Research Suggests Greater Need for Smart Water Monitoring in the Home
Alex "Solar Girl" Steele
Living in a well-developed community means citizens can rely on everyday necessities with little worry. A steady supply of clean water to drink, cook and bathe with is essential - but even something as basic and fundamental as potable water is a luxury in some parts of the world. According to the EPA, about 94% of Americans get their clean water from a community water system or CWS, meaning they have access to a shared public water supply that provides water to the same population year round. Most of us probably turn on the faucet or shower with little concern about the quality coming out of the tap, but there is always room for improvement. Some surprising new findings in the scientific community show that changes to the quality and content of potable water can actually occur within the home!
A recent collaborative effort conducted by scholars at Memphis, Perdue, and Michigan State Universities has revealed a necessity for more development in the way we monitor the quality of our potable water. This one-year intensive study utilized a net-zero residential building to monitor the way water purity varied depending on time, temperature, and the area of the building it was diverted to. The research concluded that there were substantial differences in the chemical content and pH level of water at different areas of the building, times of the year, and water heat. These findings highlight the need for continued water quality monitoring, beyond what is done at a treatment plant.
Over the course of the study, there were 58 discrete water sampling events conducted. These samples were taken in different areas of the house - at the water service line, the water heater, the first floor kitchen sink, second floor bathroom sink and shower. Throughout the year, the temperature and chemical composition of water at the service line fluctuated dramatically. As temperatures fluctuated between 59°F and 73.4°F, the chlorine concentration in the samples shifted from 0.4–0.9 mg/L, the nitrate concentration varied from 0.1–0.8 mg/L, and the copper concentration changed from 32–81 µg/L. Those changes are notable, but what’s even more unexpected is the fact that 10.3% of samples taken at the service line did not contain a detectable amount of chlorine at all! This raises some questions about the consistency of water treatment and quality, but other curious changes were noted within the building as well.
The pH of water changed quite dramatically in the building’s plumbing system. It increased from approximately 7.5 to 9.4, going from a normal water pH level to a pH level that more closely resembles baking soda! This sounds drastic, but it’s not harmful to consume or bathe in water this level of alkaline water - unless you just dyed your hair, in which case you might find it fades your vibrant colors! The variations noted as the most prominent involved changes in trihalomethane (TTHM) and total organic carbon content. Trihalomethane was measured to increase up to 89% depending on the pH level of the sample, and total organic carbon content rose from just 0.4 mg/L to a whopping 61.0 mg/L in cold water, and from 0.5 mg/L to 4.7 mg/L in hot water! Isn’t it remarkable how the composition of the water we consume can be affected by the time of year, temperature, and route it’s diverted to?
The cause of these changes was not readily apparent from the study, but it absolutely illustrates the need for enhanced water monitoring technology. Water quality tests are performed regularly at treatment facilities, but this study suggests that buildings themselves could benefit from more close scrutiny beyond the service line. Aqua Wolf Plumbing plans to stay on top of these developments to ensure we can offer cutting edge water monitoring technology to our clients as soon as they are available.