IN THIS ISSUE
How Does Your Water
Supply Get Treated?
Water Quality Concerns
Twin Tank Softeners
Rising Salt Levels in Lakes
Current Water News
Pure Water Occasional
April 14, 2017
In this issue you'll learn about water's journey between source and tap. Then, the current national view regarding drinking water quality. You will hear about the cost-effective and resourceful twin tank water softener. Plus, how decreasing the amount of salt applied to icy roads can protect residential lakes. Also, a summary of the current water news. And, as always, there is much, much more.
Thanks for reading!
For article archives and links to top daily water news, please visit the Pure Water Gazette.
How Water Is Treated for Use in Homes
If you live in a city . . .
your water comes to you in pipes from a municipal water supplier that gets water from lakes and rivers and sometimes wells, treats it a bit to make it clear, odor-free, germ-free, non-corrosive, and generally palatable, then pumps it through a maze of pipes to your home.
As part of its treatment, the city water plant adds chlorine or a mixture of chlorine and ammonia called chloramine to the water to kill pathogens. The treatment plant also adds other chemicals to clarify the water and prevent corrosion in pipes. Some cities also add an industrial waste product called fluoride which is believed to prevent tooth decay.
Between the city water plant and the home lie miles of pipe, some of it very old, made of a variety of materials and in varying states of repair. The water is affected a lot by pipe materials and by contaminants that can enter the water if the pipe leaks or is broken. The water that leaves the treatment plant is not the same water that enters the home. A lot of things happen to it along the way.
Most city water plants do a praiseworthy job of taking some pretty dirty raw water from a lake or river, getting the mud and sticks out of it and turning it into water that is clear, tastes good, and won’t cause a cholera epidemic. They supply water that is of really high quality for hosing down driveways and flushing toilets. People who have watched a plumber cut open a pipe entering their home, however, usually don’t feel good about drinking their tap water anymore, or even bathing in it.
This very decent water delivered by the city can be made excellent in the home, which is, after all, where the fine polishing of water should take place. Home treatment makes much more sense than trying to supply top quality drinking water for flushing toilets and mopping floors.
Point of entry treatment for city water most often consists of cartridge or tank-style activated carbon filters to remove disinfectants (chlorine or chloramine). If the water is “hard” (meaning that it has lots of calcium and magnesium in it), it can be treated with a conventional water softener or one of the several newer “salt-free” alternatives. Treatment for hardness is mainly done to protect pipes and fixtures and to make water more aesthetically pleasing. Adding a point-of-entry ultraviolet (UV) unit to assure bacteria-free, cyst-free water for the whole home is becoming more popular, especially in light of the increasing number of “boil water” alerts.
For point-of-use treatment for the water that you’re going to drink, cook with, or make ice with, a variety of countertop and under-the-sink systems are available, from simple, very tight carbon filters that improve taste and odor and remove chemicals to the more comprehensive treatment, reverse osmosis. The real king of point-of-use drinking water systems is reverse osmosis. A good undersink reverse osmosis unit can provide top quality drinking water for a moderate cost. RO, as it’s called, removes virtually anything one would want removed from water, including the more difficult contaminants like arsenic, lead, chromium 6, fluoride, chloramines, trihalomethanes, and a wide range of pesticides, herbicides, “pharmaceuticals,” and so-called “emerging contaminants."
If you live outside the city . . .
your water usually comes to you from a well on your own property. A well is essentially a hole in the ground with a pipe through which water in an underground pool is sucked up to the surface. It's like drinking from a glass with a drinking straw. Also, many non-city dwellers pull their water through pipes directly from a pond or stream and treat it themselves.
If you have a well or draw water from a lake or river, you are your own water treatment superintendent, so you need to pay attention to what you're about. The first thing you should do is get a good, comprehensive water test. This will cost you a couple of hundred dollars, but it will pay for itself easily in what you'll save by not purchasing unnecessary or inappropriate equipment. If the test shows that your water is perfect, the peace of mind you gain will pay for the test.
The reason the well test is needed is that you don't have the benefit of the testing that's done for your with city water. If there's arsenic in the city's water source, the city is obligated to take care of it and to tell you about it. If there's arsenic in your well, the only way you'll know is by having a good test done.
