a bypass so water can flow around in case of blockage or when service is needed. Typically, two ball valves isolate the treatment system while a third opens or closes the bypass.
Common types of water treatment systems
· UV microbiological: These disinfect with UV light but do not remove chemicals.
· Mechanical filters: These provide a mesh or screen that traps small particulates.
· Particulate filters: Composed of activated carbon particles, these draw contaminants out of the water as it flows past.
· Reverse osmosis: Forcing water through a very fine screen removes a high proportion of contaminants.
· Distillation: Water is boiled and condensed to remove contaminants.
Water treatment systems often are incorporated into or alongside a water softener.
Many systems and technologies to consider
Recent water contamination incidents and alerts have prompted many people to examine their options for water treatment. The good news is that there are many types of systems to choose from, and most are easily installed in an existing building. Readers seeking additional information should explore the advice on offered by the Centers for Disease Control.