Water treatment is crucial for homes, office buildings, factories and communities. It helps improve public health and protects the environment. It also helps your equipment run more efficiently, reducing energy costs.
At its most basic level, water treatment is the process of removing unwanted elements from water. These undesirable substances include particles, germs and chemicals. You can use a variety of different systems and technologies to improve the quality of your water.
The type of water you want to treat and what you want to use the treated water for impacts the type of water system that works best for you. Here is a list of some of the most common types of water treatment systems, with information that will help you choose the system that works best for your needs.
Filtration is one of the most common types of water treatment systems. Under the broad category of standard filtration, you’ll find numerous technologies. In all these systems, though, water passes through a filter that removes contaminants.
Some typical kinds of filters include cartridge filters, bed filters and filter presses.
- Cartridge filters have a central core water can flow through. They’re wrapped in a material with tiny holes that filter water. This method works well for producing exceptionally pure water.
- Bed filters use a layer of material such as sand or activated carbon that catch contaminants as water passes through. Because this system requires little energy and you can reuse the materials, it is cost-effective.
- Filter presses exert pressure on water by inflating a diaphragm using compressed air or water. This method is excellent when you need to remove large quantities of materials.
Distillation systems use the natural processes of evaporation and condensation to remove unwanted substances from water. These systems heat liquid water to the point of evaporation. The unwanted materials in the water don’t evaporate and are left behind. The clean vapor can then be collected and allowed to condensate back into liquid.
Although these systems use natural processes, getting evaporation to happen quickly enough to be useful for filtration is energy-intensive because of the high amounts of heat you must regularly apply to the water. Because of this high-energy use, it is quite expensive when done on a large scale.
If you can afford it, though, you can enjoy water that is exceptionally pure. Distillation removes almost all contaminants.
Reverse osmosis is the process of removing salt from water to make it potable. Countries that don’t have much fresh water, but have access to saltwater, frequently use reverse osmosis to produce clean drinking water.
This technology applies pressure to water to push it through a semi-permeable membrane, a film water can go through, but larger particles can’t. On one side of the membrane, you get pure water, while the contaminants stay on the other side.
While the method isn’t cheap, reverse osmosis is the best at removing salt and similar substances from water. If you need to make fresh water out of salt water, consider reverse osmosis.
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun at regular levels can cause sunburn. At higher levels, it kills microorganisms. That’s the idea behind ultraviolet water treatment systems. The system consists of UV lamps that apply ultraviolet light at a frequency of 254 nanometers to water, which kills microorganisms.
If your main concern is microbes that could cause illness if consumed in drinking water, ultraviolet treatment systems may work for you. While it won’t remove larger particles, you’ll end up with water you can safely drink.
Choosing a Water Treatment System
Now you know a bit about the most common water filtration systems, you can determine which type will work best for your needs. Consider the type of water you want to treat, what you want to remove and what you want to use the treated water for.
If you want a standard system that removes both particles and chemicals, opt for a filtration system. If you want high purity, choose distillation. For removing salt from water, reverse osmosis is the best option. For killing microorganisms when larger particles aren’t a concern, you would do well with an ultraviolet treatment system.
Whichever system you choose, be sure it’s of a high quality and that it gets installed and used properly. Clean water is of utmost important for human and environmental health, as well as efficient equipment and business operations.
Megan Nichols is a freelance science writer