July 2009
The Pure Water Gazette online edition is a joint project of the Pure Water Gazette and Pure Water Products.
Making Water Green
This issue looks at greenness, green heroes, the green bandwagon,  and the Green Revolution.  You'll hear of the mighty permeate pump, the amazing Vortech tank, the miserly low water piston, and a heroic scheme to burn reverse osmosis membranes as furnace fuel. News about the environmental cost of plastic bottles,  the kind of water Madonna drinks,  the very best and worst ways to obtain drinking water, and, as always, much, much more.
Making Water Green
by Gene Franks


Green, how I love you green
green wind, green branches
the boat on the sea
and the horse on the mountain

.-- Federico Garcia Lorca.

You've noticed, I'm sure, that we're in the middle of yet another Green Revolution.  Unlike previous Green Revolutions that featured Pete Seeger songs and checks printed on recycled paper, this Green Revolution is mostly about selling things.

Every company now has green versions of its standard products that are greener than the products of its competitors. And if you buy one, you get a plastic mug with a green slogan on it.

A trade organization we belong to has recently changed its name to Green Business Network and we are urged to increase our advertising in its directory: "Now that green has gone mainstream," they write, "it's critical for your business to stand out in the crowded green marketplace."  They further urge us to "educate" our customers "on who the true green heroes are." 

The water treatment industry has jumped into green marketing with maximum enthusiasm.  The big item is the water saving softener that uses less salt and less water than the water saving softener previously made with the same parts but with a different decal.  There are green projects too outrageous to mention without blushing.  One large company is organizing its franchisees to collect used reverse osmosis membranes from customers to be recycled as furnace fuel--a heroic scheme guaranteed to use five times as much energy as it could possibly produce. 

Most trade journals now feature articles telling water treatment dealers how to "go green" and how to "board the green bandwagon."  An official of a large softener/reverse osmosis marketer writes: "You have to let your customers know you are 'going green.' It's not just supplying a product that is green, but supplying  a whole marketing package that is green." 

So, in fear of not being recognized as the true green heroes that we are and being left behind when the big green bandwagon pulls out,  we would like to show you some of our very green  products.  Most of these aren't new products.  They're things we've sold for a long time, not because we were trying to paint ourselves green but because they are good equipment. 

I'll be brief.  There's more informatation about these on our websites.

The Permeate Pump

The permeate pump is a simple device that significantly enhances the performance of undersink reverse osmosis units.  It uses no electricity. It runs on hydro power from the drain water of a reverse osmosis unit. It has been around for several years.  The permeate pump can be purchased as an option on new reverse osmosis units, or it can be added to virtually any existing undersink reverse osmosis unit.  The cost is about $70.  It significantly improves the efficiency, the quality of the product water, and the delivery pressure of the reverse osmosis unit.  It's easy to install and it lasts for years.  It can save hundreds of gallons per year in water usage.  What could be greener than that?

Aeration Systems

Plain air can often substitute for chemicals like chlorine and potassium permanganate in the treatment of iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide in wells.  We offer and promote aeration  systems as an effective substitute for chemicals.  Our AerMax system features a compact air pump that requires a small amount of electricity but adds nothing objectionable to the water.  The cost is about the same as a chlorine-feeder system, but there's no ongoing chemical cost.  Air is still free, although Nestle and Coca Cola are working on ways to sell it to us.

Vortech Tanks

There's an innovative mineral tank for backwashing and upflow filters that is up to 30% more efficient than conventional gravel-loaded tanks.  We now use it for almost all our standard backwashing and upflow filters up to 13" X 54" in size.

Use of the Vortech tank not only saves energy  (there's no gravel to be mined or shipped),  but filters using it can be set up to work with only about 3/4 the backwash/rinse water of conventional tanks.   Recent tests indicated a water savings of 225 gallons per month and more for home installations with Vortech tanks. With iron filters,  where backwashing is frequent and intense, the water savings are much greater than for a city water carbon tank that requires infrequent backwashes. Even when our website doesn't say so, if you buy a backwashing filter from us you get a Vortech tank. Vortech units, incidentally, can often be sized smaller than conventional units because of the increased efficiency of the water flow through the system--a very green saving of materials, water, and money.

Low Water Backwash Option for City Water Filters

As far as I know, this is a simple idea that no one but us has thought of (green heroes that we are). 

The control module for the most popular backwashing filter used for home filters, the Fleck 5600,  comes from the manufacturer as a "one size fits all" design.  Filter makers build products with the worst case user in mind.  Iron filters need lots of backwash water, but if you buy a carbon filter for use on clean city water, you get the same control valve with the same backwash setup as the iron filter although you really need only a fraction of the backwash water.  We now offer the 5600 filter for city water units with a "low water piston" option factory installed.  The low water piston cuts the backwash and rinse time in half, and combined with the added efficiency of the Vortech tank, the filter uses less than half as much water as a 5600 backwash filter from another source.  (This product isn't on our website yet, but you can get it by phone.) The price is the same as our standard backwashing filters.

No-Salt Scale Preventer

We have Watts Scalenet Units that perform one of the essential functions of the conventional water softener--the prevention of scale build-up in pipes and appliances. These units use no salt, have no brine discharge, and require no water for regeneration. (Don't mistake Scalenet units for a water softener.  Softeners do a few things that substitutes don't.)

Undersink and Countertop Filters

People often don't realize that much of the heavy lifting in water treatment--for example, the  reduction of such difficult contaminants as arsenic, fluoride, and nitrates--that was once the exclusive province of reverse osmosis units can now be done with simple filters. Filters are better than they used to be. For example, fluoride reduction is one of the primary reasons that people purchase reverse osmosis units.  Improved filter technology, however, now can provide effective fluoride reduction without water usage.  (Our "Enhanced Performance" undersink fluoride filter is a unique advance in fluoride filtration.  It uses standard fluoride reduction technology in a much improved design.) 

