From Natural Source to Safe Consumption
Raw water from natural freshwater sources such as rainwater, groundwater and surface water contains contaminants such as organic pollutants, inorganic pollutants, pathogens, suspended solids, and nutrients that need to be removed in order to make the water fit for human consumption. This raw water is treated to become drinking water, which then becomes wastewater, then biosolids, and then makes its way back to nature to start the cycle over again. Ideally it is returned free of natural and manmade pollutants.
Water treatment plants must purify the raw water supply not just for the 100 billion glasses of tap water Americans drink daily, but water for washing clothes, bathing, watering lawns, agriculture, manufacturing purposes, power generation, healthcare, and countless other functions also depend on clean water. Facilities face several challenges when treating raw water to make it safe for various purposes.
Key Challenges of Treating Raw Water
- Contaminant Variability: Raw water sources can vary significantly in quality and composition, especially due to factors like weather, pollution, and seasonal changes. This variability often requires treatment facilities to design robust processes that can adjust and withstand major shifts in influent chemistry.
- Microbial Pathogens: Raw water can contain harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Ensuring the removal or inactivation of these pathogens is crucial to prevent waterborne diseases.
- Chemical Contaminants: Raw water may contain a wide range of chemical contaminants, including heavy metals, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. Treating and removing these substances can be complex and costly.
- Natural Organic Matter: Dissolved and suspended organic matter in raw water can react with disinfection chemicals to form disinfection byproducts (DBPs), which may have health implications. Removing or controlling these DBPs is essential.
- Algae and Harmful Algal Blooms: In some water sources, the growth of algae, including toxic species, can cause taste and odor issues, as well as the production of toxins that need to be removed or neutralized.
- Turbidity: High turbidity, caused by suspended particles in the water, can reduce the effectiveness of disinfection and filtration processes. It’s essential to address and control turbidity.
- Water Hardness: High levels of minerals like calcium can lead to scaling in pipes and appliances. Water softening may be required to reduce hardness.
- Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Variability in weather patterns, including droughts and floods, can affect raw water quality and availability, posing challenges for water treatment facilities.
- Aging Infrastructure: Many water treatment facilities operate with aging infrastructure that requires maintenance and upgrades to ensure efficient and reliable treatment. Additionally, aging infrastructure often has different anti-corrosion water chemistry requirements than newer infrastructure, which must be considered when making treatment adjustments.
- Regulatory Compliance: Water treatment facilities must adhere to strict regulations regarding water quality and safety. Meeting these standards can be challenging, especially when regulations become more stringent or new contaminant controls are introduced.
- Resource Management: Efficient use of energy, chemicals, and other resources is essential to reduce operational costs and minimize the environmental footprint of treatment processes.
- Population Growth: Increasing population and urbanization can strain water treatment facilities, leading to higher demand and the need for expanded capacity.
- Emerging Contaminants: The presence of emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, in raw water sources requires ongoing research and adaptation of treatment methods to address potential health concerns.
Water treatment facilities continuously work to address these challenges through advanced technology, research, and the development of more sustainable and cost-effective treatment methods. The Nutri-Mg++®process treats water resources to comply with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements for the Disinfection Byproducts Rules (DBPRs) in an efficient and cost-effective way.