The Down and Dirty of Clean Water
Written by AOS Treatment Solutions on September 25, 2017
We all need water to live. Most of us are blessed to have this life-sustaining liquid pumped directly into our homes and places of work. We’ve become so accustomed to having easy access to clean water that people grow frustrated when there’s an unusual taste in their tap. It’s easy to take for granted that, not so long ago, acquiring water meant something completely different from what it does today. What goes into keeping the water in our pipes both potable and fresh tasting? There’s no magic involved, but it certainly isn’t a simple process. From treatment to softening, taking water out of its source and delivering it to a home is an involved process, one that’s been perfected by experts over the years.
As we all know, there’s more to water, than just water. Although we call it H2O, water is hardly only one chemical compound. There’s a lot of stuff floating around in the tap, and what remains in there impacts the quality of our water. Before we even begin treating the water, we need to consider where it’s been.
Clean Water Starts From Sources Like Groundwater and Surface Water
There are two main sources of fresh water in the world: groundwater and surface water. Groundwater is harder to obtain, but easier to treat, whereas surface water is the opposite. We should consider the possibility of contamination from plants, animals or even human activity in surface water. Furthermore, both sources could be an aqueous solution of various chemical solvents or even parasites, none of which we would want to drink. So, before we can send water out the door, we must think about how we will treat it.
The first step when acquiring clean water, especially from surface water sources, is to screen the water for debris. Fish, plants or even refuse are all undesirable contaminants in water, and they can be removed simply by screening the water before processing it. However, because a screen can only be so fine, insoluble particulate such as dirt and sand will pass through. We remove these by allowing them to settle to the bottom, wherein we can then skim clean water from the top, or filter the contaminate out. Much like a home-owned filter, a large-scale filtration system can help pull particulates from freshly screened water. Even after filtering, we are far from done with our water. Our aqueous solution needs to be much cleaner before it can be sent to the tap.
Once our water has been screened, and the particulates have been removed, the next step in the process is to add a precipitate to the water. A precipitate will cause soluble contaminants to be pulled from the water and form removable clumps. Just as sugar will dissolve in water, there are many contaminants that can remain present, even if we don’t see them. A precipitate will force these contaminants out of the water, allowing us to follow the same process described previously to either skim freshwater or filter out our precipitates accordingly.
Finally, we need to make sure our tap water tastes good. After all, no matter how clean it is, nobody will want to use it if it tastes strange or leaves behind a residue. This is where softening comes in. Typically, lime and soda ash are used to push magnesium and calcium out of the solution. Although they may not affect the potability of the water in low quantities, they do affect the taste and consistency. These two are the main culprits of ‘hard’ tap water, and they greatly increase the quality of the water if removed.
That’s all there is to it! Following processes like this, water-treatment plants all over the world take freshwater and prepare it to be delivered to your home as clean water. It’s not a simple process, but when handled by experts, it’s an effective way to ensure everyone receives clean, fresh-tasting water from their taps at home.