The Science of Clean Water: The Different Water Filtration Processes

Posted on Nov 6 2018 - 1:00am by Ann Gillispie

clean waterAccording to the World Health Organization, at least two billion people use water that is contaminated with fecal matter. The organization also projected that, by 2025, “half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.”

When consumed or used for food production, contaminated water can result in cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. People in developing countries are especially at risk for these diseases as they get water from streams and rivers, which are likely contaminated by chemicals and human and animal waste. On the other hand, developed countries, such as the US, are fortunate, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For these countries, “safe drinking water is as close as the nearest tap,” the CDC remarked.

To prevent transmission of waterborne diseases, homeowners should consume or use water that has undergone treatments like filtration.

During the filtration process, chlorine is added to water to kill organisms and chemicals. Then, to bind soil into a clump, alum is added. After this, water undergoes a multi-layered filtration process to filter any remaining particles. After the process, clean water is distributed to commercial and residential properties. Generally, this is how water is filtered, but there are also different forms of the filtration process.

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Reverse Osmosis

reverse osmosis (RO) filter, according to My Buddy The Plumber Heating & Air, LLC, immediately enhances water quality. This process uses air pressure to thrust water through a semi-permeable membrane to filter pollutants, chlorine, lead, and other matter. This membrane allows water molecules to pass and blocks dissolved salt and bacteria.

Apart from the membrane, water goes through additional filtration steps, like passing through carbon filters, to get rid of remaining impurities and flush them down the drain. A typical RO unit has four to five stages of water treatment that ensure safe drinking water.

Activated Carbon Filters

These filters are made of granular pieces of carbon, in the form of charcoal. Activated carbon filters are extremely porous and have the ability to adsorb contaminants that are 50 to 0.5 microns.

When water flows through activated carbon filters, chemicals, such as chlorine, stick to the carbon, consequently purifying water and removing bad taste and odor. However, while activated carbon filters are effective at removing volatile organic compounds, they are not effective at filtering dissolved inorganic compounds like salt.

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UV Filters

The ultraviolet water purification method effectively disinfects bacteria and viruses (e.g. E.coli and giardia) from water without the use of chemicals. The UV rays penetrate pathogens by attacking their DNA, and, in the process, prevent them from reproducing.

While this water filtration process can kill pathogens, it cannot filter other contaminants like salt. For this reason, UV filters are best paired with other forms of filtration.

Water Ionizers

These appliances are usually attached to kitchen faucets and treat water with minerals and electrical current to produce ionized or alkaline water. Through their ion-permeable membranes, water ionizers allow ions to pass through. It also separates the existing carbonate in tap water from its alkaline minerals.

However, although there are many claims that ionized water has health benefits, there is not enough medical evidence to prove this.

The United Nations General Assembly considers sufficient, safe, affordable, and physically accessible water as a human right. With the use of filters and other water purification and distillation processes, many will be able to consume clean water.