Water Basics You Need to Know Right Now

by Robert Slovak

Water is more than a glass of vibrating H2O molecules. But it is one of the least understood substances on the planet. What makes water pure? What makes water safe to drink? What is the best water for your health? Here are the basics you need to know about water....

  • Physical and Chemical (established most important!)

  • Structural (quasi-scientific correlations with health)

  • Energetic (much conjecture, theory and few strong health correlations)

Water & Health

The quality of drinking water and bathing (showering) and how it is used is critical to the pursuit of optimum health. You don’t have to be fanatical much beyond making sure it is contaminant-free, mineralized and structured.

Essential terminology for navigating the role of water in health:

Solvent and solute – The solvent is the water and the solutes are the minerals and most anything else that dissolves in the water, good and bad. Total Dissolved Solids(TDS) – This refers to all the dissolved minerals in water. When you boil all the liquid away from a pot full of water the whitish-gray residue left is mostly TDS. Milligrams per liter(mg/l) – A measurement for all things dissolved in water, both good nutrients and bad contaminants. Micrograms per liter(ug/l) – A smaller unit of measurement for dissolved substances. This is 1/1000thof a mg/l. Parts per million(ppm) – If you dissolve one liter of salt or minerals (or anything!) in a million liters of water then you have a solution that is “one ppm of that substance”. Note - Since there are a million milligrams of water in one liter, “ppm” is often used in place of “mg/l”. Parts per billion(ppb) – Dissolve one liter of a substance in a billion liters of water and you have “one ppb”. This is equivalent to “one ug/l”. As minute an amount as this may seem both mineral and trace element nutrients as well as contaminants are functional in human physiology at ppb levels. Electrical conductivity (EC) – This is often uses because it is the minerals that give water its electrical conductivity and this conductivity plays a critical role in the physiological function of minerals. pH(Potential for Hydrogen) - A measure of the activity of hydrogen ions (H+) in a solution (actually the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration for you math wizards). The more hydrogen ions the more acid the solution is. The fewer hydrogen ions the less acid the solution is.

pH can be likened to the measurement of temperature which gives the "degree" of heat but not its "quantity". Therefore, when it comes to determining the capacity of a solution to neutralize acid, pH is not a meaningful parameter. Alkalinity is.

Acid solution– Having a pH less than 7. Alkaline solution – Having a pH higher than 7. Also referred to as “basic”. The important thing to realize is that alone, pH is not a meaningful measure of the ability to neutralize acid. Alkalinity - Alkalinity is a measure of the capacity of a solution to neutralize acids – sometimes referred to as its buffering capacity. REDOX – Describes Reduction-Oxidation reactions. In reduction reactions electrons are donated while in oxidation reactions electrons are taken. ORP (Oxidation-Reduction Potential) – The measurement of a solution’s capacity to donate (-ORP) or take (+ORP) electrons for chemical reactions. Point of Entry(POE) - Water treatment for all the incoming water in a home, especially for bathing and showering. Point of Use(POU) – Water treatment for drinking and cooking water only at specific locations.

What Is The Best Type of Water?

There are so many different types of water that it can be confusing. As you read about each type of water, you will find that not all types of water are created equal:

Tap water

Let’s talk US only for the sake of simplicity. First, tap water can come from most any source – rivers, and lakes (surface water); wells (which draw water up from underground source called an aquifer); desalinated water from the ocean – or some combination of them. If you are on a public water supply serving more than 25 people its quality is regulated by the EPA, which developed standards of purity under the SDWA. This is an ever evolving standard that limits contaminants of all categories in drinking water – both aesthetic and health-related. Consider that less than 2% of water supplied under these standards is actually consumed for drinking and food preparation. That is why it is not economically feasible to remove the growing list of contaminants – society can’t afford it. This makes Point of Use (POU) treatment a most logical approach for high quality drinking and bathing water.

Let’s talk a little about nutrients vs. contaminants

Especially regarding minerals and trace elements, there is often a fine line between essential nutrients and unwanted contaminants – this is why the subject is so complex. Physiologically you need elements like chromium, copper, fluoride and selenium but if they are in your water at certain levels or in certain forms then they can be toxic. Of special concern health-wise, are substances that are put in public water supplies during the process of treating it. These include aluminum, fluoride and disinfectants. You don’t want any of them if you are concerned about optimizing health. Of special concern are the disinfectants which form disinfectant by-products, DBP’s, which can be a serious health risk both for drinking AND bathing. This contaminant category should be removed from all of the water in your home using a Point of Entry (POE) water treatment system.

Bottled water

There are excellent bottled waters and ones best left alone. Plastic bottles with various toxic plasticizers like Bisphenol- A (BPA) are in the latter category.

Well water

Well water is just a very general term for water that flows or is pumped from the ground. In future discussions, when we talk of well water we will be referring to private residential wells which are often a real challenge to make suitable for drinking, bathing and other uses. While the earth can act as a great filter for many contaminants, it can also yield some of the worst contaminants in terms of water quality. Each well is so individual in the problems it presents there are no general rules for treating the water.

Spring water, Artesian Water

To be legally considered spring or artesian water in the US, the source must flow naturally from a natural underground reservoir (called an aquifer) to the surface. Artesian wells have a special configuration that distinguishes them.

"Purified Water" (like Dasani, Aquafina, Pure Life)

To legally meet the “Purified Water” standard in the US, bottled water must be demineralized to less than 10 ppm (mg/l) dissolved solids (TDS) and adhere to certain microbiological standards. Purified Water can be made by a number of different technologies or a combination of them – Reverse Osmosis, Deionization and Distillation. If it were not for the plastic bottle, some purified waters might be an acceptable starting point as a contaminant-free water platform provided Deionization is not the primary treatment process (as in the highly TV-promoted Zero Water device).

Distilled water

To be legally considered distilled water, the source must be converted to steam (water vapor) and then re-condensed (leaving the impurities behind). This process removes virtually all impurities except for VOC’s. Usually it is followed by activated carbon filtration to remove these. This process clears all water structures and memory and can be a good contaminant-free platform for remineralization and enhancement.

Reverse Osmosis water

Reverse Osmosis (RO) has made such a great name for itself in water treatment because it is highly effective in removing a broad range of contaminants and is energy efficient. RO does require extra water to process a specified amount of pure water but it is still the most cost-effective high-tech method.

Alkaline water

Alkaline water (typically drinking water with a pH greater than 8.5) has little meaning or health significance and can be confused with water having high alkalinity and capable of neutralizing acids. See discussion of alkaline ionizers below.

Mineral water

To be legally considered mineral water it must contain more than 250 mg/l of TDS. Mineral waters around the world can contain more than 3000 mg/L of dissolved minerals.

Sparkling and carbonated water

This category can be naturally or artificially carbonated. If it is high in minerals, this category can be a good source of level of acid-neutralizing alkalinity. Many of the European sparkling waters in glass offer this benefit.

Structured water

The subject of water structures – identifiable unique configurations of water molecules within a volume of water – is vast and little understood. Attaching a biological significance to water structures might be premature except for the molecular organizing influence of minerals and trace elements which is well acknowledged. The medicine of Homeopathy, which uses such extreme dilutions of substances that only its memory exists as water structures and frequency, is also validated and well respected. An authoritative book on this subject is called Dancing With Water by MJ Pangman and Melanie Evans. Also, the following commentary on this new science gives some idea of how controversial this science is.

Conference on the Physics, Chemistry and Biology of Water from Water Conference on Vimeo.


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