The Pure Water Occasional for August 3, 2015
In this National Garden Hose Day Occasional, you’ll hear about thirsty almond trees, thirsty golf courses, thirsty data centers, and thirsty Californians. You’ll marvel at news about linen and leather hoses, Jan Van Der Heiden, Georg Frideric Handel, Dr. William Schaffner, and Pure Water Annie. Then there are brain-eating amoeba, almost almond-free almond milk, cynobacteria, and cocaine in drinking water. The world’s worst ad campaign and the four categories of wastewater. Hear about solar distillation in California, the amazing recovery of Lake Michigan, algae blooms in Lake Erie, and a call for the return of the vanishing public water fountain. Articles about aeration, water softening, and National Garden Hose Day, and, as always, there is much, much more.
To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette’s website, please go here. (Recommended! When you read online you get the added advantage of the Gazette’s sidebar feed of the very latest world water news.)
As Summer Heats Up, Algae in Lakes Cause Concern
As summer temperatures rise, the presence of algae in some surface waters in the US has increased. Not all algae produce toxins that affect public health, but increased growth in recent years of harmful algal blooms is triggering some concern. Last August, a major algal bloom in Lake Erie caused the city of Toledo, Ohio, to issue a “do not drink” order for more than 400,000 residents. The EPA estimated in 2009 that 20 percent of the nation’s lakes are highly impacted by algae, and one-third contains some level of harmful algae.
In response to the rise in harmful algae in lakes, the EPA determined toxin levels in tap water that are safe for human consumption and offered recommendations for how utilities can monitor and treat drinking water for algal toxins and notify the public if the water exceeds these levels.
Green scum produced by and containing cyanobacteria.
More About Algae
Algae are found naturally in lakes, streams, ponds and other surface waters. When conditions are favorable, they multiply rapidly and cause a “bloom” characterized by a pea-soup green color or blue-green scum. Their nature can be affected by the intensity of sunlight, water temperature, nutrient availability (especially nitrogen and phosphorous), pH, and water movement.
Most algae are not harmful. Last year’s Toledo algae scare was due to fresh water algae known as cyanobacteria, often called blue-green algae. Cyanobacteria proliferate in stagnant or slow-moving bodies of water with high levels of nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorous — often due to agricultural runoff or wastewater. When the ecosystem becomes unbalanced, non-harmful algae are often replaced by cyanobactria.
These fresh water algae can produce cyanotoxins, one of the more harmful types of algal toxins.
Cyanotoxins can cause health problems primarily affecting the nervous system, liver or skin. If present in recreational water or drinking water at high enough levels, a wide range of symptoms may occur — including fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain, blisters, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, mouth ulcers and allergic reactions. These symptoms can occur immediately or several days after exposure.
Some of the most common classes of algal toxins are microcystins, anatoxins and cylindrospermopsins. Microcystins have a World Health Organization guideline of 1 mg/l for drinking water, as do cylindrospermopsins which primarily affect the liver, and anatoxins which affect nerve synapses. However, appropriate standards for these toxins are still in development.
When cyanobacteria are present in a water source, the preferred strategy is to remove them from the water before toxins are released. This can be accomplished through processes such as dissolved air flotation. However, the best approach is to prevent the growth of algae that can produce the toxins through watershed management.
Many solutions are available to treat algal toxins. Disinfectants and oxidants such as chlorine, chloramine, ozone, ultraviolet (UV) and chlorine dioxide are frequently used in standard treatment facilities. Most algal cells can be removed by chlorine disinfection, in addition to coagulation, sedimentation and flocculation. Removal of the toxin is more difficult. Many standard water treatment strategies are used with some success. These include granular activated carbon (GAC), ozone, advanced oxidation processes, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis (RO). At present there is no single recommended treatment for algal toxins.
Algae in water sources is, of course, of interest mainly as a public water issue. Point of use treatment for residential water has been infrequently considered, but the standard techniques of carbon filtration, chlorination, and reverse osmosis would seem to be the obvious final barrier strategies.
Reference: Water Technology.
August 3 is National Garden Hose Day
by Hardly Waite, Gazette Senior Editor
As another National Garden Hose Day rolls around, it’s time to stop and consider the origin of the very useful item that the holiday celebrates.
Everyone knows that Leonardo Da Vinci invented the lawn mower and Pure Water Annie invented the water softener, but information about the origins of one of the world’s most useful devices, the humble water hose, is hard to come by.
