The Pure Water Occasional for May 19, 2014
In this Mid-May Occasional, you’ll hear about Wichita Falls’ bold wastewater reclamation program and learn how to save water by giving up hamburgers and taking up hemp growing. Then there’s Legionellosis, pool chemicals, floods in the Balkans, deep sea mining, the cancer risks of fish eating, the Galapagos tanker dilemma, many new oil spills, California’s water tunnel boondoggle, the sordid lives of ship breakers, and drought in the US to worry about. On the brighter side, a new “trap door” latrine was invented, aquaponics is advancing, and the Quechan are rehabbing the American Nile. Finally, you’ll be enlighted or pissed by Dr. Mercola’s views on “alkalizers.” And, as always, there is much, much more.
To read this issue on the Pure Water Gazette’s website, please go here.
No Joke: Most Drinking Supplies Flush With “Potty Water”
by Neena Satija
Poor old Wichita Falls.
The city of about 105,000 people has become the butt of late-night jokes and the subject of shocked headlines since officials decided to turn to treated sewer water to fill residents’ drinking glasses.
Turns out, though, the joke is on just about everybody else. Because for the large chunk of population that lives downstream from a big city and whose water supply flows through a river, more than a few drops of the water in their glasses was probably once in someone else’s toilet.
Click image to enlarge.
Let’s start with Houston, which, as Texas State University professor Andy Sansom says, “has been drinking Dallas’ crap for decades.” Wastewater from Dallas and Fort Worth is deposited into the Trinity River, where it flows down into the lakes that supply Houston residents. The wastewater is so clean that it’s credited with helping the Trinity River stay strong during recent years of severe drought.
San Antonio’s wastewater — which flows through the city’s famed Riverwalk in times of drought — is considered valuable, too. Recently, the San Antonio Water System applied for a permit to ensure complete ownership over that wastewater, which is currently deposited into the San Antonio River and is so clean that it helped bring back species some thought were gone from the area forever.
The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority balked at the application, saying its own customers — farmers, manufacturers and, you guessed it, South Texas city residents — rely on that wastewater. It is so important to the authority that it’s taking legal action against the San Antonio Water System’s permit.
No one involved in the brewing court battle over who owns San Antonio’s wastewater is calling it “potty water,” as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram did in a recent story about the Wichita Falls plan.
There are a few other things to be clear about regarding the multimillion-dollar project planned in Wichita Falls. Wastewater reuse in Wichita Falls has been in the works for year sand would have happened with or without the drought. It was fast-tracked as the city deals with reservoirs that are only 25 percent full today. In addition, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — not known for being a particularly strict regulating agency — is currently on the defensive for delaying the city’s project by asking for more testing.
Several other Texas cities — San Antonio, Austin and Fort Worth among them — have been looking at such water reuse projects for decades, and some are hoping the plans might come to fruition in the coming years. Across Texas, treated wastewater is being used for everything from watering golf courses to making silicon chips.
Yet judging by the headlines on news reports about the Wichita Falls project, the city’s residents could be in for some sort of disgusting surprise.
“Brushing Teeth With Sewer Water Next Step as Texas Faces Drought,” read a Bloomberg News headline. National Public Radio wrote, “Drought-Stricken Texas Town Turns To Toilets For Water.” Most recently, NBC’s Today Show tackled the topic, with a reporter noting, “Some residents think it’s just plain gross.”
Bloomberg News noted that many people are concerned about water contamination, comparing the Wichita Falls project to the example of Oregon water officials flushing 38 million gallons from a reservoir after a teenager urinated into it. “We’re not drought-stricken Texas,” an official there noted.
On that note, remember all the people guzzling beer and floating in the water out on Lakes Travis and Buchanan, which supply Austin’s drinking water. No one is suggesting flushing those bodies of water or implying that residents of the capital city are brushing their teeth with sewer water.
When talking about the yuck factor associated with water reuse projects, people seem to be distraught over the fact that the water would go directly from a sewer treatment plant to the tap. That’s the short-term plan in Wichita Falls during this extreme drought. Eventually, the city plans to blend treated sewer water with reservoir water before anyone drinks it — not unlike what happens in other cities.
