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Water Treatment Options


Selecting Water Treatment Devices
Questions to Ask When Purchasing Water Treatment Equipment
A Little Advice...

Below are general guidelines to consider in selecting a suitable treatment option. Use this information to make informed decisions about your home water treatment options. Separate pages present details on the applications, principles, and costs of the following specific methods of home water treatment:

Particle and Microfiltration Filters
Activated Carbon Filters
Reverse Osmosis
Distillation
Ion Exchange Water Softening
Disinfection of Drinking Water
Other Treatment Methods

Possible home water treatment: installation options.

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Selecting Water Treatment Devices
When considering home water treatment, inform yourself and consult with water treatment professionals

There are several types of water problems than can occur in water supplies. Check the complete listing of water problems, including water appearance, water tests and possible sources of contamination. There are two primary categories of home water treatment devices: point-of-entry (POE) and point-of-use (POU). The effectiveness of these devices will vary depending on the quality of the water source and consumer need.

If more than one water quality problem exists, choosing a treatment device can be especially confusing and complicated. Well owners, for example, sometimes can eliminate two problems with one treatment. Occasionally, one treatment can create another problem. For example, it may be impractical to install a distiller to remove lead from your drinking water if your water is corrosive and continues to remove lead from the household piping system. Similarly, a reverse osmosis unit will not work efficiently if the water also contains particulates or if the water is very hard, as these can clog the membrane filter.

Keep in mind that it is practical and efficient to treat some water quality problems before others. For instance, turbidity, acidity, hardness, and iron have to be controlled before activated carbon filters, reverse osmosis, or distillation units will operate efficiently.

Questions to Ask When Purchasing Water Treatment Equipment
In the past, the home water treatment industry focused on improving the aesthetic quality of drinking water. New products for home treatment claim to further reduce or eliminate contaminants in drinking water that may pose a health hazard. Product manufacturers now promise to make your drinking water “safe,” “pure,” and “contaminant free.” Consequently, consumers are left to sift through advertising claims and technical data as they try to select the appropriate treatment method(s) best suited to address their water needs.

Before purchasing a home water treatment system, the consumer should ask the following questions (or use them as guidelines). The extent to which a manufacturer or distributor is willing to provide answers can help the consumer make an informed choice.

  • What exactly does your analysis of the water show? Are health hazards indicated? Which ones? Ask for specifics. Should more testing be done?
    Many water treatment companies include free in-home testing of the water. Most contaminants cannot be evaluated this way. For example, organic chemicals and trace metals, which have been associated with serious health problems, must be analyzed in a laboratory with sophisticated equipment. You should be wary of home analyses claiming to determine more than basic water quality constituents such as TDS, hardness, pH, iron, and hydrogen sulfide. It is best to rely on water testing done by an independent laboratory.
  • Have the product and the manufacturer been rated by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or other third party organizations?
  • Was the product tested: a) for the specific contaminant (or group) in question; b) over the advertised life of the treatment device (with more than 1 gallon of water); and c) under household conditions (including local tap water quality, actual flow rates, and pressures)?
  • What is the performance rate for removal and water purity resulting from use of this device? Ask for specific values. Who guarantees its performance and for how long?
    The NSF, whose function is similar to the Underwriter’s Laboratory for electrical and electronic products, sets performance standards for water treatment devices. Because companies can make unsubstantiated statements regarding product effectiveness, you must evaluate test results of the device to determine if claims are realistic. Keep in mind that the water treatment system you are evaluating may have components that are NSF approved, but that the entire system may not have been evaluated (for more information about NSF, go to the NSF website or contact them at 800-NSF-MARK.
  • Does the water quality problem, as determined by a certified laboratory analysis, require whole-house treatment? Or, will a single-tap (POU) device be adequate?
    Although less than 1% of tap water is used for drinking and cooking, some contaminants are as hazardous when inhaled or absorbed through the skin as when ingested. Treatment of all the water used in the household may be required. Reverse osmosis and distillation units are connected to a single tap; activated carbon devices can be installed on a single tap or where water enters the house. The device selected depends upon the type and level of contaminant in question. Remember to use a state certified laboratory for your analysis. Contact the ADHS Bureau of State Laboratory Services at 602-255-3454 for a list of certified laboratories in Arizona (see also Section 6.2).
  • Will the unit produce enough treated water daily to accommodate household usage?
  • If a filter or membrane is involved, how often must it be changed, back-flushed, or regenerated? How does one know when to do it?
  • Besides maintaining filters and membranes, are any other types of maintenance needed? How often? Who does it? What does it cost?
  • Will enough treated water be produced for everyday use?
    The maximum flow rate should be sufficient for the peak home use rate. All proven home treatment devices such as activated carbon units, reverse osmosis units, and iron filters need routine maintenance. You should be fully informed of all maintenance requirements.
  • What is the total purchase price plus the expected maintenance costs (monthly/annual) of the device?
  • Will the company selling the device also install and service it, and will there be a fee for labor?
  • Can you perform maintenance tasks, or must a water treatment professional be involved?
  • Will the unit substantially increase water and/or electrical usage in your home? Watch out for hidden costs such as separate installation fees, monthly maintenance fees, or equipment rental fees. Additionally, the disposal of waste materials (such as reject water, spent cartridges from activated carbon units, and used filters) can add to the cost of water treatment and should be figured into the purchase price. Some devices can be installed by the homeowner.

  • Is there an alarm or indicator light on the device to alert you to a malfunction?
    Many units have backup systems or shutoff functions to prevent you from consuming untreated water.

  • Will the manufacturer include in the purchase price a retesting of the water after a month or two? Testing the water a month after the device is installed will indicate whether the unit is accomplishing the intended treatment. Remember, testing for specific contaminants can be very expensive.
  • What is the expected lifetime of the product? What is the length of the warranty period? What does the warranty cover? The warranty may cover only certain parts of a device, so you should be aware of the warranty conditions.

A Little Advice...
These guidelines are directed at individuals who are planning to consult a water treatment industry representative or who are planning to do their own research into water treatment devices. Be aware that treatment can be for aesthetic as well as for health factors. If drinking water poses a health risk, you should also consider the cost of purchasing bottled water as an alternative to treatment.

Monetary compensation for treatment of problem water resulting from environmental contamination may be possible. Contact the Arizona Department of Environment Quality (1-800-234-5677) for more information concerning this option.

And beware of Water Scams!

Go to specific treatment methods:
Particle and Microfiltration Filters
Activated Carbon Filters
Reverse Osmosis
Distillation
Ion Exchange Water Softening
Disinfection of Drinking Water
Other Treatment Methods

 


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