Water Treatment Terminology
There is lack of clear understanding of terminology related to the role of water in our health:
Solvent and solute
The solvent is the water and the solutes are the minerals and most anything else that dissolves in the water, good and bad.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
This refers to all the dissolved minerals in the water. When you boil all the liquid away from a pot full of water the whitish-gray residue left is mostly TDS.
Milligrams per liter (mg/l)
A measurement for all things dissolved in water, both good nutrients and bad contaminants.
Micrograms per liter (ug/l)
A smaller unit of measurement for dissolved substances. This is 1/1000th of a mg/l.
Parts per million (ppm)
If you dissolve one liter of salt or minerals (or anything!) in a million liters of water then you have a solution that is “one ppm of that substance”.
Note – Since there are a million milligrams of water in one liter, “ppm” is often used in place of “mg/l”.
Parts per billion (ppb)
Dissolve one liter of a substance in a billion liters of water and you have “one ppb”. This is equivalent to “one ug/l”. As minute an amount as this may seem both mineral and trace element nutrients as well as contaminants are functional in human physiology at ppb levels.
Electrical conductivity (EC)
This is often used because it is the minerals that give water its electrical conductivity and this conductivity plays a critical role in the physiological function of minerals.
pH (Potential for Hydrogen)
A measure of the activity of hydrogen ions (H+) in a solution (actually the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration for you math wizards). The more hydrogen ions the more acid the solution is. The fewer hydrogen ions the less acid the solution is.
pH can be likened to the measurement of temperature which gives the degree of heat but not its quantity. Therefore, when it comes to determining the capacity of a solution to neutralize an acid, pH is not a meaningful parameter. Alkalinity is.
Having a pH less than 7.
Having a pH higher than 7. Also referred to as “basic”. The important thing to realize is that it is not a meaningful measure of the ability to neutralize the acid.
Alkalinity is a measure of the capacity of a solution to neutralize acids – sometimes referred to as its buffering capacity.
Describes Reduction – Oxidation reactions. In reduction reactions electrons are donated while in oxidation reactions electrons are taken.
ORP (Oxidation-Reduction Potential)
The measurement of a solution’s capacity to donate (-ORP) or take (+ORP) electrons for chemical reactions.
Point of Entry (POE)
Water treatment for all the incoming water in a home, especially for bathing and showering.
Point of Use (POU)
Water treatment for drinking and cooking water only at specific locations.
Let’s talk US only for the sake of simplicity. First, tap water can come from most any source – rivers, and lakes (surface water); wells (which draw water up from underground source called an aquifer); desalinated water from the ocean – or some combination of them.
If you are on a public water supply serving more than 25 people its quality is regulated by the EPA, which developed standards of purity under the SDWA.
This is an ever evolving standard that limits contaminants of all categories in drinking water – both aesthetic and health-related. Consider that less than 2% of water supplied under these standards is actually consumed for drinking and food preparation. That is why it is not economically feasible to remove the growing list of contaminants – society can’t afford it. This makes Point of Use (POU) treatment a most logical approach for high quality drinking and bathing water. For detailed information go to www.epa.gov/drink/
Let’s talk a little about nutrients vs. contaminants
Especially regarding minerals and trace elements, there is often a fine line between essential nutrients and unwanted contaminants – this is why the subject is so complex. Physiologically you need elements like chromium, copper, fluoride and selenium but if they are in your water at certain levels or in certain forms then they can be toxic.
Of special concern healthwise, are substances that are put in public water supplies during the process of treating it. These include aluminum, fluoride and disinfectants. You don’t want any of them if you are concerned about optimizing health. Of special concern are the disinfectants which form disinfectant byproducts, DBP’s, which can be a serious health risk both for drinking AND bathing. This contaminant category should be removed from all of the water in your home using a Point of Entry (POE) water treatment system.
Well water is just a very general term for water that flows or is pumped from the ground. In future discussions, when we talk of well water we will be referring to private residential wells which are often a real challenge to make suitable for drinking, bathing and other uses. While the earth can act as a great filter for many contaminants, it can also yield some of the worst contaminants in terms of water quality. Each well is so individual in the problems it presents there are no general rules for treating the water.
Spring water, Artesian Water
To be legally considered spring or artesian water in the US, the source must flow naturally from a natural underground reservoir (called an aquifer) to the surface. Artesian wells have a special configuration that distinguishes them.
