Water Blogged 1-Defining the Terms
Believe it or not, one of the most common questions I get is, “What is the best water filter to buy?” There are many ways to respond, but most often my answer is sincerely, “why do you want filtered water?’ Then, of course, this initiates a dialogue which results in better questions.
For a debut post to this blog, I would like to preface the entire series of future articles with an important disclaimer. Yes, the “fine print” is best understood in the beginning! Any healthy and objective conversation must use common terms and agree on definitions. As we begin our discussion of water contamination and purification, we must first ask, and answer, “What is water? What is contamination? What is purification? We will eventually approach hydration issues also.
Please note also, it is not my intention to teach over nor under your current level of knowledge. So let’s agree we all can learn more. Let’s begin with some fundamentals, conclusions, and limitations from over 35 years of study. In the interest of clarity, I welcome all questions and comments.
The name of this discussion is easier said than done. Here’s why. There are at least two approaches to the subject of water filtration: science and philosophy. But both must first define the terms. Unfortunately, the advertising machine has trained consumers to use the term “filter” in place of purify or treat. To make water better it must be treated, or purified. Filtering is just one process to do that.
So, if we want to limit a discussion to what filtering device is best, we will need to look at that specific process. Or we could rephrase the question: What is the best process to clean water. And here we also need to assume we are discussing just our consumable water.
The next issue that will come up is Brand Names. It is a daunting task to objectively evaluate a device for which people have paid hundreds or thousands of dollars and feel they are getting satisfactory results. All people have biases: some logical, some not. So if we all “vote” for our favorite “filter” because it’s the brand we bought, our discussion will not be helpful to others who are researching the science.
And then, there are hundreds of devices that combine filtration with modification. So, from the start, we must limit our discussion to just the science that reduces contamination. Enhancing, restructuring, alkalizing, oxygenating, etc… these are not in the category of purification.
What is water?
I will be the first to admit an over-simplified answer can be frustrating for the scientifically-minded truth seeker. But let’s first answer what it is not. Water is NOT just the aqueous solution that flows in the rivers and from the tap. That solution contains additional elements that are mixed with water molecules. Common use of the word water generally does not mean the chemically pure H2O, but that must ultimately be our point of comparison.
What is a contaminant?
All water solutions are contaminated unless only the simple molecule H2O is the substance. And of course, not all contamination is harmful. It is our responsibility and choice to determine which toxic and non-toxic contaminants we want to risk or enjoy consuming with our water.
The definition of contamination again falls into two disciplines: science and philosophy. Philosophically, all water contamination comes from three sources: natural, accidental, or intentional. Scientifically, the contamination is either biological, organic, inorganic, or radioactive. Examples of each type of contaminant can be found in each source.
What is purification?
Simply, it is changing something from a greater concentration of contamination to a lesser concentration. We might even subjectively agree it can be called “improvement.” Specifically, water purification is improving the purity of the aqueous solution to contain fewer impurities. Purification is a process with a measurable outcome. The end goal with time and cost factors will require analysis of both quantitative and qualitative purity.
Those definitions almost sound like an evasive maneuver to avoid the question, but from a water consumer education standpoint, it must be clearly understood that the decision cannot be based solely on emotional reaction, nor brand loyalty. The question “Why do you want filtered water?” must be answered objectively.
Then we can more accurately ask, “How clean do you want your water?”
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