Here is one theory, from an article by Marion Owen:
The year is 1652.
The place: Amsterdam.
A 12-year old boy, named Jan Van der Heiden, watches in awe as the city’s town hall burns to the ground. The event makes a lasting impression.
Twenty years pass. Van der Heiden and a group of men, standing on ladders along a canal, fill a watersack which is supported in a trestle, with buckets. From the trestle, water flows in a linen hose down to the fire engine tank below. And the first fire hose is born.
The linen hoses are soon replaced by leather, which are hand-stitched, a trade that was common in Holland’s seafaring industry. It isn’t long, though, before more uses are found for Van der Heiden’s invention and the first garden hose is born.
There is also talk that in the pre-Christian era, as early as 400 BC, people were using animal intestines as primitive hoses to move water about. There is no mention of garden hoses in the Bible. I have a theory that hollowed out snakes were also among the early hoses, but these may not have been widely used until the late Middle Ages.
What is certain is that by the nineteenth century, water hoses were in use. The “hose bath” was a popular item in pre-Civil War Water Cure facilities, as indicated by this 19th century magazine picture:
When uses of the hose are discussed, the fire hose usually tops the list, and it’s true that fire fighters’ effectiveness increased exponentially when they gained the ability to get water from Place A (the water source) to Place B (the fire) without having to resort to the bucket brigade.
The common garden hose is one of those things we take for granted. The hose is pretty amazing, though, when you think of it for what it is–a very inexpensive portable pipe that can bend around corners, roll up for storage, and carry high volumes of water quickly over great distances. Hoses are ubiquitous, so we take them for granted.
The only thing better than a garden hose is a garden hose with a filter.
- Garden Hose Day, August 3, 2012. Minneapolis fans pulling for their favorites at the popular Garden Hose Pull.
Gazette’s Famous Water Pictures Series
Georg Frideric Handel (left) and King George I on the Thames River, 17 July 1717. Painting by Edouard Hamman (1819–88).
The Water Music is a collection of orchestral movements, often published as three suites, composed by George Frideric Handel. It premiered on 17 July 1717 after King George I had requested a concert on the River Thames. Hear the BBC Proms 2012 performance.
Water News for the Summer of 2015
Full Summer in Texas. Pure Water Products at Denton’s Farmers’ Market. From left Theresia Munywoki, Kacy Ewing, Katey Shannon, and Kristen Lewis with twins. Visit them at the Denton Farmers’ Market on Saturdays or at our 523 N. Elm location weekdays. Or call 940 382 3814.
A very large solar distillation plant is being built in California’s Central Valley. The plant will convert sea water to high quality fresh water using energy from the sun. It will be capable of generating up to 5,000 acre-feet of water every year–enough to serve 10,000 homes of 2,000 acres of cropland. More details.
To see how your area stacks up, check out the U.S.Drought Monitor.
Golf Courses Feel the Effects of the Drought
Across the state, California’s about 900 golf courses are feeling the effects of the state’s historic drought. Being in the business of keeping huge swaths of grass green, while everyday residents haul leftover bathwater to soak their vegetable gardens, can make managing a golf course a challenging job. Around California, courses are trying to adapt — building off better practices already years in the making as well as using new technologies to keep California golf a viable $6 billion industry.
An average 18-hole golf course covers close to 120 acres and uses almost 90 million gallons of water per year, enough to fill 136 Olympic-size swimming pools, according to some estimates. That’s not insignificant, but to put it in perspective, golf courses use less than 1 percent of the fresh water in the state, while homes, businesses and industry use roughly 20 percent, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Farmers, by comparison, use nearly 80 percent.
After cold, icy winters, Lake Michigan is rising rapidly. Just two years after dropping to a record low, Lake Michigan’s water level is rebounding at a near record rate. It’s good news for restoring the habitat, but not so good for some who live on the lake.
Good news, bad news: Your almond milk may not contain many almonds. Still drinking almond milk, despite everything we’ve told you this past year? There’s some good news: you may not be destroying the environment as much as you’ve continued to not care about. You may be surprised to hear that one of the top brands of “almond milk” has hardly any almonds in it. This may lead to a new brand of environmentalism that asks us to choose the lesser evil: “Our almond milk contains fewer almonds.”
California regulators are seeking a $1.5 million penalty from a Tracy-area water district for allegedly illegally tapping the delta for farmers and thousands of homes, marking a significant escalation in the state’s push to get big users to go along with drought-forced reductions.
