The Pure Water Occasional for February 9, 2015

In this pre-Lincoln's Birthday Occasional, you'll hear about gluten-free water, medical marijuana,  troubled salmon, big manure spills, fracking fluid shenanigans, water problems at Puget Sound, the Poseidon plant, a big septic project in California, solar desalination in Pakistan and elsewhere, and drought-tolerant plants. Then there are snow surveys, dogs poisoned by lake water, an ethanol spill into the Mississippi, and a boil water alert in Thomasville, SC. Finally, there's light focused on the ongoing mysteries of the missing BP oil, ANSI/NSF certification,  and diverter valves.  And, as always, there is much, much more.

The Pure Water Occasional is a project of Pure Water Products and the Pure Water Gazette.

To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette's website,  please go here.  (Recommended! When you read online you get the added advantage of the Gazette's sidebar feed of the very latest world water news.)

You'll sing better.

Drought-hit Pakistan turns to solar water treatment

By Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio

Worsening drought has led to over 80 percent of water resources in Pakistan’s southern Tharparker district becoming unfit for people to drink, a new study says.

That has led to plans by the Sindh provincial government to invest 5.4 billion Pakistani rupees ($53 million) in installing 750 solar-powered reverse osmosis water purification plants across the sprawling desert district, to help get safe drinking water to the region’s over 1.5 million people.

All of the facilities are expected to be set up and working by June this year, the government said.

Residents living near a first plant, inaugurated in January in the Misri Shah area of Mithi, the district headquarters of Tharparker, say it is transforming life in the parched region, where vanishing rain and drying groundwater supplies mean most available water is now saline or too high in fluoride.

Hardly less than a miracle

"It is really hardly less than a miracle for us that we can now drink sweet and clean water, for the first time in my entire life,” said 45-year-old Rekha Meghwar of Mithi, as she turns on the water plant’s tap to fill her pitcher.

Billed as the ‘Asia’s largest (by capacity) solar-powered water purification plant’, the facility will treat 3 million gallons of water daily, enough to meet the water needs of 300,000 people in Mithi and in 80 adjoining villages, according to officials in the Mithi town municipal office.

Constructed at a cost of 400 million Pakistani rupees or $4 million, the plant is expected to particularly benefit women, who currently often must fetch water from far-away hand-dug wells.

Sunita Bheel, a woman waiting in line for water from the new Mithi plant, said women in the area often walk two kilometers a day to fetch water from a hand-dug well owned by a landlord outside the village.


Effect of migration

Local people said having water available for themselves, and their livestock, may stem increasing waves of migration from the area.

Anil Kumar, who lives in Morrey-Jee-Waand village, a few miles from Mithi, said 80 percent of people in his village and in seven other villages around it migrated last September to other areas in the region with supplies of dam water in an effort to find potable water for themselves and their livestock, and to seek jobs after crops failed.

"But they are now gradually returning to their villages when they learn about the sweet water (plant),” said the 65-year-old guar farmer, who looks after the property and belongings of neighbors who have migrated.

Today, Kumar rides every other day on his mule, strapped with two empty 30-liter drums, to the filtration plant to bring back water, he said.

Access to useable water is a key problem in drought-hit Tharparkar. Barely 5 percent of the population has access to clean and disease-free potable water, according to a study by Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) and the Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR).

One reason for this has been worsening fluoride contamination of underground water sources as less water recharges the drying system. The study found that the fluoride level at many locations in Tharparkar is at dangerous levels of over 13 mg/liter compared to the 1 mg/liter considered normal.

Excessive fluoride intake, from sources with more than 1.5 mg/liter of fluoride in the water, can cause problems such as bone deformation, dental problems, and damage to the kidneys and thyroid.


 No rain, no rivers

Tharparkar depends heavily on rain-fed ground water, as it has no rivers. It receives an average annual rainfall between 200 and 300 millimeters, 80 percent of it during summer monsoon season, which runs from July to September. The rainfall recharges groundwater that must then last for the other three quarters of the year.

Since 2011, however, average annual rainfall each year has been less than 50 percent of normal, straining further already depleting groundwater resources, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department.

“Given the current grim state of water woes, establishment of water purification plants is a welcome move,” said Abdul Hafeez, the country manager at WaterAid – UK, a global water charity.

But water shortages in the area could be solved even more effectively by tripling the amount of rainwater harvesting going on in the district, he said.

Article Source: Reuters.

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

Water News for the week of February 9, 2015

Manure spills putting water supply at risk. Environmental advocacy groups say pollution from liquified manure is one of the biggest hazards for Wisconsin's drinking wells and waterways.

