Our natural resource
Water is our most amazing and precious natural resource. It has been called the “universal solvent” due to its ability to dissolve many different minerals, compounds and chemicals. Many of these dissolved materials are objectionable, cause property damage and can even be health concerns in some cases. The following provides basic information on some of the most prevalent water problems and how best to deal with reducing or removing them from your water supply.
Water hardness is derived from calcium and magnesium minerals that have been dissolved into water beneath the earth’s surface. These minerals are found in limestone deposits and are the primary source of hard water. When the minerals dissolve, they become electrically charged particles called ions. The amount of hardness in any given water is dependant upon the amount of calcium and magnesium minerals present and the length of time the water stays in contact with them. The degree of hardness varies greatly from region to region and should therefore be checked and quantified by proper water testing. The degree of hardness is measured in Grains per Gallon (gpg). In order to protect plumbing, fixtures, clothing, etc., the hardness level should generally be adjusted to less than 3.0 gpg.
Iron & Manganese
Iron and manganese compounds are very common in rocks and soil. These compounds are easily leached into the water supply after coming into contact with ground water, particularly acidic water. Iron and manganese are well known for depositing red, orange and/or black stains on plumbing fixtures, laundry, and anything the water touches. These water constituents are measured by quality water testing and quantified in Parts per Million (ppm) or milligrams per Litre (mg/l). Serious damage to the entire water system may result if these compounds exceed the maximum contamination limit. The limit for iron is 0.2mg/l and for manganese, 0.05mg/l.
This constituent is very easily identified by the awful “rotten egg” smell it releases. Hydrogen sulphide gas can permeate an entire home or building with its rank odour. In addition, it is extremely corrosive and can attack piping, tanks, water heater elements and any metallic surfaces it contacts. Since it is present as a gas in water, it usually must be tested the source since it will dissipate quickly when released from the water system. Virtually any level of this gas can be offensive and destructive and often varies in concentration throughout the period of a year based on numerous factors including the amount of rainfall and even barometric pressure. Amounts as minute as 0.05mg/l can be detected by many individuals and cause property damage over a period of time.
Taste & Odour
These problems can be caused by any number of sources. A “rotten egg” odour is typically caused by the presence of hydrogen sulphide gas. There can be various other objectionable tastes and odours in water caused by the presence of underground organic chemicals, naturally occurring decomposition like humic matter, etc. Problems of this nature are often difficult to trace to a specific source. Of course, any water with a “chemical” smell should be tested for the presence of industrial chemical, herbicides or industrial waste due to potential health consequences. Normally, however, a simple carbon filter can deal with most “general” tastes and odours.
The presence of these living organisms in a water supply for human/animal consumption and use can be VERY DANGEROUS! This group of organisms originate from human and animal wastes. They can enter a water system through cracks in well casings, improper well construction or directly from areas of waste like sewage leach beds and septic systems. The possible presence of such dangerous organisms is why every water system should be tested on a regular basis by the local health authority. Should such organisms be found, the source of such contamination must be determined and corrections made. Local health authorities should always be consulted for proper testing and correction methods.
These water constituents can sometimes be present in water supplies. Usually occurring in rural and private water supplies, nitrates are of most concern due to the possibility SERIOUS HEALTH EFFECTS, especially for young children. Nitrates can enter a water system from such possible sources as manure, fertilisers and some types of waste. A condition known as “Blue Baby Syndrome” can occur in young children as a result of the intake of nitrates. Local health authorities should always be consulted for proper testing and correction methods. Chlorides and sulphates can also enter a water supply from various sources but, in low concentrations, are not generally serious health concerns.