Common Water Problems

Home water supplies often contain dissolved minerals, gasses, bad smells, and unsightly appearances that are offensive to the homeowner. Usually, these problems can be easily corrected by the use of water treatment equipment.

Frequently there can be several methods of correcting a given problem. The type of equipment and treatment depends on the severity of the problem, the amount of attention the homeowner desires to give the equipment, the cost of the equipment, and the amount of water available to assure proper equipment performance.

Here we will address common water problems and what can be done to correct them. Click on the problem below to learn what steps need to be taken to solve it!

Hardness is due to calcium and magnesium dissolved in water and is measured in grains. Iron can also contribute to hardness. These elements form scale in piping, water heaters, and dishwashers causing expensive repairs. Hard water increases soap consumption, starches your laundry, leave a scratchy feeling after bathing, leaves hair hard to manage, scales glasses and dishes, and affects taste and tenderness of many cooked foods.

Hardness is removed with a water conditioner (or water softener). The proper size and type of softener depend upon:

  • The compensated hardness.
  • The amount of water used per day, not including outside faucets.
  • Flow rate required (How many people are living in the household).

While this is a matter of opinion to many consumers, usually a water softener should be installed over 5 grains of hardness. By most accounts, anything 5 grains and over is considered hard water and will scale. It is important to understand that the word "hardness" is not a technical term, merely a term of descriptive convenience, hence the difficulty sometimes in determining what exactly is hard water.

Iron in water imparts a disagreeable metallic taste. It combines with the tannin in tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages to produce an unpleasant gray to black appearance. It causes red stains in toilets, plumbing fixtures, tableware, and laundry.

Iron may be removed from water by the following methods, depending upon the amount and type of iron present.

Ferrous Iron
A water softener can remove up to 5 ppm (parts per million) of ferrous iron depending upon size and the type of softener. Very large water softeners can remove up to 10 ppm of iron.

Ferric Iron
If the water contains considerable ferric iron as evidenced by a reddish brown color, use a sediment filter ahead of the water softener. The sediment filter will remove a portion of the insoluble ferric iron and the water softener the soluble ferrous iron.

If a water softener is not what you are looking for, there are other Iron filters which can remove the iron content in your water: Oxidizing filters, Collodial type filters, Catalytic Filters, and Chlorination and filtration.

Oxidizing Iron Filters
Oxidizing filters can remove up to 10 ppm of both ferric (oxidized) and ferrous (clear) iron. They work well with all types of private water system pressure tanks. Sulfur removal is also possible with these filters when levels are 2.0 ppm or less. In cases where both iron and sulfur are present it is suggested that a sediment filter/water softener combination is installed for removal of all iron. The sulfur can then be removed by an oxidizing filter installed after the softener.

Waters with a pH below 7 (acid waters) usually will cause iron pick-up in piping systems and contribute to iron staining problems. Blue to green staining will result if the piping is copper. The lower the pH, the greater the corrosive tendency of the water. The recommended pH limits of water for use in the home are 7.0 to 10.6. Waters with a pH less than 6.8 contain sufficient acidity to cause significant corrosion and should always be treated. Waters containing appreciable amounts of oxygen also tend to be corrosive. Two common methods of treatment to prevent corrosion are:

  • Neutralization of acidity with an alkaline material.
  • Surface protection with a polyphosphate.

Neutralization of Acid Waters
Acid neutralizing filters contain a mineral that reacts with acidity to raise the pH of water. This process slowly dissolves the mineral and adds a few grains of hardness to the water. Because of the increased hardness and the iron content, a softener is recommended after the mineral is added. The combination of an acid neutralizer filter and softener can be applied to acidic waters containing up to 15 ppm of iron. Acid neutralizing filters require frequent backwashing and the addition of several pounds of mineral once a year.

Caused by hydrogen sulfide gas. This gas is very corrosive and will react with iron to form a black sludge of iron sulfide. Most sulfur waters contain from 1 to 5 ppm of hydrogen sulfide.

Use a chemical feed pump to feed chlorine (bleach) into the line ahead of the pressure tank (3 ppm of chlorine is required for each ppm of hydrogen sulfide). Chlorine causes the formation of sulfur particles that can be filtered. Install an activated carbon filter following the pressure tank to remove the sulfur particles as well as any excess chlorine.

If it is your desire to have a non-maintenance, non-chemical solution, an aerator (up to 5 ppm of hydrogen sulfide) will solve your problem.

Rotten Egg Odor in Hot Water Only

Caused by sulfate-reducing bacteria. Since a magnesium anode in the water heater creates a condition favoring their growth, remove the magnesium anode. Drain and flush the water heater and chlorinate the water heater. Install a polyphosphate feeder on the cold water inlet to the water heater for corrosion protection.

Caused by high chloride or sulfate content. When the total of chlorides and sulfates exceeds 65 grains per gallon, the disagreeable taste will be noticed by almost all people.

Filtering by Reverse Osmosis is the best way to solve this problem.

The first thing to do if you suspect that your water is contaminated by sewage is to send a water sample to your local, provincial, or national governing body to determine if sewage pollution is present in your water supply.