Golden Gate hears concerns over Stinson Beach septic overhaul. To prevent rising sea levels from causing coastal groundwater contamination in Stinson Beach, California, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is planning a $2.35 million project.

Fracking Fluids in Aquifers

Regulators have been rumbling down a dangerous path in a state suffering through a serious drought.

The Associated Press reported this week that California officials have authorized oil companies to inject fracking waste into federally protected aquifers, putting underground water supplies at risk.

While many of the permits were issued decades ago, The AP reports that 46 percent have been approved in the past four years.  Full Story from the Desert Sun.

The $1 billion Poseidon Water desalination plant (shown above in an artist's rendering superimposed on an aerial photograph), now under construction in Carlsbad, California, will be the biggest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere.

The oceans have long taunted those who thirst.

Records dating to A.D. 200 show that sailors boiled seawater and used sponges to absorb fresh water from the steam. Today, desalination is more sophisticated: multistage flash distillation, reverse osmosis, electrodialysis, and more.

But one thing hasn't changed since the time of the ancient mariners: It takes a lot of energy to squeeze drinkable water from salt water. So even though more than 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, civilization has quenched its thirst mainly by tapping the one percent of world water that is unfrozen and fresh.

The one notable exception: Oil-rich Saudi Arabia and neighboring arid nations have used their wealth to purify ocean water. Yet their water demand is rising with population growth and industrialization at the same time that climate change is shrinking supply. Oil states, which depend on selling crude overseas for revenue, are loath to burn more barrels to keep drinking water flowing at home. So some aim to fuel new desalination operations with another abundant resource—the sun.

Other water-starved regions around the world want to do the same.

"Desalination is energy-intensive, but it doesn't have to be fuel-intensive," said Aaron Mandell, co-founder and chair of WaterFX, one of the companies pioneering the renewables approach. "That's what really matters. The focus should be not so much on consumption, but where the energy comes from."

Read the rest in National Geographic.

Loving the Puget Sound to Death. Ringed by the white-capped Cascade and Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound looks pristine. But four decades after the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, regulators haven’t kept up with the pressures of growing populations near America’s shorelines, here or elsewhere in the country.

Patch of California emerges from drought, experts say. After years of historically low rain totals and record-setting temperatures, California’s drought situation is looking ... less awful.

Can scientists engineer drought-tolerant plants? As the California drought enters its fourth year, scientists are trying to genetically engineer plants that survive on less water.

DFW water planners seek $1.8 billion in state funding. Money from the state's newly created water bank would fund projects including construction of Lake Ralph Hall in Fannin County and a 149-mile pipeline to move water from East Texas.

Wildly swinging river water levels are hurting salmon.The water level in Puget Sound rivers is fluctuating more wildly of late, and that means bad news for threatened salmon species, according to a new NOAA report.

Snow surveyors have fun, but data deadly serious.  About 55 students—from 12 states, Canada, a Montana tribe, three utilities and the federal government—are here at Lake Tahoe to learn the art of snow surveying. It's a crucial task in the West, where snowpack provides up to 80 percent of the water supply.

Can sun and wind make more salt water drinkable? Here are four arid regions looking to renewables for the energy-intensive work of squeezing drinkable water from the ocean.

Dogs die from East Bay lake toxic algae blooming caused by drought. Stemming from California's drought, three pet dogs have died after lapping up water in a popular recreation lake fouled by toxic algae flourishing in scarce rain and runoff.

A bill was introduced to address the impact on water of medical marijuana cultivation.

Solving L.A.'s water problems by turning it into a giant sponge. As California's drought problems continue, every drop of water that hits the ground needs saving.

A leaking fire hydrant lead to a boil water alert in Timmonsville, SC.

Impassioned Letter to the Editor sheds light on Detroit water protest.

Ethanol from derailed train leaking into Mississippi River. Railroad officials said Thursday it's unclear how much ethanol has leaked into the Mississippi River from a train that derailed a day earlier in eastern Iowa.

Is pH a red herring when it comes to ocean acidification? New research points to saturation state, not pH, as the most pressing metric to track when it comes to shellfish survival.

Scientists may have finally solved the mystery of the missing BP oil. According to recently published papers, while everyone was frenetically searching the waters for oil, millions of gallons of it quietly sank to the ocean floor.



ANSI/NSF: What's it all about?

by Gene Franks

Editor's Note:  This article first appeared in the Pure Water Occasional for April 2010.

A standard question about water treatment products these days is to ask if they are "NSF certified." For our products, the answer isn't simple. Some of them carry full third-party certification, some have certification on some of their components, and some aren't certified at all. And some have certification from third parties that have no affiliation with NSF.

