The Water Filters Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

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Water pollution and water treatment has been a mainstream issue for the better part of the twentieth century but really started showing signs of advancement during the 1970’s. However, most corporations find themselves at somewhat of a standstill, still selling the products they sold decades ago. Although technology has advanced, the water industry has not. Most other industries show signs of improvement and advancement through bettering their products to be more eco-friendly and user-friendly. Water filtration products that do not utilize the latest, most advanced technology do not conserve water nor do they allow the user to achieve maximum results.

The Industrial Revolution of the mid-19th century introduced water pollution along with amazing technological advancements. By the middle of the 20th century, the effects of these changes could be felt around the world. Environmental movements erupted as pollutants flowed into the ecosystems we need for safe drinking water. Finally, voices were heard and the Clean Water Act (1972) was passed and is still the basis for legislation and regulations today. Around the world, water pollution, water waste and water conservation are all issues that cause concern and controversy. 3.4 million people each year die from a water-related disease. Likewise, 780 million people around the world lack access to clean water. To say that this is not a global issue or a global industry would be an understatement. Even here in the United States we have plenty to be concerned with. Advancements in the water industry are just what we need to face the trials and tribulations of water shortages, growing population and water demand, agricultural needs, water contamination, and water conservation.

According to several reports, there are about 161,500 public water systems in the United States which includes about 53,000 community water systems. The rest are non-community systems which also face many issues. Of those, there are many that have been found exceeding the maximum federal contaminant levels or treatment standards set forth by the EPA. In 2011, there were over 8,000 reported violations of maximum contaminant levels which affect over 14 million citizens. There was actually an increase in violations compared to those reported. Here in California, there are about 680 community water systems that actually have to rely on contaminated groundwater sources, leaving the water industry to provide systems which improve the safety and quality of the water. About 40% of those community water treatment systems have been in violation of regulations according to reports from the California Department of Public Health.

California relies on the advancements and technology of water treatment systems for multiple reasons. Currently, poor agricultural habits are causing more contamination than some homeowners can handle. The state has identified agriculture, including cows, as the major source of nitrate pollution in more than 100,000 square miles of polluted groundwater. High levels of nitrates in drinking water also increase the risk of methemoglobinemia, or “blue-baby syndrome,” which can potentially kill infants. High levels of nitrates can be the result of animal waste which can lead to disease-causing pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and fecal coliform, which can be 10 to 100 times more concentrated than in human waste. More than 40 diseases can be transferred to humans through manure. While farming practices have certainly improved in recent years, some residents in rural areas are still concerned about the safety and quality of their drinking water due to preventable contamination from poor practices. They, too, rely on the water industry to preserve the integrity of their drinking water though they may not be choosing the most eco-friendly or efficient ones. There are also other issues out of the hands of residents. Cost and not enough political pull are common factors in the status of their drinking water facilities. Providing safe drinking water with a contaminated source seems like something Americans should not have to worry about but small, rural communities cannot balance the cost with the need, therefore it becomes an unmanageable burden for small utilities. If states could manage to balance the cost with the need and find the funds for new and improved point-of- use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) systems may be the best solution to provide safe drinking water for these communities.

Climate change is also an issue in regards to lack of water and the need for water conservation. According to the United Nations, climate change has been predicted to have a range of serious impacts on our water resources. Changes in temperature and rainfall may affect the availability of our water and our water resources, increase the frequency and severity of droughts and floods, and disrupt our ecosystems that assist in maintaining water quality. The evidence is clear that the global temperature is changing. California is even seeing more droughts and less snowpack creating conservation issues. A global temperature increase of just 3-4°C could possibly cause changed run-off patterns which will force an additional 1.8 billion people to live in a water scarce environment by 2080. These are serious possibilities which need conservation now so that we will still have water tomorrow. Some household or under-the-sink reverse osmosis systems will actually waste water, so although they’re purifying water, they are still adding to the underlying problem. The key is to find a system that wastes less water but is still effective at filtering drinking water.

Although the water industry itself may still be focused on the past, some water filters have finally stepped into the future. The advancements support water conservation efforts and purify water at the same time. Most traditional reverse osmosis systems could not do both simultaneously. More awareness for contamination and water shortages mean the water crisis is having an impact on the demand for effective water filters. Professionals agree that the latest technology shows improvements, particularly in the area of electrochemical deionization (DI). It incorporates whole household reverse osmosis with reject recovery, exchange tanks regenerated with zero liquid design, and softened water without salt usage or water waste. The limited water waste is the biggest advancement and the most important improvement in the water industry to date. Traditional reverse osmosis systems waste between 90 and 95% of the water it uses just to produce a smaller amount of filtered water. New technology reduces water waste significantly while still doing the job it was meant to do – remove harmful contaminants. Furthermore, electrochemical DI can produce similar quality drinking water just like reverse osmosis has. Reverse osmosis, while still effective in many cases, is more a thing of the past. It lacks the major advances in technology like electrochemical DI claims. The cost is also about the same, with a significant reduction in waste water. Most of these DI systems include sediment pre-filter or TDS reduction cartridges. They use electricity to effectively reduce contaminants such as lead, copper, nitrites, nitrates, and arsenic. Also included is a carbon post-filter, corrosion control, and an optional UV or ultra filter.

To also keep up with the newest technology in water filtration systems, look for a system with programmable software that is user-friendly. The software should control the system rather than the user and manage optimal performance based on the quality and quantity of the feed water. Performance and recovery is optimized when the system can adjust for feedwater conditions. Controls are also available for the user to dial the taste of the water by controlling mineral content and electrical current. Part of being a user-friendly system also means that technology has made the system able to self-monitor and notify the user when service is needed and allows text messages or emails for service members. The on-board computers make maintenance quick and the notifications and major leap in advancement. Field Service Assistant technology is on the market in some systems, which can provide the technician a complete system diagnosis and update and then walks the technician through the entire step-by-step process for maintenance or service. Leak detectors can shut down the system when detected and issues an alarm so that the user is notified and can request assistance for the system. The possibilities are endless with the future of water filtration technology. The many factors have created a need for change and a need for technology to finally support the environment and the safety of the consumer. Drinking water is essential for life and all Americans deserve safe water. The systems on the market today also allow for water conservation. In order to make the best choice, find a system which wastes significantly less water than traditional reverse osmosis systems and is effective in preserving the overall quality and integrity of your drinking water.

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