Water 101 - Helpful Facts About Your Water

Select a topic below for information regarding your residential water supply.

What exactly is hard water?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines hard water as "Alkaline water containing dissolved salts that interfere with some industrial processes and prevent soap from lathering. Water may be considered hard if it has a hardness greater than the typical hardness of water from the region."

How does hard water form?
When water passes through soft rock forms such as shale and limestone, it begins to dissolve and pick up calcium and magnesium deposits from the rocks. The introduction of these minerals into water is what causes water to become hard.

How can you spot hard water?
Hard water is one of the easiest water problems to detect. In the bathroom, signs of hard water include bathtub rings and a filmy collection of scum on shower walls. Hard water can also cling to hair and clog skin pores. Finally, clogged pipes, poorly operating water heaters and other water-using appliances could be a sign of hard water.

What can I do about hard water?
Water hardness is countered with water conditioners or water softeners. Hard water is passed through a tank containing resin beads. The resin beads hold sodium ions, which act as a softener. Water conditioners exchange the calcium and magnesium deposits for the softer sodium ions. When the resin beads reach their capacity for water exchange, the water conditioner is regenerated with salt brine - replacing the captured calcium and magnesium with a new batch of sodium ions and the cycle is ready to begin again.

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How does iron water form?
When water passes through iron-bearing rocks beneath the earth's surface, it can collect iron deposits. Standing water in iron pipes can also develop into iron water, although the effect is usually temporary.

How can you spot iron water?
Like hard water, iron water is fairly easy to detect. Iron water will leave iron stains on sinks, clothing and even linens. It can also form scale in pipes and appliances. The presence of iron can lead to an undesirable appearance and smell of the water as well.

Are there different types of iron water?
Yes. There are 3 main types of iron water and each has a unique set of characteristics.

  • Clear Water Iron: Water is clean at the tap but turns read after the iron has oxidized.
  • Red Water Iron: Water is red at the tap. In this case, the iron has already oxidized before reaching the home.
  • Bacterial Iron Water: Slimy yellowish bacteria is present in the water. The iron-feeding bacteria is not a health risk, but can lead to clogged pipes and is unsightly.
What can I do about iron water?
Minor cases of clear water iron can be solved using a water conditioner or softener. For red water iron and more severe cases of clear water iron, a filter containing an oxygen-rich material is recommended. The mineral will oxidize the iron, allowing the filter to trap the iron, thus removing it from your water source. For the most extreme cases of iron water, a chlorination system is the best solution. To combat bacterial iron, the water system should be "shocked" with a heavy dose of chlorine and then monitored by way of a filter and/or feed system.

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How does acid water form?
The natural tendency of water is to dissolve the materials that it passes through. Acid water forms when water passes through granite, marble, or other types of extremely hard rock. In these cases, the water is unable to dissolve the hard rock and enters your home water system in what is referred to as a "hungry" state. This causes water to dissolve the materials that it comes into contact with in your home instead - things such as plumbing fixtures, pipes, glasswares, and appliances.

How is acid water measured?
Acid water is measured on the pH scale. Water is naturally a 7, or neutral, on the scale. Values less than 7 are considered acidic and a pH reading above 7 is alkaline.

How can you spot acid water?
Unlike hard water and iron water, acid water is not detected through odor, feel or appearance. Acid water is identified by the bluish-green stains that it leaves on plumbing fixtures. Acid water also eats away at chrome fixtures, etches china and glassware and can even corrode appliances.

What can I do about iron water?
Minor amounts of acid water can be corrected by utilizing a filter tank that contains a neutralizing compound. For more sever cases, a chemical feed system can be used to inject neutralizers into the water supply. A phosphate feeder can also be installed to coat all water-bearing surfaces with an acid-reducing film.

What causes turbidity?
Turbidity occurs when dirt, sand or other organic material run-off enters the water supply.

How can you spot turbidity?
Water that contains dirt or other materials is a sign of turbidity. This condition can also lead to clogging in small water-bearing valves and cause wear on valves, seals and washers.

What can I do about turbidity?
Turbidity can be controlled by way of tank filters which contain a bed of filtering media. Also, less severe cases of turbidity can be handled with a cartridge filter.

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What causes water to have an unpleasant taste and/or odor?
A number of things can lead to a foul taste or odor in your water. Chlorine, chlorine compounds, decaying organic matter and dissolved gases or minerals are a few of the more common causes. Hydrogen sulfide, caused by decaying vegetation and oil beneath the earth's surface, is another common culprit. Hydrogen sulfide leads to a "rotten egg" smell and or taste.

How can unpleasant tastes and odors be neutralized?
Most common causes can be treated by tank filters containing activated carbon as the carbon will absorb the objectionable odors and tastes. Point of use filters are also a common solution in minor cases. However, hydrogen sulfide must be treated with carbon KDF or chlorine injection filters, followed by a water softener. For more severe cases of hydrogen sulfide, a chemical feed pump followed by a turbidity filter is the recommended solution.

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What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that is created during the natural decay of uranium, which is found in nearly all soils. As described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Its presence in your home can pose a danger to your family's health. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims about 20,000 lives annually."

How does radon get into your home?
The most common means by which radon enters a building is through cracks and holes in a foundation. It migrates from the ground to the air above. Radon may also be found in the building materials used to construct your home -- bricks, concrete blocks, concrete slabs, stone, and other products that are made of stone or contain soil or rocks. Radon can also be carried into your home through the water supply, specifically through well water.

Does radon in well water pose a serious risk?
Drinking water that contains radon is thought to pose a much smaller risk of developing stomach cancer than breathing radon from the air is to cause lung cancer. The primary risk associated with radon in your water supply is the possibility of inhaling radon gas that has been released into the air when showering, or using a steam shower, or other common activities.

What can be done to remove radon from well water?
Your water supply can be treated at the point of use - your faucet or tap - and/or at the point of entry - before it every really enters your home. While point of use treatment is effective at removing radon from water that you drink, it will not reduce your exposure to radon released into the air from all of the other sources of water that is used in your home. Therefore, we recommend the use of point of entry radon treatment systems for most residential applications.

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What causes water contamination?
Water contamination is caused by a number of things, both organic and man-made. Click here to view the EPA Water Contamination Chart for more details.

How can you spot contamination?
Unfortunately, contaminants can only be detected by professional testing.

What can be done to de-contaminate water?
A variety of solutions can be used to combat water contamination, depending on the type and severity of the contamination. Sediment filters, chemical contaminant filters, lead reduction filters, reverse osmosis drinking water systems, and distillers are examples of possible solutions for water contamination.

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