A short guide to clean water
Water treatment and water quality
Clean water is vital — and it’s something many people take for granted. In homes and businesses, we expect useable, drinkable water to come out of the taps. However, often it is dirty, contaminated water that is sent down the drains. Soaps, detergents, foods, waste and a host of other materials find their way into our water. These substances must eventually be filtered out in order for water to be usable again. In this guide, we discuss the process of water filtration. At the guide’s end, we also provide tips and tricks for improving water quality on your property and in your community.
What is water quality?
Water quality is a term used to describe the physical and chemical makeup of a particular water supply as it relates to a particular purpose. Water supplies and water bodies can be used for a number of functions, including recreation, scenic enjoyment, agriculture and public use such as drinking and cleaning. Governing bodies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency set standards to clearly define water quality as it relates to each of these functions. These standards can differ considerably based on function.
For example: a body of water designated for recreational use such as boating may not be safe to drink. In the United States, the water supply that runs through taps is held to the highest quality standards: It must be drinkable and free of contaminants to an extent determined by the Clean Water Act. Water quality is upheld largely through municipal water filtration systems and at-home filters, both of which are discussed in the following sections.
Where does it come from? Where does it go?
When we turn on our faucets, clean water flows freely. This very simple process occurs thanks to infrastructure found in individual properties and municipal water systems. In most areas, tap water comes from groundwater or surface water.
Groundwater is the accumulation of precipitation that has seeped into the ground and collected in underground spaces known as aquifers. Surface water is the accumulation of precipitation in surface-level bodies of water such as rivers, lakes and streams.
In rural areas, many property owners tap directly into nearby water supplies using wells or plumbing connected to other nearby water bodies. In most urban areas, water supply is gathered by governmental agencies that have large-scale infrastructure in place to collect water from aquifers and other bodies of water and distribute it to properties across a given area.
In addition to collecting water, most municipalities also have infrastructure in place to keep water clean. When we flush our toilets, shed soap and other materials down our shower drains and drop items into other water receptacles, we change the makeup of our area’s water supply — in most cases, for the worse. Degraded water from our homes and businesses flow into the sewer system and eventually into municipal filtration systems where it is treated.
Water treatment: How it works
Once your water (and everything else in it) goes down the drain, it is pumped through pipes in your property into your city’s sewer system. From the sewer, wastewater eventually reaches a municipal water treatment facility. There, wastewater is treated by a variety of processes to reduce or remove pollutants.
Today’s wastewater treatment facilities use a number of methods to reduce and remove pollutants from water. These methods include primary treatments, which involve physical screening and filtering out large particles. Municipal water treatment facilities also employ secondary treatment methods, which use bacteria to remove microscopic organic materials, as well as chlorine to kill off bacteria and disinfect water.
The most thorough municipal treatment facilities employ a final, advanced treatment process to reduce the presence of pollutants that are of special concern to the local waterbody (such as nitrogen or phosphorus). Once treatment is concluded, the water is piped back into the local water supply.
While municipal water treatment systems are effective in filtering many contaminants out of water to make it suitable for several uses, the water-filtration systems employed by most cities are not perfect. These systems are not designed to filter hazardous chemicals, which is why people should never pour paints, auto fluids, lawn care products or other similar chemical products down the drain.
Further, carbon filtration, a water treatment method used by many municipalities, can eliminate the presence of contaminants in water, but does not affect its hardness. (Hard water is high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium that can cause damage to pipes and appliances over time.)
Lastly, many municipal water treatment systems leave trace amounts of chlorine in their treated water. Thankfully, chlorinated water and hard water can both be treated with at-home water filtration systems.
Tips for improving water quality
We all want clean, usable water. In today’s heavily populated and pollutant-filled world, this is sometimes easier said than done. Thankfully, there are a number of things we can all do to improve the water quality in our own homes, our businesses and our customer’s properties. Here are a few tips for improving water quality:
Take care of the surrounding environment. Take care of the area’s water supply by using eco-friendly cleaners and other environmentally friendly household products, never pouring hazardous chemicals down the drain and always keeping gutters clean.
Fix the plumbing system. Dirty or damaged plumbing equipment is often to blame for degraded water in a home or business. By having the pipes inspected and replaced where needed, contractors can eliminate a major source of water contamination.
Invest in filtration systems. City water treatment isn’t always satisfactory. To ensure that the water in your home or business, or that of your customer’s, is as pristine as possible, consider a water softener or filtration system. RJ 2.0