"Is your product NSF certified?"  implies--and most take it to mean--that there is some federally sponsored (N for national) certifying agency, probably a branch of the EPA, that  "certifies" products the way that USDA puts its stamp on the rump of a dead pig making it an officially edible ham.  That isn't the way it works at all.

First, NSF isn't a government agency.  NSF used to stand for National Sanitation Foundation, but it is my understanding that the letters don't "stand for" anything now, and the corporate name is simply NSF, a.k.a. NSF International.  NSF started in 1944 when a couple of University of Michigan professors saw a need to set up safety standards for lunch counters and took it upon themselves to start such a service as a university activity.  The agency over the years separated from the university and  grew into a very large and well funded non-profit corporation.

So, how did NSF get the right to dictate "standards" for water treatment devices (and a host of other commercial products)?

Just as you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, you normally don't need NSF certification to tell you that water from a water filter is gluten free.

Actually, it didn't.   ANSI, the American National Standards Institute,  is the official certifying agency in the US.  (Canada has its equivalent in the Standards Council of Canada,  SCC.)   The US EPA, Health Canada, as well as all states of the US and all provinces of Canada rely on ANSI and SCC to determine the standards that are accepted for third party certification of products.

So, where does NSF fit in?  NSF plays a double role in the certification process.  First, it "authors" standards, at ANSI's behest, and it is also one of the many agencies that are licensed to perform the testing that is required in the standards for product certification. ANSI/NSF standards are standards prepared by NSF under the authority and approval of ANSI.

NSF is only one of many agencies that are authorized to test products to the standards set by NSF/ANSI.   Others that are equally empowered to perform the rites of certification include the Water Quality Association (WQA), Underwriter Laboratories (UL), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Truesdail Laboratories, Mechanical Officials, and the International Association of Plumbing, among others.

So, when a product is said to be "tested to ANSI/NSF" standards, this means that the product has been tested to standards authored by NSF for ANSI and tested by either NSF or another ANSI-approved testing agency (like the WQA), or even tested by a non-certified third party tester using NSF/ANSI standards.

Something that is often not understood is that if you want to research a product's certification, you must know the testing agency.  The NSF website lists only products tested by NSF's testing division.  Products tested to NSF standards by, for example, the International Association of Plumbing, are not listed on NSF's website. There is no central registrar for all NSF/ANSI tested products.  Each testing agency keeps its own records.  If a product advertiser claims "NSF certification" and you go to NSF's website for verification and can't find it, it doesn't mean that the advertiser is (or isn't) lying.

What All This Means

There is much confusion in the public mind about what "NSF Certification" means.  What it does not necessarily mean is that the certified product is "guaranteed to work," or that a level of performance is guaranteed.  There are numerous NSF/ANSI standards that apply to water treatment products.  Not all address performance, although advertisers frequently imply that superior performance is guaranteed simply because their product is "NSF certified."

Here are the standards that water treatment devices are most frequently tested and certified under:

STANDARD 42: Drinking Water Treatment Devices - Aesthetic Effects

STANDARD 44: Cation Exchange Water Softeners

STANDARD 53: Drinking Water Treatment Devices - Health Effects

STANDARD 55: Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Systems

STANDARD 58: Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Treatment Systems

STANDARD 62: Drinking Water Distillation Systems


Most manufacturers of water treatment devices present their certification information in a straightforward manner that really tells you what their certification covers.  As an example, here's how KX Industries, the nation's largest maker of extruded carbon block filters, labels one of our favorite products, the MatiriKX PB1 filter cartridge. KX displays this certificate on the product's fact sheet:

The MATRIKX® + Pb1 is
Tested and Certified by
NSF International under
NSF/ANSI Standard 42
for material
requirements only.



What this says is that NSF International (the testing branch of NSF) has performed the necessary tests to certify the product under the materials requirements only of Standard 42 prepared by NSF for ANSI.  The materials requirement under Standard 42 gives you the assurance that the materials used in the product are safe and non-toxic and that the cartridge isn't adding anything to the water that will cause harm.  (If Chinese toys were certified under this standard, you could let your child gnaw on them without concern.) Standard 42 materials certification makes no guarantee of performance.


In addition to this actual certification, the manufacturer's sheet informs that lead reduction, chlorine, taste/odor, turbidity and cyst reduction claims are "based on NSF/ANSI Standard 53."  This means that KX didn't actually submit the cartridge for NSF/ANSI certification under Standard 53 (a health effects performance standard) but that it was tested (by KX or an unspecified third party) and found to perform at the specified levels as determined by NSF/ANSI Standard 53.  (In the case of the PB1, an additional label indicates that the testing to NSF/ANSI standards was done by the Water Quality Association's testing division.)

