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Living Green

The Golden Age of Water is Dead; Residential Water Treatment 101

Americans have long been spoiled by an abundance of high quality and relatively cheap water, however this is changing fast. More and more Americans are becoming aware that water is a very precious natural resource and it is not nearly as abundant as we once believed.

Poor water quality was once thought to be a “third world” problem and water scarcity only a concern for arid climates like the desert southwest. Not anymore. All Americans are becoming increasingly aware that both water quality and scarcity are serious issues everywhere.

Water has become a pretty hot commodity. Fortunately, there’s a new breed of water treatment professionals constantly developing equipment and refining services; making it affordable for families to provide themselves very high quality water.

There are three distinct types of water treatment product categories. They are Water Conditioning, Water Disinfection and Water Filtration.

Water “conditioning” also known as “softening” is the removal of natural minerals that are mainly harmful to pipes, fixtures, appliances and anything else that comes into contact with water, like spotting and dulling the finish of your car, for instance. Water purification generally refers to the disinfection of water by killing bacteria and other biological contaminants, some of which can cause significant health issues. Water filtration generally refers to the mechanical separation and removal of even the smallest organic and inorganic particulate matter.

Most water sources require all three of these processes before water can be considered completely safe for your home and for your health.


In order to be safe for your home and other property, your water must be “softened.” This means to remove calcium, magnesium and other “hard” natural minerals. Natural minerals can cause staining, spotting and in extreme cases very thick, crusty deposits that destroy fixtures and clog pipes. They are generally not harmful to humans and can even be beneficial in limited amounts. However, the presence of these minerals can dramatically reduce the useful life of your plumbing, your fixtures and especially your appliances that use water. In fact, the failure to reduce these minerals in your water is increasingly considered by appliance manufacturers to void the appliance warranty.

Despite many claims to the contrary by companies selling different types of water softening systems, only “sodium ion exchange” or “reverse osmosis” are recognized by the Water Quality Association as the highest quality, most cost-effective way to remove mineral hardness from water supplies. It is important to understand that treating or “conditioning” water to reduce or eliminate hardness does very little to improve the biological purity of water. While softening your water makes it safe for your home and property, only “disinfection” and very fine “filtration” can make water completely safe for our health.


Water disinfection refers to the process of using a disinfectant to purify water from bacteria born contaminants.

Most Americans receive their water supply from a public water source. Public supplied water is required to have chlorine, or a similar disinfectant, added to the water, mixed and delivered to their home. The disinfectant remains in the water supply in order to prevent the delivery system from contaminating the water supply with bacteria. This vital delivery system has continued to deteriorate in our major cities and is in serious need of repair and replacement. Chicago, along with other major cities is increasing water rates to customers at double digit rate increases in order to reinvest into this enormous problem. While Public Water suppliers and the EPA are in agreement to improve the delivery system, they are wrestling with what is considered safe water.


Thanks to new technology that aids in the analysis of what is in our water and the ever increasing new chemicals created by man, the EPA is under pressure to update its 1974 standards.

Chromium 6 created nationwide concern in 2010 when advancement in water testing technology and the Environmental Working Group showed that many of our large cities have levels significantly above the standard recommended by California officials. “Even though scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Toxicology Program have linked the ingestion of hexavalent chromium to cancer, the EPA doesn't require Chicago or other cities to test for the toxic metal.” as reported by Michael Hawthorne from the Chicago Tribune.

Chromium 6 and many other contaminants are fueling the demand of bottled water. The public simply believes that bottled water is safer because it has been filtered. Unfortunately, most bottled water suppliers get their water from a public water supply which is then simply filtered for taste and not purity.

Filtering for taste is considered purification because the process removes the chlorine from the water, which improves the taste. However this process does not remove harmful chemicals like chromium 6. Reverse osmosis technology is the only process to filter out chromium 6 and other nasty contaminants. Major water suppliers simply cannot afford to use this technology because of the enormous cost associated with producing “pure” water along with the fact that approximately 1% of the water produced by water suppliers is used for drinking. This small percentage makes purifying water simply cost prohibitive and wasteful.


Americans are left in the dark.  What should they do?  Simply put, many water professionals believe that Reverse Osmosis or Ultra Filtration systems will become the new “refrigerators” of our homes.  Every house will need to have some sort of filter system to ensure their water is free of these chemicals.  It is a water professional’s job to properly educate a homeowner in regards to the known contaminants in their local public water supply and pair that up with water filtering systems designed to remove those contaminants.  Unfortunately, water professionals are typically only versed in water conditioning, leaving room for misinformation and confusion for the public to sort out.

Hopefully not for profits like the Water Quality Association of America and Environmental Working Group will continue to champion the research of our deteriorating water supply and great columnists like Chicago Tribune’s Michael Hawthorne will continue to help educate the public and water professionals, resulting in healthier water and therefore healthier lives.

Andrew John Wilson is the owner of Angel Water, Inc. a Chicagoland Water Purification Company that specializes in home water filtering solutions to treat water issues. Andrew has studied water issues for over 10 years.

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