The causes of water contamination are various. Run off from agricultural practices and the misuse of household cleaning supplies are just two of many. Although we have received benefits from the numerous chemical compounds our society has developed, we have also inherited pollution and water contamination from these same compounds.
To test your water for contaminants you can purchase a test kit and do it yourself. You can also send a sample to your local county office. A third option is to hire a professional to come out and test your water supply. If you have determined that you would benefit from some type of water purification system, or even if you don’t like the taste of your water, reverse osmosis is one option.
What Is Reverse Osmosis?
Reverse osmosis is a process of purifying water by forcing it through a membrane with external pressure. This process can remove dissolved solids, minerals and salts. This is the main difference from other filtration systems. Because of the density of the membrane only pure water can go through it. This leaves behind even dissolved matter.
It can also remove organic chemicals and other contaminants. Reverse osmosis was originally used for the desalinization of sea water for troops to drink. It is also widely used in purification for medical use, industrial and also household drinking water. Water that is purified by reverse osmosis will not leave scale behind on pots and pans or coffee makers. The taste of the water is also improved quite a bit.
Organic chemicals such as sodium, potassium, bacteria and many others are very common in household water. If your water is chlorinated you should introduce a carbon filter into your system. Chloride will actually break down the membrane over time.
Although less common than organic, there are many chemical contaminants that can be found in drinking water. Nitrates, mercury, chromium, pesticides, herbicides, benzenes, TCE, perchlorethelyne, cyanide and countless others. Many businesses like car washes, photo labs and dry cleaning release these chemicals into our water system on a daily basis. Some are known carcinogens, others the effects are not even known yet.
Pros and Cons
There are many benefits to using reverse osmosis, however there are a few drawbacks as well. Some beneficial minerals that are necessary for optimal health will be trapped by the filter and removed from the water.
For truly safe and pure drinking water, a filtration and purification water system should have a combination of components. This is referred to as a multi-stage filtering system. A sediment filter to trap solid particles followed by another filter with smaller pores is a good first step.
Then a carbon filter is used to catch and remove organic chemicals. Chloride is absorbed into carbon. Several carbon filters can be added to the system for optimal purification. Then the reverse osmosis filter is used. Finally an ultra-violet light will disinfect any microbes that may have slipped through the reverse osmosis membrane.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
The removal effectiveness is dependent concentration of the contaminant, the type of contaminant, the membrane chosen, the water pressure and if the unit was installed properly. Reverse osmosis filtration systems do require regular maintenance to insure that functioning will remain at it’s optimal level.
Reverse osmosis units start at about $175.00 without installation and end about $1300.00 for a top of the line system. Replacement filters will cost you about $40.00 a year and maintenance costs will average $100.00 every few years.
For the most efficient and through purification of your household water, a professionally designed and installed system is the way to go. However if you would rather do it yourself there are systems that are not difficult to install. Make sure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
When purchasing a reverse osmosis system you should read the literature very carefully. Also check the certification to determine the quality of water it will produce. Make sure you understand what types of replacement filters you will need and how often to change them. Finally, get a good warranty.
Photo by Nat Tarbox, Creative Commons Attribution License