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Every so often you hear a report about problems with the water quality in your community. It seems that the important elements involved in sustaining human life are constantly under attack. The big three are what we EAT, BREATH and DRINK. This article is not going to grind on you about what you eat, other news sources are in charge of that one. Al Gore is in charge of attempting to halt the damage we are doing to our air. My goal is to get you to do something about the water you drink. You do drink lots of water, right?

My favorite option is reverse osmosis (RO) for purifying drinking water in the home. You can recognize an RO system by its tank usually located beneath the kitchen sink. Historically, RO has been used extensively in desalination projects (turning seawater into drinking water) but it is also very effective for treating water quality problems on a smaller scale. The levels of many dissolved compounds and suspended matter present in water can be efficiently reduced by RO treatment, including: organics, inorganics, bacteria and particulates. RO is based on the process of osmosis. Osmosis involves the movement of water from one side of a membrane (a plastic film) to the other. To make the process work, pressure is applied to the contaminated water, forcing water through the membrane. Since contaminants are separated from the water as it moves across the membrane, purer water collects on the other side of the membrane. The purified water that accumulates can then be stored in the tank for use as needed.

Basic components of an RO system should include a filter to remove larger matter and an activated carbon filter to remove residual taste and odor; an RO module containing the membrane; piping and valves to connect the system. To continually perform well, RO systems, like other home water treatment devices, require ongoing maintenance. Filters need to be replaced on a regular basis. The length of time between changing filters will depend on the incoming water quality, especially the concentration of solids. The membrane typically lasts for several years, depending on operating conditions, membrane type and filter performance. As a rule, your RO system should be serviced every six months to a year without fail.

One disadvantage of RO is the large amount of contaminated wastewater generated. This wastewater is routed to your drain line so you don’t even know the waste is occurring. The amount of wastewater can be as much as 50 to 90 percent of the incoming water. However, since the amount of drinking water used in a home is relatively small, a high percentage of wasted water is not a big concern to most people. Continuing to drink poor quality water year after year is what we should be most concerned about. Now about that tainted food and air…

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