And the fact is, some of the lakes and rivers that supply water here in the United States can get pretty dirty. The recent horrific spill in the Elk River from the chemical manufacturing company Freedom Industries that had 300,000 West Virginians afraid to take showers is just one example.
A recent New York Times investigation showed that public water supplies nationwide contain everything from arsenic to radium at higher-than-safe levels. In the Rio Grande, which supplies millions of South Texans and farmers with drinking and irrigation water, raw sewage is dumped in the river from Mexico every day — and water treatment plants either deal with it or they don’t, as was demonstrated in a small town near Laredo last fall when residents were forced to boil their water for three weeks after getting sick from taking showers.
In fact, an exhaustive National Academy of Sciences study of wastewater reuse concluded that when it comes to potential pathogens that may be in the water, “the risk from potable reuse does not appear to be any higher, and may be orders of magnitude lower, than currently experienced in at least some current (and approved) drinking water treatment systems.”
No wonder so many cities — not just in Texas — are considering direct water reuse as a water supply strategy to quench their thirst.
On The Tonight Show recently, host Jimmy Fallon made a joke that a lot of environmental advocates, water engineers and city planners across the state have said they think asks a good question.
“A town in Texas just announced a controversial plan to recycle toilet water and use it for drinking water. Dog said, ‘How are you only thinking of this now?’”
Source: The Texas Tribune
Legionellosis–America’s “most important waterborne disease.”
by Dr. Joseph Cotruvo
Editor’s Note: The piece below is excerpted from a Water Technology column by Dr. Joseph Cotruvo. It appeared the WT‘s “Professor POU/POE” series, which is the trade journal’s version of the Gazette‘s own ongoing series by technical wizard Pure Water Annie. —Hardly Waite.
The most important waterborne disease risk in the United States is legionellosis, and it can be fatal. Distribution and plumbing system deficiencies are the most significant sources of waterborne disease in the U.S. and probably in all developed countries. In the past, source water contamination and inadequate water treatment or treatment breakdowns were the major sources of traditional waterborne diseases.
Since the passage in 1974 and implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act after about 1978, however, new EPA regulations were implemented. Public water systems have undertaken major improvements in installations and operations of treatment technologies and water quality monitoring, and the traditional waterborne diseases have been reduced significantly. However, the types of illnesses have changed to water distribution-related causes that can’t be entirely eliminated at the central municipal water treatment plant. This calls for a radically different approach to protect public health by regulators and the public.
Legionellosis has been a reportable disease only since 2001. The disease is not caused by ingestion of the water, but rather by inhalation of aerosols such as during showering or from inhaling blow down from cooling system heat exchangers, or probably even humidifiers. Those at particular risk are the elderly and especially people with impaired immune systems such as those who are hospitalized and in extended care facilities, but they are everywhere in the community. It is well known that legionella are detectable in a high percentage of plumbing systems, including in homes, hotels and other buildings, and a substantial number of people in the general population are susceptible because of their ages or health or immune status. Several hospital-related outbreaks of legionella related diseases are reported annually around the world, but undoubtedly most are not identified or attributed to the water system. CDC has estimated that between 8,000 and 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’-related disease each year in the U.S. It is not known how many of those are attributable to exposure from the plumbing or cooling systems.
Treatment technologies for managing Legionella and other regrowth microorganisms
Treatment is a real challenge and a cookie cutter approach is not likely to be widely successful. The problem of controlling microorganisms colonizing plumbing and distribution systems is not trivial because many of them are associated with biofilms or protozoa such as amoebas. Thus, even though they may be susceptible to disinfection in suspension, the disinfectants may not have ready access to them in biofilms so that they can be killed. Disinfectants that have been employed have had limited success. They include chlorine, chloramine, chlorine dioxide, ozone, UV light, copper/silver ionization and shock thermal and steam treatments. Each of them has its benefits and weaknesses, and often a combination of treatments must be applied on a regular basis supported by monitoring to indicate the conditions of the system and the time to re-treat. Chlorine is a powerful disinfectant, but even when applied in a temporary hyperchlorination mode (e.g., 50 ppm for several hours) total eradication may not be achieved. Chloramines, which are far less potent than free chlorine, have demonstrated considerable success in reducing legionella counts in some water plumbing systems. This could be due to the lower chemical reactivity of chloramine and greater hydrophobicity that allows greater penetration into biofilms. Chlorine dioxide is a potent disinfectant that also has had mixed success. On-site generation and survival of a residual in far plumbing reaches and in hot water systems can be a problem. Ozone and UV might have some efficacy in recirculating systems, but they will be primarily effective against organisms in the water column. Copper/silver in combination and individually have shown successes when they are properly managed and maintained. Shock thermal treatment for several hours at temperatures above 70oC have shown temporary success, but a complete strategy would require a combination of initial biofilm cleanout with a disinfectant system that will retard regeneration of the biofilm.
