Water is essential to all living organisms. As humans, we use water every day to drink, wash, cook, and even for swimming. That’s why it is so important that we have access to safe drinking water, and, thankfully, water treatment technology has come a long way to ensure this human right globally. But what exactly is “safe” drinking water?
“Safe water” or “fresh water” is commonly misunderstood as “pure water,” devoid of any chemicals and minerals. In reality, fresh water is a wild concoction of minerals and microorganisms brewed together as water travels through the water cycle. Water is a natural solvent, attracting a range of elements and contaminants as it travels through oceans, rivers, streams, lakes and groundwater.
While some of these contaminants can be harmful to us, many of these naturally occurring elements are good – even vital – to our bodies. Mineral-rich fresh water can be an important contributor to proper nutrient intake—so important that most water treatment processes with membrane technology even add healthy levels of these elements to the filtered water that we drink.
Here is an introduction to some of the most common elements found in fresh water and why we should welcome them into our drinking water.
Many of the minerals in our drinking water come from rocks and other mineral deposits. They enter the fresh water supply through erosion, and make their way to us through the water cycle. But most of these elements are nothing to worry about! In fact, the World Health Organization has published research associating many of them with positive health benefits. And when water is mineral-rich, it can even taste better.
Perhaps the most common compound found in our water is sodium. Yep, that’s right—even freshwater has natural traces of salt. But don’t worry, like many minerals, sodium is good for you! Our bodies need sodium to maintain a healthy blood pressure and metabolism, control fluid levels, and for normal nerve and muscle function. And, as many of us know, sweating actually requires the timely replacement of electrolytes, or salt.
Another common mineral found in freshwater is calcium—an element essential to human health. Calcium is an important structural element in human bones and teeth, and having a dense bone mass due to healthy calcium intake can decrease your likelihood of breaking a bone. It’s important to take in enough calcium because deficiencies are known to cause osteoporosis (an age-related condition characterized by extremely fragile bones,) hypertension and stroke, and kidney stones. Calcium also plays a role in several vital physiological processes, such as blood clotting and muscle contraction.
Iodide is another naturally occurring mineral in our drinking water that oxidizes into iodine during water treatment. Iodine is a crucial nutrient found in every human organ and tissue. It is important for thyroid health and efficient metabolism. In fact, there are estimates that 40% or more of the world’s population could be iodine deficient, so having it present in small quantities in our drinking water can be a plus.
Iron is very important in human nutrition, and it’s the easiest mineral to detect in our fresh water because it gives off a metallic taste. Iron helps with the formation of protein hemoglobin in our bodies – the vessels that carry oxygen to all of our cells. This helps to ward off fatigue and anemia, and can assist with vulnerability to infection. Experts have even established minimum daily requirements for iron, which ranges from 10 to 50 mg/day and vary based on factors such as age and sex. It’s not uncommon for people to take iron supplements to treat iron deficiency, so having it naturally in our water is an added bonus!
Zinc is another metal found in fresh water with great importance to our health. Many of us have probably used zinc on our skin to relieve sunburn, acne, or cuts. But zinc has tremendous benefits internally as well. Zinc hugely benefits the immune system, child development, injury recovery, male fertility, and even libido. Zinc supplements are often used to treat ailments ranging from diarrhea to the common cold so, once again; having traces of this metal in our drinking water is only an advantage.
Fluoride is naturally present in both seawater and fresh water, and in the right quantities, it’s good for you! Small concentrations of this mineral can have notable benefits for our dental health, such as preventing cavities. For this reason, many municipalities even require artificial fluoridation, wherein a healthy amount of fluoride is added during water treatment. But the keywords here are “small concentrations,” because high levels can actually cause dental problems and increase bone fracture risk.
These are just some of the amazing elements found in fresh water. And the list goes on to include other compounds, such as magnesium, manganese, and potassium—all elements that have daily intake recommendations at both local and international levels. Yet, while many minerals found in fresh water have amazing benefits for our health, not everything naturally occurring in our water is good for us.
Unfortunately, our drinking water can be contaminated in numerous ways. From heavy metals like lead and arsenic to harmful bacteria, many contaminants can have adverse effects on our health if our drinking water goes untreated. This is especially true for people with chronic health problems who are susceptible to germ exposure and infection, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDs, pregnant women, and infants and children. That’s why proper water treatment is so important.
Proper water treatment, such as desalination through membrane technology can completely remove harmful elements and bacteria and with proper post treatment of the freshwater, naturally occurring minerals like calcium, and magnesium, can be reintroduced. This ensures that our drinking water is the enriching mix of minerals that is was mean to be.
So don’t let the misleading appeal of “pure” fresh water keep you from using viable and cost-effective water treatment technology to support your home, municipality, or workplace. Thanks to Mother Nature, fresh water often contains many nutrients that are imperative to our health. And proper water treatment can further ensure the presence of some of the most vital minerals in our drinking water.
If your organization or municipality is ready for an industrial water treatment system, contact ISI Water today.