The fine would be the first penalty levied against a longtime water-rights holder during the four-year drought. Full story.
California’s drought is so bad that thousands are living without running water.The drought in these communities resembles a never-ending natural disaster. Many living in green agricultural areas have no running water in their homes.
Waste Water for Plants
Using recycled waste water for plants is not as simple as many think, because all recycled water is equal. The quality of the water, the nature of the soil, and the adaptability of the plants themselves must be taken into consideration. According to an article on recycling water for irrigation in the Bay Area of California, there are four general categories of recycled water situations:
Category 1: Good water quality with no restrictions on site use. (Santa Rosa, CA recycled water fits this category.)
Category 2: Moderate water quality that is appropriate for nearly all landscapes, except those with plants that are sensitive to salt or boron and soils drain poorly.
Category 3: Fair water quality that can be used where plants have at least moderate salt or boron tolerance and soils are at least moderately drained. Landscapes on poorly drained sites must be composed of plants with good salt tolerance or boron tolerance. (Napa recycled water is in this category.)
Category 4: Poor water quality that is appropriate only for sites having plants tolerant of salt or boron and soils with good drainage, and drought-tolerant landscapes that will be irrigated only a few times per year.
Brain Eating Amoeba Not a Drinking Water Issue
The brain eating amoeba has returned to St. Bernard parish’s water. This is of special interest during the National Garden Hose Day season.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical School, said people in the area should take steps to stay safe, including keeping their pool chlorinated, and stopping children from playing with hoses to stay cool.
“You don’t [want] water up into the nose,” Schaffner said. “You can’t get it just by drinking water — that’s not a problem.”
Data Can Be as Thirsty as Almonds and Golf Courses
The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015 that, “California has more than 800 data centers, the most of any state. Based on that and estimates for water use, the state’s data centers consume roughly as much water in a year as 158,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.”
“A midsize 15-megawatt center uses between 80 million and 130 million gallons of water a year for cooling, according to industry estimates. At the high end of that range, each new facility is akin to planting 100 acres of almond trees, adding three hospitals or opening more than two 18-hole golf courses.” Reference.
Study finds traces of cocaine, other illegal drugs in Ontario drinking water “Researchers at McGill University found water discharged from waste-water treatment plants in the Grand River watershed has the potential to contaminate sources of drinking water with drugs such as morphine, cocaine and oxycodone.”
The California Drought Can be Blamed for One of the World’s Stupidest Advertising Campaigns.
In an effort to combat the negative publicity almonds are receiving as water hogs, the Almond Board, a trade group that represents the $6.5 billion almond industry, launched a Shark Week campaign in the beginning of July, featuring the adventures of a shark who stopped preying on people after he discovered the wonders of the crunchy snack. Details in Mother Jones.
The public drinking fountain seems to be going the way of the pay telephone. The Mother Nature Network makes a strong case for bringing it back. And it isn’t about nostalgia. It’s about the tons of plastic used by the bottled water industry. Details here.
Pure Water Gazette technical writer Pure Water Annie explains Aeration
Aeration is an effective chemical-free method of preparing water containing iron and hydrogen sulfide for filtration. Exposure to air “oxidizes” the contaminant to a filterable form (ferric iron or elemental sulfur), then an appropriate filter removes the contaminant from the water.
Closed tank aeration for residential treatment is available in several formats. The least expensive, though not necessarily the simplest, uses a small venturi that is installed in the water line itself in front of the well’s pressure tank. As water fills the tank, air is literally sucked into the water stream via the venturi. A small treatment tank where “oxidation” occurs follows the pressure tank. The water then goes to a free-standing filter for final filtration.
Small air pump used to pack air into a treatment tank where contaminants like iron and hydrogen sulfide are oxidized.
A much more aggressive treatment uses a small air compressor, or “air pump,” that injects air into a treatment tank. When water enters the tank it falls through a pocket of compressed air where rapid oxidation occurs. The water then passes on to a filter tank for final removal of the contaminant.
Single tank units are the simplest form of aeration treatment. Single tank systems perform the aeration and filtration in a single tank. Water enters the tank, falls through a pocket of compressed air, then is filtered by the media contained in the lower 2/3 of the tank. Single tank units need no pump; they bring in air during the nightly regeneration performed automatically by the control unit.
More Information about Aeration
Water Softeners and “Water Softeners”
Water softeners are familiar devices that have been around for several decades. Most people are familiar with them.
