Is Reverse Osmosis Water Good or Bad For You?
What is Reverse Osmosis Anyway?
RO (Reverse Osmosis) is the process by which minerals are removed from water. That's the simple answer! You can look through all the different technical articles that describe the scientific process in very complex terminology, but I want to keep things easy to understand here.
There is a method to this mineral extraction RO does through subjecting the water to pressure through an RO membrane (semi-permeable). This simply means some things can pass through the membrane under the extreme pressure like water but not other things like salt and other minerals.
So if you haven't guessed already, there are some critical applications to this technology that I'll discuss in the next section.
Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.— Szent-Gyorgyi
Making Undrinkable Water Drinkable
Since much of the ocean is salt water and there is plenty of that to go around, desalination plants provide an opportunity for a large part of the world to have drinking water.
In order for that to happen, RO plays a huge role in removing almost all the salt from the water. The key here is pressure and the semi permeable membrane. It's not surprising that RO was developed by the Navy for use with submarine crews in drinking fresh water from the salty ocean.
My sons who are in elementary school asked if you could desalinate water through a cloth. While that would be great, especially in an emergency situation (such as being stranded out at sea), it's not a solution to remove the salt for drinking water.
How efficient is the process of desalinization in a plant? It's not 100% but somewhere between 95-99 percent effective in removing the salt.
Amount of Water in the Ocean is Massive
Fouling and Why It's Important
No this isn't a sports term that I thought might just fit in this article. Fouling is a real issue when it comes to RO. It's the excess material that builds up over time. Imagine a tube or pipe that has built up calcium deposits over time that eventually clog the pipe from freely flowing water through.
Eventually, the pipe will need to be flushed out. In the case of reverse osmosis a flushing process will also need to occur. The membranes used for the filtration will also need to be replaced on average every two to three years.
In-Home Reverse Osmosis Systems
Some people swear by the efficiency of RO systems within their homes. One key consideration before getting one is whether or not you're okay with minerals being stripped out of the drinking water.
When my kids were small, we settled for bottled drinking water with fluoride. With RO systems, it wouldn't be ideal if you want your children to have flouride in the water they drink.
Looking at the bottle water I drink, the label states "Processed by Advanced Filtration, Ozone and Reverse Osmosis Technologies. There are minerals added however, in this case they say it's done for taste.
Home units typically don't have the pressure really required to be efficient enough for full RO capability. I believe that is why a lot of people settle for plastic water bottles from the store or a water service to deliver the bottled water to their homes.
With the contaminants that are found in tap water, reverse osmosis water does provide a "cleaned up" version especially for those who suffer from reactions to certain minerals and/or nasty substances such as arsenic.
If you plan to get a system for your home, check out whether that unit has adequate pressure, is easy to install, and has enough of a following that you don't have to worry about quality issues.
Ultimately, this type of technology has a lot of applications and provides a simple solution to many drinking water dilemmas.