The concept of final barrier protection has value in situations where sufficient risk exists. For example, instant hot water delivery systems leave a smaller volume of water to stagnate and provide a growth environment. Temperature control valves at faucets and showerheads allow maintaining hot water lines at temperatures above the ~55oC upper legionella growth temperature, and then blending with cold water at the point-of-use to prevent scalding risk.
The Quickest, Easiest Way to Save Water
By Jon Fisher, The Nature Conservancy
Meat eating is seldom mentioned as a water conservation issue and many Americans fall for the notion that our nation’s gluttonous water consumption can be brought under control if we can only remember to turn off the tap while we brush our teeth. – Hardly Waite, Pure Water Gazette.
I admit it: I’m kind of obsessed with saving water. Not only have I done everything possible at home (low-flow toilets, showerhead, washer/dryer, dishwasher, etc.), I even stealthily installed a faucet aerator in the bathroom of a favorite restaurant of mine. Since bathrooms in businesses get a lot of use, I couldn’t resist the 4.5 gallons per minute savings. But what if I told you that you could save even more water than me, without being a total weirdo? What if it was free?
In the United States, the average person uses about 69 gallons of water at home indoors per day (25,295 gallons per year) and about 100 gallons of water per day (36,500 gallons per year) if you include outdoor use like watering a lawn. While that is already a lot of water, this number doesn’t even represent all our water use. In fact, the water we use at home is just 3.6% of our total water use! Another 4.4% is industrial, and a whopping 92% is agricultural (food and fiber).
The trick here is to reduce the portion of water use that goes to agriculture (92%) by choosing different foods. Just as we can calculate a person’s “carbon footprint” to measure their total contribution towards climate change, we can do the same with water. Your “water footprint” includes both your direct and indirect water use (e.g. the water used to produce products you buy), and includes both the consumption and pollution of water. In the U.S. the average annual water footprint per capita is 750,777 gallons; the global average is less than half of that at 365,878 gallons.Home water use is declining in the U.S., and you can join in on the fun by saving about 25 gallons per day with standard conservation measures (like low-flow showers). But if you really want to use less water, you can save far more than that by making one tiny change in your diet on a weekly basis.
So, here’s the quickest, easiest way to reduce your water footprint: Once per week, eat a soy burger instead of a hamburger. That’s it. That single swap saves you a whopping 579 gallons each time, and if you do it once per week it adds up to saving 30,111 gallons per year (more than your total indoor water use at home).
If you also drink a cup of soy milk instead of cow’s milk you can save another 47 gallons each time (2,447 gallons per year if you make the switch once per week). So between the burger and the milk, that’s a total savings of 32,559 gallons per person per year, enough to take 814 baths. Trust me, choosing soy products instead of cow products is a lot easier than trying to save that much water at home (and way easier than installing aerators at restaurants, which requires stealth).
Think about that: you could shut off your water at home (no toilet, no shower, no washing machine, etc.) and still have less impact than switching from beef to soy once per week*.
Inspired? The average American eats 57.3 pounds of beef and drinks 20 gallons of milk per year; swap that all out for soy and save 115,396 gallons of water each year! If you don’t like soy, there are plenty of other options.
You can educate yourself on how much water various foods and drinks require at a fantastic web site put out by the Water Footprint Network. (Before you click over, let me warn you: you may not want to know.)
So if you find yourself pulling your hair out because you can’t afford a front-loading washer, or if it starts to seem like a good idea to leave a spare aerator and a wrench in your backpack (just in case), remember there’s an easier way.
