How Does Water Filtration Work?

whole house water filtration system mounted on the wall

The Reason for Water Filtration

Water filtration is not something most people think much about. Water just comes out of the tap, right?

It’s actually a little more complicated than that.

The water that comes out of your tap is drawn from surface water (reservoirs, streams, lakes, rivers) and groundwater (underground aquifers). As you might expect, this water comes contaminated with bacteria, viruses, minerals, sediment, animal feces and other particulates. You don’t want to drink it. 

Proper water filtration removes these potentially dangerous substances to make your water clean and healthy for drinking, cooking, and bathing. So how exactly does that work?

In this post we’ll take a look at:

Public Utility Water Treatment

Public water treatment systems typically follow a five-step process:

  1. Aeration. Air is added to the water to raise oxygen levels and promote the release of gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen sulfite.
  2. Coagulation. This is the addition of compounds that serve to suspend solid particles in clumps for easier removal from the water.
  3. Sedimentation. This employs gravity so suspended particles settle towards the bottom, allowing draining of clear water from the top.
  4. Water Filtration. This removes impurities that still remain even after the steps above are applied.
  5. Disinfection. This is the application of chemicals, such as chlorine, and/or ultraviolet light to kill harmful organisms and bacteria. (In many areas, water is also treated with fluoride to prevent tooth decay.) 

So, you might think that after public utilities perform all this water treatment at the source, the water that comes out of your tap is perfectly safe. Well, maybe.

The Limitations of Public Water Treatment

There are no federal standards that determine water quality, though the Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) do regulate the treatment and testing of contaminants. Different public utilities and municipalities use different processes and standards for their water filtration and treatment. For example, some utilities use thermal treatment, i.e., boiling, to remove bacteria, but others don’t. And even boiling water doesn’t remove chemical toxins or some other impurities.   

In addition, if not done properly, sometimes water treatment itself can cause potential health problems. For example, almost all public water systems disinfect water with chlorine. However, chlorination can cause byproducts such as Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids (HAA5) in the water. And although chlorine is effective at killing lingering bacteria in water, it alters the taste and makes your skin and hair more dry after showering.

In addition, aging water infrastructure (some water pipes are still in existence from the 1800s) can introduce contaminants after the water is treated. The Flint water crisis is an extreme example of pipe corrosion that leached into the public water system, causing a health emergency. 

The Benefits of Home Water Filtration

Because even treated water can become contaminated on the way to your tap, we recommend home water filtration. A home water filtration system ensures that water is as pure, safe, and healthy as possible. It not only reduces contaminants and removes odors to improve taste and overall quality of drinking water, but also protects your appliances and helps the environment. Water filtration also saves money over the long term if you are buying a lot of bottled drinking water because you don’t like the taste of your tap water.

Types of Home Water Filtration

You could install individual water filters at the tap or the plumbing beneath it. However, in most cases, the better option is a whole-house water filtration system.

A whole-house filter installed at your home’s main water line removes minerals and contaminants from water before it runs through your plumbing and out of your faucets. There are various kinds of filters that remove different kinds of contaminants. 

Types of water filtration include:

  • cartridge filters
  • chemical filter systems
  • backwashing filters
  • sulfur removal systems
  • iron removal filters
  • pH neutralization systems
  • sediment filters
  • stainless steel filters 

Water filtration systems are rated in microns, a measurement of pore size. The lower the micron rating, the smaller the particulates the water filter can catch. For example, a water filter with a 0.01 micron pore size catches smaller particles, including viruses, than a water filter with a 0.1 micron pore size. One of the smallest pore sizes you can get is 0.001 microns.

Reverse osmosis water filtration systems employ a pressure-driven separation process in which a semipermeable membrane acts as a barrier to keep minerals or microorganisms from passing through the filtration system. It is a highly effective process to remove contaminants such as insecticides and pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, nitrates, sugars, soluble salts, and metal ions.

Filters also have different flow rates indicated by a gallons-per-minute (GPM) rating to ensure they accommodate the size of your home plumbing system and daily family demands for water use. 

Which water filtration is best for your home depends on an analysis of what is contained in your tap water. For example, suppose you have discolored water, but the water doesn’t taste odd. In this case, the best water filtration cartridge is one that captures the sediments causing the discoloration. On the other hand, if your water tastes funny and has an unpleasant odor, but the water is crystal clear coming out of the faucet, it’s possible you don’t need water filtration at all. Instead, the solution is a water softener.

Water softeners are not technically water filtration. Again, depending on an analysis of your water, you might require one or the other, or possibly both. Filters remove impurities, while softeners specifically remove minerals that make water “hard.” If you see white deposits around drains or watermarks on dishes coming out of your dishwasher, you probably have hard water.

While high concentrations of minerals aren’t necessarily a health hazard, they do add an odd taste and odor to water. Hard water used in bathing can dry out skin and hair. Hard water also degrades the performance of your water-based appliances, even reducing their lifespan by as much as a third.

Water softeners employ an ion exchange to replace calcium and manganese ions in your water with sodium ones. Some water softeners use activated carbon to remove chlorine and ammonia. 

Ongaro and Sons Water Filtration Solutions

Ongaro and Sons can test the water in your home for mineral concentration and chlorine. We can also inspect your home’s piping systems to see if any other problems are contributing to possible water issues. Once we have identified the issues, we can recommend the best solution for your needs and budget.

Ongaro and Sons technicians are knowledgeable in just about every kind of plumbing problem and how to resolve them. We specialize in city water, municipal wells, and private well water systems.

With the help of our plumbing professionals, your water filtration system renders household water as pure and palatable as possible. A water filtration system provides peace of mind that your water is not only clean, but good for you. Even better, water filtration is affordable.

Contact Ongaro and Sons today to schedule your water quality consultation with one of our water filtration specialists.