“Purified Water” (like Dasani, Aquafina, Pure Life)
To legally meet the “Purified Water” standard in the US, bottled water must be demineralized to less than 10 ppm (mg/l) dissolved solids (TDS) and adhere to certain microbiological standards. Purified Water can be made by a number of different technologies or a combination of them – Reverse Osmosis, Deionization and Distillation. If it were not for the plastic bottle, some purified waters might be an acceptable starting point as a contaminant-free water platform provided Deionization is not the primary treatment process (as in the highly TV-promoted Zero Water device).
To be legally considered distilled water, the source must be converted to steam (water vapor) and then re-condensed (leaving the impurities behind). This process removes virtually all impurities except for VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds. Evaporation is followed by activated carbon filtration to remove the VOCs. This process clears all water structures and memory and can be a good contaminant-free platform for remineralization and enhancement.
Reverse Osmosis water
Reverse Osmosis (RO) has made such a great name for itself in water treatment because it is highly effective in removing a broad range of contaminants and is energy efficient. RO does require extra water to process a specified amount of pure water but it is still the most cost-effective high-tech method.
Alkaline water (typically drinking water with a pH greater than 8.5) has little meaning or health significance and can be confused with water having high alkalinity and capable of neutralizing acids. See discussion of alkaline ionizers below.
To be legally considered mineral water it must contain more than 250 mg/l of TDS. Mineral waters around the world can contain over 3000 mg/L of dissolved minerals.
Sparkling and carbonated water
This category can be naturally or artificially carbonated. If it is high in minerals, this category can be a good source of level of acid-neutralizing alkalinity. Many of the European sparkling waters in glass offer this benefit.
The subject of water structures – identifiable unique configurations of water molecules within a volume of water – is vast and little understood. Attaching a biological significance to water structures might be premature except for the molecular organizing influence of minerals and trace elements which is well acknowledged. The medicine of Homeopathy, which uses such extreme dilutions of substances that only its memory exists as water structures and frequency, is also validated and well respected.
Stanford researchers concluded from the X-ray data, has a structure totally at odds with what textbooks say and what scientists have believed for more than a century. Rather than being a sea of tetrahedrons – little pyramids with triangular bases, formed when each water molecule connects to four others – it seems to be an ocean of rings and chains, with most molecules hooking up with only two others via strong bonds.
As often happens when the conventional wisdom starts to collapse, on closer inspection there wasn’t much holding it up in the first place. The notion that water molecules form pyramids actually had little empirical support, Dr. Nilsson says: “Experimental findings have been so sparse that theoretical work has dominated the field,” and the theory is so inexact “that you can get almost any result you want just by tweaking” a few numbers.
Not everyone is sold on the rings and chain idea. Just months after the Stanford team concluded that the pyramid model was all wet, and in response to it, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, announced that water is too a bunch of tiny pyramids. That brought a testy response from the Stanford researchers, who disparaged their rivals’ experiment as full of “fundamental shortcomings” and beset by a “lack of reproducibility.” Although the Berkeley team is sticking to its pyramids, many scientists are persuaded by the rings and chain.
Overturning the pyramid notion is “an incredibly big deal,” says chemist Giulia Galli of UC Davis, who wasn’t involved in the experiment. She is using a supercomputer to crank through trillions of quantum calculations to determine what structure water should have according to basic principles. This may seem like an esoteric question, “but different structures (of water) should behave differently,” says Prof. Galli. Because life runs on water, fathoming its true structure could overturn key ideas in biology.
What is your opinion on bottled water? Do you have any you recommend?
- Use only glass bottles, not plastic
- Look for a considerable amount of magnesium – the higher the better compared to calcium.
- Consider Gerolsteiner sparkling water for your drinking water. It has more than 1800 mg/l of minerals.
What about the popular alkaline ionizer water systems like Kangen, Jupiter, Chanson, etc.
A better name for these devices would be “electrically reduced water (ERW) with negative ORP and elevated pH”. We acknowledge and respect the development of this product category and the health awareness and benefits it provided to many users. Alkaline ionizers fail to provide the true objective of optimum drinking – except in their ability to create negative ORP water.
- ionizers filter water in a basic manner. Fluoride, heavy metals, pesticides, etc. can remain. Extra filters or Reverse Osmosis systems will do that.
- ionizer producers claim that the elevated alkaline pH will alkalize the body. Only mineral ions can do the job, so the performance will depend on the minerals in your local water.
- ionizer proponents speak in terms of the alkaline pH of their water only – not alkalinity (alkalizing ions), which is measured differently. You may see better results by drinking high-alkalinity (mineral content) vegetable juices including spinach, carrot, watercress, celery, beet.
- ionizers impart negative ORP to the water – transforming the water into a reducing antioxidant solution rather than an oxidative one. This factor, combined with the increased consumption of water, maybe the main reason for the positive results claimed by its users.