With private water sources there is a much greater chance that extreme treatment will be needed. Here are some of the common issues with well, river and pond water, along with some of the ways they can be corrected.
Bacteria - pathogens like E. coli can be controlled by chlorination or ultraviolet treatment.
Iron and manganese - treated with iron filters that often require pre-treatment with aeration or chlorine. Also treated with water softeners.
Hydrogen Sulfide (rotten egg odor) - treated by chlorination or aeration followed by filtration.
Arsenic, Chromium - reverse osmosis for drinking water. (Frequently left untreated for point of entry.)
Pesticide, Herbicide, general chemical contamination - Carbon filtration.
Tannins (tea colored water) - Ion exchange and carbon filtration.
Sand, Sediment - Backwashing or cartridge style sediment filters.
Americans' Concerns About Water Quality Are Growing
A new poll finds Americans are more concerned about their drinking water than they are about any other environmental issue.
The U.S. population appears to be more concerned with polluted water than it has been in over a decade, just as the Trump administration is rolling back water protections.
According to a new Gallup poll, 63 percent of respondents said they worried “a great deal” about pollution of drinking water, while 57 percent of overall respondents also said they were concerned about pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
The percentage of respondents with water concerns is at its highest level recorded in Gallup’s annual environmental poll since 2001. That number also surpasses the percentage of respondents who are concerned with the four other environmental issues included in the poll — air pollution, climate change, the loss of tropical rainforests and the extinction of plant and animal species.
The pollsters say respondents’ water pollution concerns are likely linked to the high-profile drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which has elevated an issue that is often out of sight and out of mind.
It appears that is particularly the case for lower-income and minority Americans who live in communities like Flint.
The poll found that lower-income respondents were far more concerned with water pollution than more affluent ones. The same was true for non-white respondents, 80 percent of whom said they were concerned with water pollution, compared to just 56 percent of white respondents. These findings did not come as a surprise to water experts.
Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research at the Environmental Working Group, said the situation in Flint is just one example of a water quality concern likely weighing on Americans’ minds. A report released last year found that 5.2 million Americans' drinking water supplies are tainted with cancer-linked synthetic chemicals.
“People who may have been complacent about water quality in the past have realized that there should not be complacency, that there is an issue and we should take it seriously,” Leiba told The Huffington Post. “The reality is setting in because real examples are happening.”
Though some of these examples have been many years in the making, the poll’s findings take on heightened meaning at a time when the Trump administration is pushing to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s “waters of the U.S.” Clean Water Rule and slash the EPA's budget significantly ― actions that could impair the agency’s ability to effectively intervene in future crises.
Michael Kelly, spokesman for Clean Water Action, a national advocacy group, said the heightened concerns amid these proposed cuts to the EPA were “not a coincidence.”
“I think people are seeing the assault that is coming from the Trump administration and Congress and it focuses them,” Kelly said. “People know we can’t do much if we don’t have access to clean water, so when they see those things being put at risk, they’ll tell pollsters they’re concerned.”
Advocates are confident these concerns won’t be dissipating anytime soon, even in light of positive developments in Flint.
Last week, on the heels of news that the EPA will award $100 million to the city, Flint and the state of Michigan agreed to a plan to replace the city’s lead water lines by 2020.
At the same time, other cuts President Donald Trump has proposed for water initiatives have raised serious concerns among environmental and public health groups.
Among those cuts is the proposed elimination of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $498 million water and wastewater loan and grant program, which helps struggling rural water utilities fix their infrastructure systems. Cutting the program, advocates fear, could devastate small towns that are already struggling to consistently deliver safe drinking water to their residents.
Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute think tank, which studies water policies, believes these kinds of cuts will “massively weaken rather than strengthen” federal water protection efforts — and that won’t go unnoticed by voters.
“We know from history that the more these issues are ignored by or actively worsened by politicians, the more the public cares and acts,” Gleick said. “Politicians who ignore growing threats to our tap water do so at their own risk.”
Source: The Huffington Post.
Twin Tank Softeners Are the Most Efficient Softeners Made
One of the most underrated “green” products available is the twin tank water softener. Although the initial cost is more, twin softeners can pay for themselves in water and salt savings. They also offer the satisfaction of being the most environmentally friendly of conventional water softeners.