* Note that if you wanted to offset your outdoor water use as well as indoor use, be prepared to switch another 1.6 cups of milk a week for soy milk.
See also on this website details about how the US out-consumes much larger countries in overall water use because of our high meat consumption.
The article above is reprinted from the Occasional for September, 2012.
Water News for the Week of May 19
O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of hemp.
Hemp and Water. The water demands for growing hemp are relatively low: One of Colorado’s first commercial hemp farmers, a very conservative farmer in Eastern Colorado struggling with drought and monoculture-damaged soil, found that planting hemp is using half the water that the previous wheat crop was. Now that America’s ridiculous marijuana phobia is finally fading, pot’s long neglected relative, the wonderful hemp plant, is due to rise to prominence.
Oil and gas: Spills up 18 percent in US in 2013. The number of spills reported at oil and gas production sites shot up nearly 18 percent last year, even as the rate of drilling activity leveled off. There were at least 7,662 spills, blowouts, leaks and other mishaps in 2013 in 15 top states for onshore oil and gas activity, according to an analysis of state records.
The Centers for Disease and Control estimated that in 2012 nearly 5,000 people in the US visted emergency rooms because of injuries from swimming pool chemicals. The most common injury was poisoning, usually from inhaling pool chemical fumes. People were typically injured when they opened containers storing pool chemicals without wearing protective equipment (such as goggles), or when they entered the water right after chemicals had been added.
An unusual source of drinking water. Birds and butterflies, in a common practice known as lachryphagy, drink crocodile tears.
Thousands flee in record Balkan floods. Packed into buses, boats and helicopters, carrying nothing but a handful of belongings, tens of thousands fled their homes in Bosnia and Serbia to escape the worst flooding in a century.
North Carolina bill would make it a felony to disclose fracking chemicals. People who disclose confidential information about hydraulic fracturing chemicals in North Carolina would be subject to criminal penalties and civil damages, under a bill in the state Legislature.
Gold mining and child labor. In the Philippines children as young as 5 help with a particularly dangerous form of shallow water gold mining, called compressor mining, but exposure to the mercury used in the gold mining operations is particularly dangerous for children.
Questions arise about wisdom of huge China water project. There’s an old saying in the American West: “Water flows uphill toward money.” The same holds true in China, where engineers are building a 1,500-mile network of canals and tunnels to divert water from the rain-abundant south to Beijing and other wealthy northern cities.
Click picture for larger view.
Deep seabed mining. It sounds futuristic, but a Canadian company has struck a deal with Papua New Guinea to mine gold and other metals from deep beneath the sea. Many worry that this could be devastating to deep ocean ecosystems.
It is estimated that only 1% of the oceans have been explored and that more people have stood on the moon than have explored the depths of the deepest ocean canyons. In fact, there are more maps of the moon than of the oceans,so there is literally a whole world to discover! Every year this ocean treasure chest of minerals and medicines yields important discoveries that are invaluable to science. –Greenpeace.
The water tunnel boondoggle. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s ecosystem has been in an environmental free fall since the state and federal water projects were completed in the 1960s and early ’70s. The costly and ambitious Bay Delta Conservation Plan could solve some environmental problems, but impacts on the small town of Byron could be severe.
Washington governor weighs tenfold increase in cancer risk for fish eaters. How much risk of cancer from eating fish is too much? Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has privately advanced a proposal that would allow a tenfold increase in allowable cancer risk under the law.
700 workers at Taiwan factory in Vietnam hit by poisoning. Over 700 workers at a Taiwanese-invested shoe factory in central Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa city were hospitalized on Thursday for poisoning, after drinking water at their firm.
Saving America’s Nile: How the Quechan are rehabbing the Colorado River. The Colorado River has been referred to as America’s Nile, the most important river in the Southwest. Now, where riverbanks were once home to 20-foot-tall non-native vegetation that hid trash dumps, hobo camps and meth labs, there can be found an oasis, via the Yuma Wetlands project.
Toxic fumes, health concerns remain after Los Angeles pipeline rupture. Toxic fumes continued to hang in the air at an industrial area of Los Angeles Friday, a day after a pipeline run by a company with a checkered history of accidents ruptured and spilled at least 18,000 gallons of crude oil onto city streets.
