Basics of Water Treatment

Water quality improvement entails the disinfection and purification of untreated ground and surface water.

At the Community Level

The purpose of a public or private water treatment facility is to make water potable (safe to drink) and palatable (pleasant to taste) while also ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of water to meet the community’s needs. 

Raw and untreated water is obtained from an underground aquifer (usually through wells) or from a surface water source, such as a lake or river. It is pumped, or flows, to a treatment facility. Once there, the water is pre-treated to remove debris such as leaves and silt. Then, a sequence of treatment processes — including filtration and disinfection with chemicals or physical processes — eliminates disease-causing microorganisms. When the treatment is complete, water flows out into the community through a network of pipes and pumps that are commonly referred to as the distribution system.

Public vs. Private

What’s the difference between public and private water treatment facilities? Public, municipal systems are owned and operated by the cities or towns they serve, and they’re typically under the management of a mayor or other elected official. Private systems range from individual wells serving a single household, to small corporate associations that provide water to a small group of homes, or to large corporations that have their own water service divisions. Whether public or private, all U.S. water utilities that serve more than 25 people must adhere to water quality standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as state and local regulations.

Point-of-Use and Point-of-Entry Treatment

Point-of-Use (POU) devices treat water at the point of consumption. The technology provides the final barrier to the contaminants of concern before the water is consumed or used. Some commonly used technologies include:

  • Activated Carbon
  • Reverse Osmosis
  • Ultraviolet (UV) Technologies
  • Distillation

Point-of-Entry (POE) devices are whole-house treatment systems mainly designed to reduce contaminants in water intended for showering, washing dishes and clothes, brushing teeth, and flushing toilets.

 

  • Ion Exchange
  • Activated Carbon
  • Filtration