A twin softener is essentially two identically-sized water softener resin tanks joined and controlled by a single softener valve. The control valve can be either a timer or a metered regeneration style, with metered being strongly preferred for this type softener.
To dispel a common misconception about twin softening units, the two tanks work one at a time. That is, you don’t get double softening. A single softener tank is more than adequate to reduce the hardness of most residential water to virtual zero. The twin unit operates by keeping one of its tanks in reserve. When the capacity of tank one is reached, the control valve immediately puts tank two into service, so that there can never be a time when hard water is being sent to the home, as can happen with single tank softeners. Even when a tank is being regenerated, soft water is being delivered to the home. And, unlike the single tank unit, twin units use soft water for regeneration.
Since the switch from one tank to the other can be made at any time of the day or night, no “reserve” needs to be programmed into the softener. With conventional one-tank units, a certain amount of the tank’s capacity–usually about one day’s expected usage–is always held in reserve. This is accomplished by simply programming the softener to regenerate a day early. By conservative estimate, this “reserve” requirement is responsible for about 15% of the salt and water used by a single-tank softener. Simple arithmetic tells you that if a softener that regenerates once a week always regenerates one day early, in a year it will simply throw away 48 days worth of its softening capacity. And what is really being tossed away is water and salt.
Twin tank units are especially good for applications that require a long, uninterrupted supply of soft water. For example, if a softener is used to pretreat hard water for a large reverse osmosis unit, it is difficult to assure that the reverse osmosis unit will not demand water when the softener is regenerating. A twin tank unit solves this problem by providing a never ending supply of soft water.
One of our local customers is a yogurt store that needs to protect its expensive yogurt machines from scaling. Yogurt machines run around the clock and it would be very impractical to turn them off so that a conventional water softener can regenerate its resin bed. A twin softener is a perfect solution. It provides an endless supply of treated water with fully automatic operation with no need to maintain a “reserve.”
Twin softeners are the most water and salt efficient softeners made. They regenerate less frequently because no "reserve" capacity has to be calculated. They have the added advantage of performing the regeneration with softened water, assuring a cleaner and more complete regeneration. Twin softeners are especially useful for applications requiring long service cycles that need an uninterrupted supply of soft water.
Lakes are getting dangerously salty, and it’s our fault
by Mary Beth Griggs
Salt. You might be happy to have it in your pasta water and your oceans, but in your friendly neighborhood freshwater lake, it’s an unwelcome intruder.
Unfortunately, salt is butting into lakes more and more frequently as humans move closer and closer to lakes, pouring increasing amounts of salt on the roads in the winter. In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers looked at 371 lakes scattered across the northern United States and southern Canada from Minnesota and Michigan to Maine and Ontario, an area known as the North American Lakes Region.
The researchers scoured public records to find relatively large lakes (covering about 10 acres) with 10 years worth of data about the water body’s chloride levels. Then they looked at the area surrounding the lake to see how many roads were nearby. If even one percent of the land surface within a buffer zone extending 1,640 feet from the lakeshore was paved, then the lake was extremely likely to have rising salinity levels.
“Lakes are really good at showing long term environmental change,” says lead study author Hilary Dugan. Unlike rivers, which tend to show salt contamination in steep spikes, lakes show a steady change over time.
Many kinds of salt used on roads are chemically similar to table salt—NaCL—or sodium chloride. The presence of salt messes with water’s ability to freeze into a slippery, icy layer on the roads in winter. But when the weather warms, all that salt gets washed off the impervious road surfaces, sidewalks, and parking lots. It ends up accumulating in the soil, and eventually getting washed out by rain and snowmelt into surface waters like lakes and streams as sodium and chloride components.
Just like having too much salt is bad for you, too much chloride can be bad for the environment. It can kill off plants, and make waters less hospitable for native plants and algae.
Salt becomes noticeable in drinking water at about 300 milligrams per liter, or one teaspoon of salt in five gallons of water, says Dugan. That’s when you start tasting the difference, and it’s around that concentration that salt starts to put stress on freshwater plants and animals, which have adapted to live in extremely fresh water.