Aquaponics revives an ancient farming technique to feed the world. Aquaponics combines plant cultivation and fish farming: Fruits and vegetables are grown in water reservoirs that also house fish. The fish waste fertilizes the plants, and they, in turn, clean and filter the water. Humans have known for centuries that this works, but it has never been done quite like this.
100 percent of California now in highest stages of drought. It might not seem possible, but California’s drought just got worse. According to Thursday’s release of the U.S. Drought Monitor, 100 percent of the state is now in one of the three worst stages of drought.
Galapagos in ’emergency’ over stranded petrol tanker. Ecuador has declared an emergency in the Galapagos Islands, saying that a petrol tanker which ran aground last week still poses a threat to the archipelago’s fragile ecosystem.
Oceangoing vessels are not meant to be taken apart. They’re designed to withstand extreme forces in some of the planet’s most difficult environments, and they’re often constructed with toxic materials, such as asbestos and lead. When ships are scrapped in the developed world, the process is more strictly regulated and expensive, so the bulk of the world’s shipbreaking is done in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, where labor is cheap and oversight is minimal.
Industry reforms have come in fits and starts. India now requires more protections for workers and the environment. But in Bangladesh, where 194 ships were dismantled in 2013, the industry remains extremely dirty and dangerous.
Pipeline company in LA oil spill has history of violations. Plains All American Pipeline, the owners of the 130-mile oil conduit that ruptured early Thursday, spilling an estimated 19,000 gallons of crude onto the streets of Atwater Village in Los Angeles, had a history of safety and environmental violations, and ties to previous oil transport accidents.
Plastic Microbeads–A Growing Concern
Few consumers realize that many cosmetic products, such as facial scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels, now contain many thousands of microplastic beads which have been deliberately added by the manufacturers of more than 100 consumer products over the past two decades.
Plastic microbeads, which are typically less than a millimetre wide and are too small to be filtered by sewage-treatment plants, are able to carry deadly toxins into the animals that ingest them, including those in the human food chain such as fish, mussels and crabs, scientists said.
While many people have assiduously tried to recycle their plastic waste, cosmetics companies have at the same time been quietly adding hundreds of cubic metres of plastics such as polyethylene to products that are deliberately designed to be washed into waste-water systems – one estimate suggests that, in the US alone, up to 1,200 cubic metres of microplastic beads are washed down the drains each year.
Scientists and environmentalists have started lobbying the industry to stop using plastic microbeads in exfoliant skin creams and washes, but with limited success – a relatively small number of firms have publicly agreed to phase them out, and even then have given themselves several years to do so.
Britain, along with the rest of the EU, is being urged to follow the lead of New York State which last week became the first place in the world to prohibit the use of plastic micropellets in cosmetic products after a failure by the vast majority of personal-care companies to agree to an immediate voluntary ban. Full story from The Independent.
EPA: Drinking water in Ohio county contmainated but still safe. The water in Muskingum County, Ohio, nearly exceeds the EPA’s maximum contaminant level for chlorination byproducts known to increase the risk of cancer, according to EPA standards, although the allowable level was recently reduced by 90 percent.
US insurer class action may signal wave of climate-change suits. A major insurance company is accusing dozens of localities in Illinois of failing to prepare for severe rains and flooding in lawsuits that are the first in what could be a wave of litigation over who should be liable for the possible costs of climate change.
A simple yet brilliant $1.50 sanitation idea. Made by the toilet manufacturer American Standard, a new “trap door” invention seals off open pit latrines that are a major source of disease in the developing world.
Dr. Joseph Mercola is one of the most respected “internet” doctors and certainly the most popular. His newsletters and web postings are read by millions. Below I’ve extracted from his newsletter issues and website some of his views on the popular pH-altering devices sold as “alkalizers” or “ionizers” which purport to promote optimal health and cure disease by turning water into a highly alkaline fluid by means of electrolysis. –Gene Franks
Many alkaline water enthusiasts are convinced its powers are unparalleled and will vehemently defend it. I am also certain that many will post vigorous objections to my position, and that is their choice. It is also my choice and responsibility to provide information on a system that many people are relying on to provide health benefits that I feel are unjustified.