Eliminate the source of contamination if possible (Surface runoff, cracked well casing, proximity to the septic tank, faulty well seal, etc..). Next, install a chemical feed pump to feed chlorine (household bleach) into the system to a slight excess (i.e. more than is required to react with the amount of contamination present). This assures sufficient chlorine in the system to protect against small fluctuations in the amount of contamination present. Install a drip valve after the chlorinator and get a test kit to test chlorine content. Install a backwashable carbon filter to remove excess chlorine and test for chlorine both before the block carbon filter and after. The reduction of chlorine should be considerable.

Finally, a reverse osmosis unit at the end of the process is recommended.

Nitrates occur in water as a result of seepage through nitrate bearing rocks or soils. The nitrate may also come from fertilizers or pollution with organic wastes. Cyanosis ("blue baby") may occur in infants whose drinking or formula water contains a high concentration of nitrates. Water containing more than 10-20 ppm of nitrate expressed as nitrogen should not be used for infant feeding. Nitrate is reduced to Nitrite in the body.

Nitrates can be removed from drinking water through Reverse Osmosis. Reductions of up to 96% are achieved.

Flouride in water can be both good or bad, depending on the levels of concentration. Research has shown that a concentration of about one milligram per liter (mg/L or ppm) of fluoride in drinking water reduces tooth decay.

When drinking water contains excessive fluoride above two ppm, it causes "endemic dental fluorosis". Sometimes called "Colorado Brown Stain", it appears as a dark brown spotting of the teeth or causes them to become chalky white. Above four milligrams of fluoride per liter can cause crippling skeletal fluorosis, a serious bone disorder.

Reverse Osmosis systems are effective at removing up to 96% of all Flourides present in water.

Rainwater as it is falling through the sky absorbs Carbon Dioxide to make Carbonic Acid. This acid when it comes into contact with limestone absorbs the calcium from the limestone, and this chemical reaction is where hard water comes from. At times, the carbonic acid can’t dissolve any substance in the ground, remains acidic, and waits until it gets into a homeowner’s house before it begins to dissolve metal pipes and appliances. In certain parts of the country where this problem is prevalent, it is serious.

The solutions are several, but probably the most effective is feeding a solution of soda ash sodium carbonate (NA2CO3). The carbonic acid and the sodium carbonate react directly to form sodium bicarbonate. This method of treatment offers the advantage of not adding hardness to the water.

High concentrations of sodium tend to increase the corrosive action of water, give it unpleasant taste, and tend to hamper the operation of ion exchange softeners in the removal of hardness.

Reverse Osmosis, distillation, and deionization remove sodium from water.

Wells that contain methane are generally located in areas where gas and oil wells are common sights.

When water contains methane gas it is important to aerate it prior to use for either industrial or household purposes.

An industrial waste. In concentrations as low as 1 part per billion, this can cause an objectionable taste in chlorinated water due to the formation of chlorophenols.

This may be removed by a backwashable carbon filter.

At one time it was not generally known that Lead could be poisonous. Unfortunately, this was a time when many of our cities were beginning to provide underground plumbing to many neighborhoods. Lead was used as a soldering agent to fix pipes together. Lead can be extremely dangerous to small children and should be a priority to eliminate.

Certain carbon filters are good lead deterrents as well as a mixed bed de-ionizer.

Pure water is a good conductor of electricity, true or false? The answer might surprise you. Pure water is a very poor conductor of electricity, in fact, it is highly resistant to electrical impulses. Its the other stuff in the water that makes it a good conductor of electricity, and the more stuff, the better conductor of electricity water is. The primary inorganic ions that make up TDS is Calcium Ca++, Magnesium Mg++, Sodium Na+, Iron Fe++, Manganese Mn++, Bicarbonate HCO3-, Chloride Cl-, Sulfate SO4–, Nitrate NO3-, Carbonate CO3–.

Reverse Osmosis is the best way to eliminate these wide varieties of total dissolved solids.

Algae, Diatoms, Fungus, Molds, Bacteria, Viruses, 30 micron worms, Protozoa, Nematodes.

Disinfection methods include distillation, Reverse Osmosis, UV Light, Chemical disinfectants.

A natural forming mineral in seawater and sedimentary rock. The main problems with chlorides have to do with taste, corrosion to pipes, and chlorides is well known for being toxic to plants.

The best way to get rid of chlorides is through Reverse Osmosis or distillation.

Detergents, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides. At small levels, mainly has a negative aesthetic effect.

Carbon filtration or distillation.

Naturally occurring metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, industrial contaminant. Taste is affected. Staining, scaling, and discoloration of water.

Water Softening.

Carbonates, bicarbonates, carbon dioxide, industrial contaminants. If highly acidic (less than 6.5) it causes corrosion to pipes. If highly basic (greater than 8.5) it causes staining.

Calcite Feeder for low pH, Dealkalyzer for high pH.

Natural mineral deposits, battery manufacturing, plating, medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Causes Argyria – discoloration of skin.

Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.

Naturally occurring, gypsum, mine and industrial wastes. Gives off bad taste and has laxative effects.

Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.

Corrosion of plumbing materials, industrial contamination. Gives off a foul taste.

Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.

Turbidity is caused by erosion runoff and discharges. It mainly has to do with measuring the light shining through a container holding water in question. The less the light, the more the turbidity, the more the light, the less the turbidity. Primarily, turbidity interferes with UV light or Chlorine disinfection. For this reason, it needs to be removed.

Turbidity can be removed by filtration, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.

Caused by corrosion of interior household and building pipes. Causes stomach and intestinal distress. Wilson’s disease.

Ion exchange, Reverse Osmosis, Distillation.