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Basic Water Treatment

One of the things we take for granted nearly every day is clean drinking water. When we are looking for a new home or business building, we automatically assume that it will have clean, running water. While this is not faulty thinking, have you ever wondered where your water comes from and how it is processed to be ready for use and consumption? In this article, you will learn where your water comes from, how it’s cleaned, the differences between public and private water treatment and why good water quality is so important. 

water treatmentWhere does our water come from?

The first part of water treatment is collecting it. Natural or untreated water is collected from underground aquifers, like a well or from a surface source such as a lake or river. It then either flows or is pumped to a water treatment facility.  

How does water treatment work?

Once the water arrives at the treatment facility, it is pre-treated in order to remove larger debris like silt and leaves. After that, the water will undergo a sequence of treatments. These include filtration and disinfection. Filtration and disinfection occur using either chemicals or a physical process. These treatments eliminate any disease-causing microorganisms.  

 Once the water completes this treatment regimen, it travels through a labyrinth of pipes and pumps known as a distribution system. 

In-home Water Treatment 

water treatmentIf you decide that you want even more filtration for your household water, there are in-home water treatment options that you can have installed. Known as Point-of-Use treatment systems, they treat your water at the point of consumption. The typical POU devices include:

Point-of-Entry devices treat water intended for household uses such as laundry, dishes, showering, brushing teeth and flushing toilets. These  include:  

  • Activated Carbon 
  • Ion Exchange
  • Filtration

Public  Distribution Systems Vs. Private Distribution Systems

water treatmentWater treatment and delivery systems fall into two primary groups: public and private. The main difference between the two is who controls the treatment facilities. 

The city or town served by the public water treatment facility typically owns and operates the facility. The facility usually falls under the management of the city or town’s elected official, such as a mayor.  

private water treatmentPrivate water treatment facilities vary in size and service area. An individual well that is supplying a single household and a small corporation that provides water to a small group of homes are both private water treatment facilities. So is a large company or business that has its own water service divisions.  

Regardless of the type of water treatment in question, they both must adhere to the water quality standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

Why is water quality important?

Water makes up 70% of the human body, making it vital to human life. The human body can go a month or more without food. Even a week without water, however, can be fatal. Not all water is beneficial, though. Drinking bad or unfiltered, untreated water can have severe health consequences, some even fatal.  

How does water quality affect humans?

water treatment

Giardia lamblia organism

The CDC states that the top causes of drinking water-related outbreaks are: 

  • Giardia
  • Shigella 
  • Norovirus 
  • Hepatitis A 

As scary as that sounds, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what can happen when you drink untreated water. Studies have shown high levels of lead in drinking water may cause delays in mental and physical development. Lead is also linked to learning difficulties and short attention spans in children. Again, this is just a short list of what can happen if you consume untreated water.  

hard water = more detergent neededHow are appliances affected?

Treated water also improves the performance of your water-using household appliances. Point-of-Use or Point-of-Entry filtration devices soften your water. Although hard water is not as detrimental as untreated water, it is still not an economical option.  

Water softeners remove the harsh minerals that lead to buildup on your appliances, pipes, tubs, sinks, and dishes. 

Hard water decreases your soap’s effectiveness, increasing the need for more soap or detergent. Soft water is also easier on your clothing, leaving it feeling soft and fresh. Hard water, on the other hand, will leave your laundry feeling stiff and scratchy.    

Free from hard water buildup your showerheads, sink drains, tub drains, dishwasher and washing machine will be more efficient. This saves you money and leaves less of a carbon footprint. 

 EPA Guidelines and Regulations  

According to the CDC, every community water supplier must provide an annual report, called a “CCR” or Consumer Confidence Report. This report provides information on your local drinking water quality. 

Stay tuned for our next article when we’ll discuss homeowner options when it comes to basic water treatment.

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HOW A MUNICIPAL WATER DISASTER CAN HAPPEN

A municipal water disaster can present itself without warning. The potential for adverse health effects can be great. Contact your city’s municipal water department for the latest report on the safety and quality of your water. The following are examples of water disasters that took the residents of these cities by surprise.

Most recently the Flint Michigan water disaster comes to mind. Flint had switched using the Detroit water system to using the Flint River. Soon after, high levels of lead were detected in tested homes. The water from the river was corrosive to the city water pipes which leached lead into the water supply. Lead poisoning can cause organ damage. In children it can cause brain damage.

Our nations capitol Washington, D.C. faced a water crisis when it was discovered that their lead levels were unacceptable. It was found that the change from using chlorine to chloramine caused premature pipe corrosion resulting in lead leaching into the water supply.

Cryptosporidium, a parasite, lives in the intestines of infected humans and animals. Feces from hosts can enter municipal water supplies by farm runoff and storm water. Milwaukee Wisconsin had a cryptosporidiosis outbreak in 1993 which caused illness to 400,000 people. Of which at least 69 people died. This incident became the largest documented waterborne disease outbreak in U.S. History. Cryptosporidium oocysts are tiny and were able to pass through the water facility’s filtration system. Milwaukee has put in place practices that has improved water quality security including water monitoring equipment and updated filters.

In 2014, the Toledo , Ohio metropolitan area residents were under an order not to drink or cook with the water. Samples taken from a water treatment plant indicated a toxin call microcystin. This toxin was a result of a large bloom of algae on Lake Erie. Microcystins form with the conditions of warm stagnant water and oversupply of nutrients. Fertilizer runoff from cropland contributing to the process. Ingestion of this toxin can cause liver damage.

It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have an emergency supply of water in an event of a water crisis. Your water supply should include one gallon of water per person for three days. Ideally This water should be commercially bottled and sealed to ensure its safety. Rotate out bottles with close expiration dates. Include extra water if you have pets.