There are a plethora of testimonials and so-called scientific studies on the Internet claiming alkaline water will cure your every ill. Many consumers, struggling to make sense of the scientific jargon, eventually throw up their hands in frustration. The reality is, most of the circulating information is distributed by clever marketers, with very little scientific validity to back up their claims.
Complicating matters is the fact that most water alkalizers are being marketed by multi-level marketing (MLM) companies with less-than-stellar ethics. They sell you a very expensive machine, for which you get a good discount if you sign up as a rep, and once you’re part of the MLM, you can’t very well change your mind about its benefits (especially if you’re going to sell the units) – even if you realize that the alkaline water is no longer “working” for you.
I have been personally approached many times and encouraged to sell these systems and there would have been large revenue streams had I chosen to do so, but I would never promote anything that I would never use personally, and I can assure you that I would never use most of the machines on the market that produce alkaline water as a regular source of water.
Some people experience an initial “high” when they start drinking alkaline water. This can easily be attributed to detoxification, and the fact that they are likely just becoming better hydrated.
Detoxification is about the only benefit of this type of water, and this benefit is limited to very SHORT TERM USE (no more than a week or two). I will elaborate on what is known about alkaline water, but first you’ll need a basic understanding of the properties of water and a few definitions.
The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, and a pH of 7 is neutral. Anything with a pH below 7 is considered acidic, with battery acid being the most extreme example, around 1. Anything with a pH above 7 is alkaline (or basic), with lye at the top of the scale, around 13. [iii] Natural water on our planet ranges in pH from 6.5 to 9.0, depending on surrounding soil and vegetation, seasonal variations and weather, and even time of day responses to sunlight. Human activities further influence the pH of our water, from the barrage of toxic industrial pollutants. According to an educational website called Water on the Web:
“Pollutants in water can cause it to have higher algal and plant growth, as a result of increased temperature or excess nutrients, causing pH levels to rise. Although these small changes in pH are not likely to have a direct impact on aquatic life, they greatly influence the availability and solubility of all chemical forms in the lake and may aggravate nutrient problems. For example, a change in pH may increase the solubility of phosphorus, making it more available for plant growth and resulting in a greater long-term demand for dissolved oxygen.”
Most aquatic animals and plants have adapted to life in water with a very specific pH, and will die from even slight changes. A pH below 4 or above 10 will kill most fish, and very few animals can tolerate waters with a pH below 3 or above 11 . With living systems being so sensitive to changes in pH, it should come as no surprise that YOU, as another living organism on this planet, would be sensitive to your water’s pH as well.
Guidelines for the PH of Your Drinking Water
So, what are the recommendations for optimal drinking water pH? The WHO has published a nearly-600 page document called “Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality.” [v] In this voluminous tome, you would expect to find everything you’d ever want to know about your drinking water, right? Well, everything EXCEPT a pH recommendation – there are no health-based guidelines for pH! They state that pH usually has “no direct impact on consumers,” yet they also write pH is one of the “most important operational water quality parameters.” They do recommend your water pH be in the range of 6.5 to 8.0 so as not to corrode your pipes – and they’re NOT talking about your body’s plumbing:
“Alkalinity and calcium management also contribute to the stability of water and control its aggressiveness to pipe and appliance. Failure to minimize corrosion can result in the contamination of drinking water and in adverse effects on its taste and appearance. Failure to minimize corrosion can result in the contamination of drinking water and in adverse effects on its taste and appearance.”
It appears that the WHO is more concerned about the pipes in your house than the pipes in your body. Most likely the optimal pH of the water you were designed to drink is somewhere between 6.5 and 8. Above or below this level may have other purposes, such as disinfection, but I would be careful drinking water outside of these ranges.