Water softeners aren’t water filters. They are “ion exchangers.” They function by swapping sodium for calcium and magnesium, the minerals that make water “hard.” As water passes through the resin tank. the hardness minerals leave the water and attach themselves to the resin beads in the tank and the beads release sodium into the water in exchange. Salt has to be added to the brine tank from time to time to replace the sodium that has been released into the water.
Water softeners are very effective at what they do. They can make water that is unusable because of its scale-forming hardness into good water for domestic purposes. Softened water protects and extends the life of expensive appliances, prevents scaling of fixtures, and makes soap work better.
However, softeners also have some disadvantages. First, they consume a good bit of salt and this salt ends up in waste water systems and subsequently in fresh water supplies and irrigation water. For this reason, some communities have banned softeners as harmful to the environment. Also, many people genuinely dislike the “slick” feel of softened water on their skin. Then there are concerns about the health effects of high amounts of sodium in drinking water, the expense of upkeep, the hassle of dealing with big bags of salt, the use of considerable amounts of water for regeneration, concerns about the damage discharged brine might cause septic systems, and sometimes confusion about how to program and maintain the softener.
In spite of the negatives, the water softener has been so popular that it is the cornerstone of the modern water treatment industry. Most conventional “dealerships,” from lucrative multi-site franchise operations to one-man shops, owe a good part of their income to selling, renting, servicing, and providing salt for water softeners. Softeners have been among the most aggressively marketed products in America for years. Most of us have had a visit from the smooth salesman with a slick demonstration, a forceful “close,” and a long-term purchase contract in his briefcase, who gets his foot in your door via an appointment set by a telemarketer. For the dealership, the stakes are high. A single softener sale can bring a large initial profit, ongoing maintenance business, the subsequent sale and maintenance of a reverse osmosis unit to take out the sodium that the softener puts into the customer’s water, and years of steady income from the dealer’s “salt route.”
It isn’t surprising, therefore, that dealers and dealer associations do not take kindly to attempts to market substitutes for their cash cow.
Although alternatives to the water softener have been around as long as softeners themselves, it is only recently that some of the alternatives have gained wide acceptance. The most basic alternative systems are natural or electronic magnets that are said to alter the molecular orientation of the hardness minerals and take away their tendency to stick to pipes and metal appliances. In recent times, the electronic “softening” alternatives have become more and more sophisticated. Many now feature rapidly cycling changes in wave frequency to scan the spectrum of possibilities and thus assure complete treatment of the “hardness” minerals.
The difficulty in assessing the effectiveness of the alternatives is that they don’t actually remove calcium and magnesium as softeners do. A softener actually takes away the calcium, so it’s easy to do a simple test for hardness that shows effectively and with complete objectivity that the water is “soft” (free of calcium and magnesium) after it has passed through a water softener.
Sellers of magnets, however, make no claim that their product “removes” calcium. Therefore, after water has been treated with a magnet, it still registers as “hard” on a hardness test. The calcium is still in it although, according to the magnet seller, it is no longer offensive.
You can see the difficulties faced by early magnet sellers and their prospective customers. Since no test of a magnet’s effectiveness at water conditioning existed, the best way to demonstrate the product’s efficacy was to run test water through two identical pipes, one with a magnet attached and the other as a “control.” After a couple of years, when the pipes were cut open and examined, the treated pipe looked better than the control pipe (or it didn’t) and conclusions were drawn. No one seem to have a notion as to why magnets seemed to work in some areas and not in others, or in some applications of the same area and not in others, or if some natural magnets worked better than others, or if electromagnets worked better than natural magnets.
In general, although some effort has been made to evaluate the performance of alternative softening devices, performance assessment of softener substitutes remains cumbersome and not very useful.
More recently, advanced alternatives have been developed, including a variety of electrical devices (many of which are variations on natural magnets). Certainly the leading softener alternative now is the TAC (Template Assisted Crystallization) technology which is sold under various brand names.
Please visit our RO Parts Page for tanks and accessories. We also have dedicated parts pages for countertop water filters, undersink filters, and aeration equipment. We stock parts for everything we sell.
Thank you for reading. Please come back next week.
Places to Visit on Our Websites in the meantime.
Garden Hose Filters. Don’t be the last on your block to own one.
Model 77: “The World’s Greatest $77 Water Filter”
”Sprite Shower Filters: You’ll Sing Better!”
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