City water treatment is vital for providing a safe, drinkable supply to local populations. Utility companies have responsibility for ensuring they treat the municipal supply, so we feel confident drinking from the tap, while authorities monitor the water quality to check that potential contaminants never pose a threat to human health. Water passes through several treatment stages before it ever reaches your home — with filtration and purification getting rid of a range of pollutants, including heavy metals, organic compounds, and human-made toxins.
Your water must go through a complex system of treatment stages to remove impurities, bacteria, and parasites, and make it drinkable. Moreover, utility companies have to treat the water in such a way that it stays clean and odorless as it trickles its way into your office or home. We fill a glass from the tap, then assume it is safe enough to drink but have you ever thought about how your local water supply is treated? How much do you know about the specific processes your water passes through to make it fit for human consumption?
Why do we need water treatment?
Surface water includes lakes, rivers, and streams. Over two-thirds of the American population rely on surface water as their primary water. Rainwater runoff from farms can wash nitrates and pesticides into rivers and waterways, which can find their way into the drinking water supply. Groundwater sources include aquifers and underground lakes that collect rain that has seeped through cracks and pores before the water collects in pockets between the rocks that sit deep within the ground. Utility companies tap groundwater where there isn’t enough supply of surface water to service the community. As water trickles through rocks, it can take heavy metals like arsenic into underground aquifers.
A power plant in Memphis, Tennessee has been leaching arsenic and other toxic substances into groundwater as authorities are worried this could soon contaminate the principal drinking water supply of some 650,000 people. In Armenia, Wisconsin, locals are now afraid even to shower as slack regulation has allowed agricultural activity to release excessive levels of nitrates into the local groundwater.The EPA enforces Safe Drinking Water Standards on US water quality to ensure it’s safe for consumption. These require drinking water to adhere to maximum levels for over 90 separate contaminants.
How is water treated?
Water goes through a rigorous treatment process to remove any compound that could pose a threat to our health. This treatment process involves four stages that make your water ‘clean enough to drink.'
1. Coagulation and Flocculation
This uses chemicals that bind with other waterborne compounds to form larger particles, which creates a solid mass called floc.
As floc is denser than water, it drifts to the bottom of the water treatment tank during a sedimentation process, settling in a removable layer.
Once the suspended floc has been removed, the residual clear water is passed through sand, gravel, or charcoal filters that take out dissolved particles, parasites, bacteria, viruses, and toxic chemicals.
The final water treatment stage is disinfection with chlorine. This process not only removes remaining pathogens, but keeps the water supply clean as it passes through the pipeline.
The benefits and pitfalls of water treatment
While all municipal water supplies pass through a standard treatment process, your water may undergo different levels of treatment depending on where your water comes from. For example, surface water needs a higher level of coagulation, sedimentation, and filtration than groundwater because water taken from lakes, rivers, and streams is likelier to contain more sediment and higher levels of contaminants than naturally-filtered groundwater.
Every water supply also requires disinfection to guarantee the water becomes and remains safe to use. Typically, disinfection uses chlorination, chloramines, ozone, or ultraviolet light.
Chlorine is efficient at eliminating microbial pathogens, which is why 64% of US community water treatment systems use chlorine as a disinfectant. However, some consumers don’t like the smell or taste of chlorinated water. Studies suggest bi-products of chlorine disinfection could increase the risk of cancer, including bladder and rectal by up to 93%.
The risks associated with chlorine have moved utility companies to look at alternative disinfectant options. Ozonation is often to remove pathogens from the treated water supply. However, chlorine is still required as ozone cannot keep a supply contaminant-free once it has left the treatment plant.
Another disinfection option is ultraviolet light: UV from a lamp destroys viruses and bacteria.
Is water treatment always successful?
Despite the standards and rigorous supervision, water treatment isn’t always effective. In 2014, in Flint, Michigan, the city switched its primary water source to the Flint River. The water treatment services were not adequately set up to treat a highly corrosive water supply that caused health issues throughout the local population. The Flint crisis stemmed from the fact that the city’s outdated infrastructure used lead piping to funnel water into homes and businesses.
The Flint River water was so corrosive it caused the heavy metal to leach into the supply after the water had passed through the main treatment facilities, highlighting the risks along any water system.
Water dispensers guarantee clean, purified drinking water
There’s only one way to ensure your water supply is entirely safe — that is, to install a filtration and purification system where you fill your glass.
A water dispenser uses an array of technologies to ensure your water supply is purified, starting with high-performance carbon filtration that removes chlorine, lead and pesticides. This is followed by microbiological purification using UV light to eliminate 99.9999% of all germs (including E. Coli, Salmonella and Hepatitis), guaranteeing pure water thanks to a process that’s 100% chemical-free.
If you’re ever unsure whether your local water supply is fit for consumption, contact Waterlogic, and our expert customer service agents will recommend the perfect point-of-use water dispenser to protect your office from water contaminants.