Alkalinity Research I: Flora and Fauna
Although the research is clear that highly alkaline water has detrimental effects on plants and animals, there are not many studies with humans. A review of the literature turns up a variety of anecdotal evidence about the importance of pH to various living organisms, however, and as you might expect, optimal pH varies, depending on the organism. The scientific literature indicates pH is important for nutrition and vitality. For example:
- Michigan State University studied greenhouse growth media (including the pH of that media), finding it is extremely important for the media pH to be properly adjusted prior to planting. Too high of a pH (greater than 6.5) increases the chances of micronutrient deficiencies. Too low of a pH (less than 5.3) results in calcium and/or magnesium and/or manganese toxicity. [vi]
- Ohio State University Extension Service reports that alkaline water affects a plant’s ability to obtain nutrients from the soil and can alter the soil’s pH over time.[vii]
- An ecological study in the Netherlands found that an influx of alkaline water led to the demise of a native plant calledStratiotes aloides L. [viii]
- Fish chronically exposed to alkaline soft water exhibit signs of stress (sometimes fatal), while fish in alkaline hard water experienced no such adverse effects, according to a study at the University of British Columbia. [ix]
If you are a gardener, you can view a helpful illustration of the environmental effects of pH in your own garden. If your pH is low, your hydrangea produces pink flowers, but if your pH is high, you’ll get blue flowers. But what about us bipeds?
Alkalinity Research II: Humans
There has been a great deal of debate about battling cancer by making your body alkaline. This has become a focus of interest as cancer rates have skyrocketed (along with many other chronic, debilitating diseases), while our bodies have become more acidic from our processed-food diets. The scientific research about the benefits of alkalinity is by no means conclusive. PH appears to have a major influence on cell mitochondria:
- Normal cells die under extremely alkaline conditions. A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that alkalosis (rising cellular pH) causes alkaline-induced cell death as a result of altering mitochondrial function. [x]
- Another study out of Cornell University states that antioxidants have not proven to be effective against many neurodegenerative diseases, and they state it may be a result of how the mitochondria operate within the cell in certain pH conditions.[xi]
There are some scientific studies that really argue against alkalinity, at least with respect to preventing or treating cancer. Consider the research by Robert Gilles, who has studied tumor formation and acidity.[xii] According to Gilles, tumors, by their very nature, make themselves acidic – even in an alkaline cellular structure. In other words, they make their own acidity. Scientists who are in the process of developing prototypes for potential new anticancer agents that selectively kill tumor cells by interfering with the regulation of intracellular pH, have found that alkaline treatments do NOT have the desired effect – but strongly acidic treatments do.[xiii]
Talk about fighting fire with fire – they are fighting acid-loving cancer cells with acid! LESS alkalinity inside a cancer cell seems to be what you want, not more. So, all of those salesmen promising alkaline water will lower your cancer risk are completely clueless when it comes to what the scientific research actually shows. Even more interesting is a 2005 study by the National Cancer Institute, which revisits the use of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to treat cancer. They found that, in pharmacologic doses administered intravenously, ascorbic acid successfully killed cancer cells without harming normal cells.[xiv] This is yet another example of cancer cells being vulnerable to acidity, as opposed to alkalinity. It’s clear that the relationship between alkalinity and cancer has been grossly oversimplified by those jumping to premature conclusions – and of course by those trying to profit off your fear. The bottom line is that alkaline water isn’t cancer’s magic bullet.
Balance Is Key
As is true with many things, in the end it’s a matter of balance. Water that is too acidic or too alkaline can be detrimental to human health and lead to nutritional disequilibrium. This was demonstrated in a Swedish well water study [xv], which found both pH extremes to be problematic. Your body simply was not designed to drink highly alkaline water all the time. So I believe it’s best to be VERY careful when it comes to something as foundational as the water you drink on a daily basis. If you get it wrong, you could really cause yourself some major damage. It makes sense that you are designed to drink water that occurs naturally, which excludes alkaline water with pH levels of 8 and above.
And if you drink alkaline water all the time, you’re going to raise the alkalinity of your stomach, which will buffer your stomach’s acidity and impair your ability to digest food, as low stomach acid is one of the most common causes of ulcers. This can open the door for parasites in your small intestine, and your protein digestion may suffer. It also means you’ll get less minerals and nutrients over time – in fact, some of these health effects can already be seen in hardcore alkaline water drinkers. Alkalinity is also potentially a problem because it is antibacterial, so it could potentially disrupt the balance of your body’s beneficial bacteria.
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