Filters can now be designed to remove such difficult contaminants as bacteria, cysts (giardia and cryptosporidium), nitrates, fluoride, arsenic, lead, chloramines, and other contaminants that were once only treated by more intensive technologies. Filters require no electricity and use no processing water.  Every drop that goes in comes out as usable water.


Ultraviolet, UV, is a clean technology that adds no chemicals to water and requires no water to operate.  It uses a small amount of electricity.  In most cases it can substitute for chlorine or other chemical disinfectants for protection against bacteria, cysts, and viruses.  For clean water with a bacteria problem, a small UV unit can replace a chlorine pump, a large holding tank, and a large carbon filter. 

That should be enough to show you what truly green heroes we are.

Using Water: What It Means

Water use is unique as an environmental issue because recycling is built into the system.  With water, we recycle whether we want to or not. A friend says that unless water leaves the planet, it is never wasted  That's why saying that a reverse osmosis unit "wastes water" makes no sense. More correctly, a reverse osmosis unit uses water, much in the same way that a dishwasher or a lawn sprinkler uses water.  A reverse osmosis unit doesn't send the water to Mars;  it uses it to rinse away impurities, then sends it down the drain to be reused.  That's what your clothes washer does, but we seldom hear people denounce washing machines for "wasting" water.

With water, the issue is often more about saving energy than saving water, since using water usually also involves using energy. A 2009 Pacific Institute study on the environmental consequences of the bottled water consumption concluded that "bottled water is up to 2000 times more energy-intensive than tap water. Similarly, bottled water that requires long-distance transport is far more energy-intensive than bottled water produced and distributed locally."  And we aren't talking about small amounts of energy.  The Pacific study estimated that between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil were used in bottled water production, packaging and delivery in 2007 in the U.S. alone.

We now have 300,000,000 Americans sharing essentially the same amount of fresh water that was once shared by 4,000,000 Americans.  Although we aren't sending any water to Mars, we're overusing it to the point that we are disrupting natural cycles.  For example, we're extracting ground water much faster than the natural process can replenish it and, as our generation has done with all our natural resources, we are stealing water from the future.  It's no small thing when the Nestle Corp. pumps the groundwater supply of a small community dry in order to truck the water to remote points for sale at a markup of hundreds of times what they paid for it.  It will take generations for the natural hydrological cycle to restore the groundwater.  The short-sighted city council that sold the water rights to meet its current needs has stolen from the future.   

The Energy Cost of Drinking Water

Using the vast research facilities of the Pure Water Gazette,  I've made a comprehensive ranking of the previously uncountable ways of obtaining drinking water.  These are ranked in order of environmental impact, from least to most harmful.  This list is hundreds of miles long, but I'll list only a few representative items.


Numerical Ranking and Description of Drinking Water Source Comment
1. Stand in the rain with mouth open, face turned upward. The ultimate in green drinking.  This practice diverts a small amount of water from its natural course, but otherwise has no negative environmental impact.
2. Walk to the nearest river, barefoot, get on hands and knees and lap water from the river. A close second. Note that there's no wear on shoes and no container to be manufactured or washed. 
376. Drink municipal water straight from the tap by holding your mouth under the faucet. Note that there is no container to be manufactured or washed.
466. Drink municipal water straight from the tap by means of a reusable container (a.k.a. a drinking glass or cup).  Exact ranking can, of course, change depending on the material of the glass and the method used to wash it.
764. Drink water produced by a high quality countertop water filter (like a Model 77.) This high ranking of 764th assumes that the cartridge is changed as recommended but the spent cartridge is not "recycled."  Recycling of small water filter cartridges is mainly a marketing ploy and it has a negative environmental impact.  
1596. Drink water from a high quality multi-cartridge undersink water filter.  Again, the assumption is that the spent cartridges are not recycled.
2188. Drink water from a high quality undersink reverse osmosis unit. This is an average ranking.  Undersink RO units, of course, vary considerably in greenness.
2387. Drink bottled water purchased in a store where you regularly shop and where the water is produced on the site and sold to people who bring their own bottles.  The high ranking assumes that you do not make special trips to the store but buy your water when you're there to do your regular shopping.  This is by far the most efficient way to buy bottled water and it actually rivals having your own reverse osmosis unit.  Big RO units used in stores use some electricity, but they're more efficient in the use of rinse water than smaller home units.
4945. Drink water produced by your own home distiller. Most distillers don't use much water, but they use a lot of electricity. Distiller vendors often cluck their tongues at the amount of water that reverse osmosis units "waste," but they don't mention that home distillers are electricity hogs and that they put usually unwanted heat and moisture into the home that has to be removed by air conditioning.  It's also a major drag to the environment when a distiller catches fire.  
79,221.  Buy water that's produced and bottled in your own country in non-reusable plastic bottles. "To satisfy global demands, the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil per year is used just to produce the bottles, primarily made of PET plastic, almost all of which are currently made from virgin,not recycled, material." --Pacific Institute Bottle Water Report, cited above.  
84,322.  Buy water bottled in France or the Bongo Islands in non-reusable bottles and shipped across the ocean. No comment necessary.
126,431 and last.  Buy water like Madonna,  who spends $10,000 per month on bottled water, that is specially blessed then jetted to where-ever she is at the moment.     Blessed water has a short shelf life.  We do not know the environmental consequences of blessing water, but jet planes use lots of fuel.


Useful Links to more information

Permeate Pump

AerMax Aeration Systems

Vortech Mineral Tanks

Watts Scale Preventer

Pura Ultraviolet Systems

Model 77 Countertop Filter

Undersink Drinking Water Filters

Black & White Reverse Osmosis