Do you know exactly what’s in your city’s water? Most people don’t, and that’s okay. Here at PurClean we believe that knowledge is power. The more you know about the contents of your water, the more equipped you are to find water treatment solutions that will work for your site specifically. That’s why we like to partner with our customers from the beginning, and we start by testing your water source. But what does this mean exactly? This article will walk you through what we test for, why and what the results might mean for you and your customers.
Initial water quality can be assessed by looking at your Water Quality or Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) provided by the EPA. You can visit their website here (https://ofmpub.epa.gov/apex/safewater/f?p=136:102::::::) to see if your area’s report is listed online. You should receive these reports annually from your water municipality. These reports contain data collected from various water sampling sites in your area and outline what contaminants, if any, are present in your water source. These reports also include details about where your water comes from and how it is treated. Let’s go through some of the items that are in these reports that are useful to Carwash Operators…
pH – The pH level of water reflects how acidic it is. pH stands for “potential of hydrogen” meaning the amount of hydrogen, in this case, in your water. pH is measured on a scale from 0-14 with 7 being neutral, 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. In carwash applications, the pH of your water can affect how your chemicals react. Water with a high pH level (8.5 or more) present with a high level of alkalinity minerals and can cause scale build-up in our RO membranes and plumbing. When this high level is present, we recommend purchasing an antiscalant kit in order to counteract the pH levels and protect the life of your membranes. This is important because replacing membranes unnecessarily is an added expense that could be avoided by testing your water. You can also speak to your chemical provider to help adjust your pH level through your chemistry.
TDS or Total Dissolved Solids – TDS is the amount of organic and inorganic materials dissolved in a particular amount of water and is measured in parts per million (ppm). TDS can come from just about anywhere including run off from chemicals used to treat water sources, minerals from groundwater sources and even plumbing at your site. If your city water is under 50ppm, we typically do not recommend you purchase an RO system. If your water is above 50ppm TDS, we recommend an RO system to purify your water for your car wash. Each of our PurClean ProSeries RO Systems come with a mounted TDS meter to ensure your equipment is always outputting the highest quality water. We also sell handheld TDS meters to test your other water sources or outputs.
Hardness – The hardness of water is calculated by measuring the amount of dissolved minerals present in the water. Hard water is high in dissolved minerals and can cause unsightly reactions if not treated properly. For example, hard water that is high in dissolved calcium can react with soaps and chemicals in the water to create soap scum. When using this hard water, more soap is needed to clean whatever the water is being applied to. PurClean ROs can function without a water softener when the hardness of the water measures less than 25 grains. This is because our Water Stabilizer removes the hard particles from the water thus keeping them from binding to the RO membranes. When the hardness of the water is over 25 grains we recommend purchasing a water softener to work in conjunction with your RO system to ensure your carwash is receiving the highest quality water possible. Hard water can also cause unsightly water spots during the final rinse.
Iron – The levels of iron in the water are tested in order to improve the life of your RO membranes. If the iron level of your water is high, these particles can bind themselves to the membranes causing them to clog. If left untreated, the clogged membranes become useless and become an unnecessary expense. Acceptable levels of iron are .1-.5 ppm. Anything over this level is considered high and we recommend adding a KDF (Kinetic Degradation Fluxion) Carbon Tank to your site. This special media helps to prolong the life of the equipment by removing high-metal contaminants. In some cases a water softener can also be used to combat iron in your water supply. Each case is specific, so please be sure to contact us when testing your water.
Chlorine – Chlorine is added to most if not all public water supplies to act as a disinfectant against bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing pathogens that commonly grow in water supply reservoirs, water mains and in water storage tanks. However, high chlorine levels are another factor that could cause damage to our RO membranes. Chlorine won’t clog the membranes but instead will open the membranes up allowing more water to flow through not filtering the water as they should. This opening results in lower quality water leaving the RO system and lessening the quality of the wash. This can be combatted by increasing the size of your carbon tank. Chlorine levels are not tested on our water test kits because it dissipates as the water is in transit, but this can be tested by using a simple chlorine test strip such as used by pool cleaning companies. Another chlorine related item now often being added to city water is chloramines. Chloramines are a combination of chlorine and ammonia. The ammonia encapsulates the chlorine and allows it to remain in the water for longer periods of time and provide longer-lasting disinfection. The chloramines can also be combatted by a larger carbon tank.
Turbidity – Turbidity is the haziness or cloudiness of the water. Turbidity is the measurement of water clarity. This cloudiness is caused by large numbers of individual particles typically caused by construction, mining and agriculture. Ordinarily these particles are not visible to the naked eye, but when levels of these particles are high they become visible resulting in a haze in the water. This is similar to smoke in that the smaller particles when separated are not visible but when grouped together can be seen with the naked eye. Turbidity in the water is mainly composed of silica which, again, can bind to our RO membranes. An antiscalant solution should be added prior to the RO system when high turbidity is present. You can often tell if a water has high turbidity by shaking a sample in a clear bottle. If the water appears cloudy or hazy it’s likely that there are large numbers of particles in the water.
Orthophosphate - Orthophosphates injected into city water create a protective coating of insoluble mineral scale to the inside of service lines and household plumbing. This coating serves as a liner to keep corrosive elements in the water from dissolving the metals in the drinking water. It stops the metals from leaching out. Once again, if the orthophosphate levels in your water are high, they can affect the membranes and cause them to clog or produce lesser quality water. High levels of orthophosphate can be treated using an antiscalant solution or a water softener depending on your site’s needs. Orthophosphate levels are maintained by the public water systems and are key to reducing lead and copper levels in the water supply.
These are the seven factors that we look for in your water when recommending an RO system solution. Often much of this information can be found using the water quality report from your municipality, but we also offer water test kits to test water directly from the site. The kits we use test for all factors except chlorine, since this dissipates quickly and would disappear in transit, but as stated above can be tested using chlorine test strips. Each water evaluation is specific to your site and can determine important requirements for your water solutions. These results are crucial in determining the correct equipment recommendations to save you time and money, especially when it comes to membrane longevity. The knowledge of water and water quality is essential to providing our customers with the best solutions and to providing a quality product. Here at PurClean we strive to bring this knowledge to you so that you can make more informed decisions for your customers. Water testing is the starting point of making informed product choices and making sure you receive the best product for your money.
To request a water test kit for your site, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.