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What to Know Before You Buy Water Treatment Equipment

feet in water

Are you thinking about purchasing water treatment equipment for your private water supply? Before doing so, be sure you understand what contaminants are present in your water supply, their quantities and the reasons for removing them. Follow these steps when selecting water treatment equipment.

Correctly identify the problem to be addressed using appropriate tests.

There is no single test to determine drinking water safety. Many contaminants can present a health risk if present in sufficient concentrations. Other contaminants, while not a health risk, can make water less desirable for domestic use. You must decide which contaminants to have your water tested for.

Start by testing your water for bacteria and nitrate. In addition, test for substances when specific contamination is suspected. This might be the result of a spill, backflow, use of product in close proximity to the well or other such event. Consider testing your water for any contaminant detected in a nearby private or public well.

Determine whether whole house or single tap treatment is needed.

Point-of-Entry (POE) devices treat water as it enters the household so all water used is treated. Point-of-Use (POU) devices treat water at the point it is used, such as at a single tap, and therefore treat a smaller volume of water. Most nuisance problems such as iron, manganese, hardness, or odor are managed with POE treatments. Other contaminants that may affect health, such as nitrate, are only a concern if consumed, so POU equipment that treats drinking and cooking water is an option.

Determine which type of treatment will effectively remove or reduce the problem contaminant(s).

No system will remove everything or solve every water quality problem. Each treatment system has limitations. Knowledge of which contaminant is targeted will help determine the most efficient system to use. In some cases, a combination of treatment devices may provide the best removal.

Select a reputable dealer and obtain second opinions.

A reputable company that expects to be around will not mind a customer taking time to decide on proper treatment equipment and will avoid high-pressure tactics.

Check if the equipment has been certified or validated for the targeted contaminant by a third-party organization
The NSF (formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation) is a third-party non-profit organization that has established performance standards for water treatment equipment, and tests equipment that is voluntarily submitted by the manufacturer. Products that meet NSF standards are entitled to display the NSF certification mark on the product or in literature. The Water Quality Association (WQA) is the trade organization of the water treatment industry. The WQA program uses the same NSF standards and provides equivalent product certifications; certified products carry their Gold Seal.

Determine whether the system has adequate capacity to meet household water needs at household pressure and flow rates.
Estimated daily household needs for drinking water is one-half gallon per person per day. Cooking needs are generally one to three gallons per day per household. An estimate of total daily water needs including bathing or showering, laundry, and toilets is 60 to 80 gallons per person per day. Once an estimate of daily household water needs is determined, it can be compared with the capacity of the treatment system.

When comparing brands of equipment and evaluating claims or test results, be sure that the device has been tested for the specific contaminant targeted in the water, over the expected life of the system, with an adequate volume of water, and under household conditions (tap water, actual flow rates and water pressures). Typical pressures from a well are around 40 pounds per square inch (psi) and flow rates are typically 5 to 30 gallons per minute. Ask sales representatives which standards the product meets and for test results showing removal of the specific contaminant you want to remove.

Consider all costs involved, including purchase price, installation, operating costs, maintenance costs, and re- testing costs. Understand maintenance requirements and decide if you are capable of performing routine maintenance operations.
Most water treatment equipment requires maintenance and service to operate properly. Many systems require periodic removal and cleaning or replacing components, such as filters. This maintenance is especially important if the device is to be used to remove a health hazard. Improper maintenance can damage the equipment and allow contaminants in drinking water.

Understand the warranty.

Before purchase, understand the warranty on the treatment system and what components are covered or excluded. If the household water has contaminants that may shorten the life of the system, does the warranty still apply? Are there certain conditions that must be met in order for the warranty to apply? 

By Sharon Skipton, UNL Extension Water Quality Educator