Why  would KX Industries not just have its PB1 cartridge NSF/ANSI certified? Mainly, the cost.  It costs literally tens of thousands of dollars to obtain and maintain NSF/ANSI certification.  Many manufacturers use certification as a selling tool.  They spend  large amounts maintaining product certification and they advertise their products accordingly, usually with the implication that uncertified products are not to be trusted.  Other manufacturers--KX Industries, for example, as well as many other highly respected manufacturers--rely more on their own reputation and experience than third-party certification to sell their products.  The lower price they are able to charge because of the the money saved on certification gives an added selling advantage.

Certification is important.  It gives the customer confidence that the product meets a certain standard--either in materials it is made from or in its performance.  But if you limit yourself to products that are NSF/ANSI certified you may be depriving yourself of some really superior products as well as spending more than you need to.

"Let the buyer beware" is a two-edged sword.  It isn't good to buy an inferior product, but no one likes the idea of paying an extra $20 for a filter cartridge to support the manufacturer's advertising campaign.

Source: Pure Water Occasional.



Pure Water Annie's FAQ Series

Pure Water Gazette Technical Wizard Pure Water Annie Answers All the Persistent Questions about Water Treatment.

This week's topic: Faucet Diverter Valves.

 What are diverter valves used for?

The main use in water treatment is to change the direction of flowing water--to send a water stream a in a different direction for a purpose.  The most common usage is with countertop water filters, where the valve is used to divert the stream of water flowing into the sink so that it flows instead through the water filter.

The countertop filter sits beside the sink and gets its water from the diverter valve attached to the sink faucet.  It's circled in the picture.

Are there different kinds of valves?

Yes, the most standard is the type that diverts water running from the sink faucet through a single tube to the water filter. Another style, called a "return" diverter, diverts water to the filter, then dispenses the filtered water that has been returned to the valve through a separate tube. With the standard diverter water is dispensed through a spout on the water filter itself.  With the return style, a double hose assembly is needed, but there is no dispensing spout.

Standard diverter valve.  Tube that sends water to the filter is attached with the compression fitting on the right. (Cheaper valves often use "barbed" connectors to which the tube is pushed on.)  Pulling the knob on the left sends water to the water filter and the knob springs back to "off" position when the sink water is turned off.

"Return" diverter valve sends water to the filter exactly like the standard model, but filtered water is returned through a second hose to the small spout attached to the side of the valve.  The return hose attaches to the barbed connector in the picture.

What causes diverter valves to fail?

The most usual cause is calcium scale buid-up on the spring and other inner parts.

How do you fix a diverter valve if the knob sticks open and the spring fails to turn it off?

Suggested methods (sometimes they work, sometimes they don't) include soaking the entire valve in a weak acid like vinegar to dissolve the calcium buid-up on the spring, using a chemical descaler like LimeOut, or removing the valve from the sink faucet and dropping a couple of drops of vegetable oil into the small hole in the top of the valve where water enters the valve from the faucet. One of the best ways is to simply ignore the problem.  You'll find that manually turning off the water with a push of the finger really isn't a big deal. Or, you can replace the valve with another like it (Pure Water Products offers lifetime parts replacement on its countertop filters), or, you can replace the standard valve with a springless model that requires pushing for both on and off, as we've always done with light switches.  A springless, toggle-style diverter is shown below.

This diverter has no spring, and if you're up to this much exercise, you can push the plunger one way to turn the valve on and then push from the other side to turn it off.

Which is better, the "compression" diverter valves pictured on this page or the conventional diverters that are attached with a barbed fitting and in some models even clamped on with a machine so they can't be removed?

Since this is a part that, no matter how good it is, almost never lasts as long as the rest of the water filter, it's obvious that being able to replace it easily is a big advantage.  With some countertops, the entire hose assembly has to be changed in order to replace the diverter valve.

I tried but can't put the hose on a new barbed style diverter that I bought.  How do you do it?

The best way is to soak the tubing in fairly warm water for a few minutes.  This will usually expand the tubing and allow you to push it onto the barb.  When it cools,  the barb will hold it tight.

Other topics covered by Pure Water Annie's FAQ Series.




 Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories.  We also have dedicated parts pages for countertop water filters, undersink filters, and aeration equipment.  We stock parts for everything we sell.

Thank you for reading.  Please come back next week.

Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime.

Garden Hose Filters.  Don’t be the last on your block to own one.

Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”

Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”

An Alphabetical Index to Water Treatment Products

Our famous whole house Chloramine Catcher

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