Road salt impacts the environment in other ways as well. While on the road, it can attract salt-loving animals like deer, increasing the possibility of both roadkill and traffic accidents.
Chloride can also make water more corrosive. In Flint, Michigan, researchers found that the chloride from road salt made the water in the Flint River so corrosive that when the city switched water sources, the water ate away at the lead pipes, creating the ongoing water crisis.
But there is still hope.
“The good news is that we can always improve water quality,” Dugan says. Unlike phosphorus or other pollutants that can lurk in sediments in a lakebed for long periods of time, chlorides stay in the water column, and can gradually be flushed out of a lake as new water enters the lake. “If you improve the water going into a lake you have the potential to freshen the lake,” Dugan says.
Daunted by the rising price of salt, governments have already started to adopt more conservative salt-use measures, only using the amount necessary to ensure public safety. But homeowners can help cut back too. A single 12 oz coffee cup is all you need to salt a 20-foot length of driveway. Dugan also recommends only salting at temperatures that you know will be effective. Below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, dry salt on a surface is useless, and won’t prevent ice from forming.
Dugan says that while this is the largest study of its kind—analyzing salinity levels in lakes across a broad region—there are still plenty of questions to answer, including what happens over time as conservation measures are put in place, and people start using less salt.
We started sprinkling salt on the roads back in the 1940’s and have kept at it ever since. That’s tons of salt lurking in the environment, in soils, and other surfaces. Even if we start making changes to how we handle winter weather, it will take awhile to get all that salt out of our systems.
Source: Popular Science
Prototype device can create hydrogen peroxide for on-site water treatment
Scientists at Stanford University have developed a small device capable of converting oxygen and water to hydrogen peroxide. It is powered by two standard solar panels and can produce a powerful, concentrated water disinfectant in remote areas for a very low price.
Resolution to lead and water infrastructure issue in Flint, Michigan
A late-March court decision requires the city of Flint and the state of Michigan to replace lead and galvanized steel water infrastructure pipes throughout the city within three years. The enforceable settlement also continues the provision of water filters and bottled water to city residents in addition to long-term tap water testing. The $97 million allotted for this project will be provided by both federal and state funds.
Short-term Water Shortage in Pakistan
A critical water shortage in Pakistan, prompted by low river flows, was averted late last month when rising temperatures resulted in glacial melt. The increase in water supply arrived just in time to avoid withholding water allotments to farmers.
Privatization of Water in Miami, FL
City managers in Miami, Florida have voted to begin negotiations with one of four private firms to take over operation of a northern regional public water utilities facility. In a packed city hall meeting, protesters expressed concern over placing a public water supply into the hands of a private company.
New Technology Makes Seawater Drinkable
In the push for new water desalination technologies, researchers in the UK have developed a seawater filter membrane made of graphene. The carbon-based material has electrical conductivity and great tensile strength setting it apart from other, widely-used membranes.
Group Protests Nestle Pumping
A group is protesting water extraction from the San Bernardino National Forest by the bottled water company Nestle, claiming the state is allowing the company to take water without paying fees and then sell it back for huge profits. The National Forest Service recently renewed Nestle’s permit for the next five years after discovering it had originally expired in 1988.
The Successful Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Project is Being Abandoned by the Trump Budget
President Donald Trump's first proposed federal budget, dubbed "America First," includes some $54 billion in defense spending increases to be "offset by targeted reductions elsewhere," including the elimination of all $73 million in federal fundings that helps pay for programs in Virginia and other states to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The potential loss of the bay cleanup money has united congressional Republicans and Democrats from Virginia, Maryland and elsewhere in opposition and stunned the foundation that has spearheaded the "Save the Bay" effort for decades. The president of the organization that has been working for years to clean up the bay said the budget proposal, if approved by Congress, would "slam the door" on a recovery that has been a model of federal and state bipartisan cooperation but remains "very fragile." The struggle to clean up the bay originated with President Reagan, who called for the cleanup of the bay in his 1984 State of the Union address. A proponent of the cleanup said that abandoning the effort with allow the bay to "revert to a national disgrace."
Thanks for reading and be on the lookout for the next Occasional!