Under most conditions ground water contains greater amounts
of dissolved minerals than do surface supplies. But as water
percolates through sand, rock and clay formations, it loses
much of the suspended matter, colour and bacterial contamination
it gathers at the surface.
deep wells are likely to provide water that is clear, colourless,
low in bacteria and high in minerals. There are exceptions,
however. These make generalizations somewhat difficult.
also provide ground water. On the whole they contain significant
amounts of dissolved minerals.
considerations in the use of ground waters include:
The presence of hardness and other minerals in larger amounts
than in surface waters of the same locality as a rule.
Iron and Manganese in many well supplies.
Hydrogen Sulfide sometimes present
The cost of pumping well water usually greater than pumping
The mineral content of several wells may differ widely even
though located close to each other.
Some times uncertainties of supply.
Limited possibility of bacterial contamination as compared
to surface waters.
Generally more consistent in temperature, minerals, ect. than
We classify lakes, rivers, reservoirs and ponds, for example,
as surface water. These bodies receive water directly from
precipitation and from surface run-off. They also derive a
portion of their supplies from underground springs connected
with ground water sources.
surface water, as a rule, has the advantage of lower mineral
content, there are certain disadvantages to be considered:
The presence of much contaminated matter making water unfit
for human consumption until properly treated.
Industrial & Municipal Pollution of many supplies.
Surface run-off bringing mud and decayed vegetation into the
Possibility of animal and human wastes in the water.
In many cases good environments for algae and bacteria.
Regardless of the mineral and organic make-up of a water source,
both deep wells and large lakes make available water that
is more or less consistent quality from season to season.
In contrast, many small bodies of water, shallow wells and
springs often reflect seasonal and even daily variations in
their mineral content.
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 to best 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 call ions. The
amount of hardness in any given water is dependent 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
& 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 (PPMS) or Milligrams per Liter (mg/l).
Serious damage to the entire water system may result if these
compounds exceed the maximum contamination limit. The limit
for iron is 0.3 mg/l and for manganese, 0.05 mg/l.
Bacteria - These are actually living organisms that are often
found present in waters. They are not known to cause disease
but can create a host of other problems. They feed on the
minerals: iron, manganese and sulfur. In addition to the characteristic
red, orange and/or black staining, they generally create slimy
deposits in areas like toilet tanks. In order to rid a water
supply of these problems, the organisms must be killed (usually
by chlorine) and the source of their food must be eliminated.
There is no defined "limit" allowable for these
organisms since virtually any level will eventually cause
Sulfide - This constituent is very easily identified by the
awful "rotten egg" smell it releases. Hydrogen sulfide
gas can permeate an entire home or building with its rank
odor. 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 at 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 the rainfall and
even barometric pressure. Amounts as minute as 0.05 mg/l can
be detected by many individuals and cause property damage
over a period of time.
& Color - These problems can originate from any number
of sources. Obvious is the presence of light-to-heavy color
or a fine "grit" in the water. Clay, sand and silt
can be a source for turbidity, or the presence of tiny particles.
These particles can cause serious damage to the moving parts
of appliances like washing machines, dish washers, etc. The
colors can cause staining in clothing. Proper water testing
is usually required to best determine the real cause of such
problems. Typically, a good quality mechanical filter will
handle most of such problems.
Water - Water is defined as alkaline (basic) or acidic depending
on the pH. If water is acidic, it will have values from 0
to 6.9; if alkaline, from 7.1 to 14. Water with a pH of 7
is considered "Neutral." Corrosion is usually associated
with acidic water. Corrosion can release toxic metals such
as lead, zinc, copper and cadmium from pipes or plumbing fixtures.
The corrosion associated with low pH can literally destroy
all types of metal plumbing and fixtures. Fixtures can have
blue-green stains caused by the corrosion of copper or brass
plumbing or red stains caused by the corrosion of iron plumbing.
If not corrected, the corrosion will eventually cause pin
holes in piping and necessitate extensive plumbing repairs.
Waters with a pH below 6.8 should be corrected to avoid such
problems. Other problems can occur in water with a high pH.
For example, when the pH exceeds 8.5, water may have an alkali
taste, scale may form in pipes and equipment, the germicidal
activity of chlorine is reduced, and trihalomethane formation
& Odor - These problems can be caused by any number of
sources. A "rotten egg" odor is typically caused
by the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas. There can be various
other objectionable tastes and odors 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 odors.
Acid - These naturally-occurring compounds result from water
coming into contact with decaying leaves and various other
types of vegetation. Some of the problems will be slight odors,
odd tastes, yellow color and possible staining of fixtures
and clothing. Another major problem is the fact that these
compounds can seriously affect the proper performance of other
types of water treatment equipment like softeners and filters.
These organic compounds tend to "coat" ion exchange
resins, filtration media and synthetic membranes. Specialized
resins used in a softener-type system can effectively deal
with such problems.
Bacteria - 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
Chemicals - Many organic compounds resulting from the decay
of decomposing natural matter can occur in water (such as
tannins, lignin's, etc.) and, although troublesome, are not
generally a concern from a health standpoint. However, there
are cases where industrial chemicals, herbicides, pesticides
and byproducts of chlorination (like THM's) can exist in a
water supply and should be considered a POTENTIAL HEALTH HAZARD
unless testing proves otherwise. Many have been related to
cancers and other diseases. Proper testing for such contaminants
is always recommended. If the source of such problems cannot
be determined or corrected, carbon filters of various designs
have often been found to reduce such problems. 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,
fertilizers 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 sulfates can also enter a water supply
from various sources but, in low concentrations, are not generally
a serious health concern. Intestinal upset and diarrhea in
some individuals have been reported where high levels are
present. Maximum levels are: 10 mg/l for nitrates (as nitrogen),
1 mg/l for nitrites (as nitrogen); 250 mg/l for chlorides;
and 250 mg/l for sulfates. All of these contaminants can typically
be reduced or removed with specialized water treatment equipment
or, preferably, elimination of the source cause.
Salts - These simply result from the presence of "sodium"
compounds. They are often naturally-occurring in certain water
supplies. In other cases, the ion exchange process of water
treatment will introduce sodium compounds. In either case,
high levels of sodium compounds can cause a salty, soda or
alkaline taste in the water. Excess sodium compounds in water
are easily reduced or removed by deionization or reverse osmosis
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