Making Water from Air – Water Quality Testing
Making Water From Air
Drinking Water Quality and Atmospheric Water Generators
By David Sasse, Environmental Inpector, B.S. General Biology
Many people are concerned with drinking water quality and are making water from air in the home. The booming sales of bottled water is a testament to that fact. As the world becomes more and more crowded, our water supplies become increasingly exposed to contamination from agricultural runoff, industrial runoff, microbial contamination, and civilization in general. Water treatment becomes more complicated, expensive, and less effective as the source water becomes more contaminated. Making water from air may be the solution.
While in the US, municipal water treatment is subject to fairly strict EPA regulations, tap water can still have many compounds you may not wish to ingest. Trace amounts of lead and other heavy metals are allowed. Many municipalities add fluoride for dental health. The sanitation process can leave detectible amounts of chlorine derivatives and Tri-Halo-Methanes (THM’s) such as chloroform in the water. Tap water can also be contaminated post treatment by leaks, and the pipes themselves. Older, deteriorating infrastructure can lead to breaks in the water mains, allowing contaminants to enter the drinking water system. Older buildings with lead pipes or lead solder connections can also contaminate the tap water. Plus many people do not have access to municipal water supplies and depend on well water for their water needs.
So what are the options and pros and cons for improving the water we drink everyday and that our bodies count on to maintain almost all of our vital functions?
Bottled water is a popular option. But not all bottled water is created the same. From where is their raw water sourced? What type of filtration do they use? How strict are their quality control procedures? Many of the bottled waters mass produced by the soda companies use local municipal water run through a simple carbon filter and then bottled. Bottled water is also problematic due to huge number of plastic bottles produced. The amount of plastic waste is staggering. Some are recycled, but many end up in our landfills. Transportation of the bottled from the bottling plant to the store uses an enormous amount of fuel. The cost is also prohibitive. Retail average for a liter is around $1.00. That mean bottled water is around $4.00 a gallon, about the same price as gasoline!
- A whole house filter is installed where the water enters your home, thus every faucet in our home will produce filtered water, including showers and baths, refrigerator water dispensers, and hose bibs. This is advantageous as THM’s are usually inhaled while showering, bathing, or cooking (they are vaporized when water is heated).
- If a whole house filter is not an option, which is true in many condominium situations, a combination of showerhead filters and an under sink filter can be a good option.
- Showerhead filters are specifically designed to remove THM’s and other contaminates that vaporize easily and can be inhaled.
- An under sink filter that incorporates a reverse osmosis unit (RO) and a carbon filter will remove most contaminants from tap water. Using this water for drinking and cooking is recommended. Using refillable bottles and containers to store the filtered water in the fridge will cut down on waste.
However, even filters allow some contaminants through to the water you drink.
The main problem is the source water. We are always trying to get everything out of the tap water and never quite succeeding. I discovered a novel solution in a new product, an atmospheric water generator, while on an inspection recently. Here is the story:
A homeowner in San Francisco, CA was concerned about his water quality in general and the drinking water in particular. I was called in to test the water. I took samples from three locations, unfiltered tap water (from a tub filler), filtered tap water (from the kitchen sink RO/Carbon unit), and from his atmospheric water generator, which I had never seen before.
The atmospheric water generator is a unit that looks like a standard 5-gallon water cooler without the bottle of water on top. It pulls water from the air, sanitizes and filters it to provide ultra pure drinking water. The water vapor in the air is already distilled by nature and does not contain any contaminates. The air is filtered as it enters the unit to remove dust, mold spores, allergens, and other particulates. The water generated is sanitized with ozone, which is converted back to oxygen when run through a final activated carbon filter. I tried the water from this unit, and I admit it was quite good and very refreshing.
The advantages are ultra-pure water not subject to outside contamination. The unit also acts as a dehumidifier, helping to reduce indoor humidity, which can discourage mold spore and dust mite activity. The unit shuts off if indoor RH goes below 30%, thus protecting the unit and keeping RH from dropping to levels that can be uncomfortable and dry out sinuses and mucous membranes. It can produce 3-10 gallons of water a day, depending on humidity levels.
Now there are some disadvantages. This unit uses energy in the form of electricity. Around 2 kilowatt-hours per gallon, which can equate to as low as $0.16/gallon, depending on electric rates and usage. Dryer conditions use more electricity. Also, a power outage means no water generation, although the water in the tank (previously generated) can be used in an outage or emergency. However, if you generate electricity from solar or wind, this unit can produce water in a very “Green” way, without the transportation and infrastructure costs of tap water. Well water also uses a lot of electricity to pump out of the ground. You need to replace the air and water filters twice a year, which is an added cost. The unit tested is not cheap, they cost around $2,500.00. Very good RO/Carbon filters for under sink can cost a fraction of that.
The results of the water tests from this client were interesting. San Francisco city water is considered very good but the unfiltered tap water had 1/3 the EPA action level of lead (most likely from older building pipes), Chloroform and other THM’s, and Fluoride (expected). It also had quite a lot of sodium and chloride (salt). The under sink R/O unit removed the Chloroform and other THM’s and the lead, but allowed the Fluoride and sodium and chloride to pass through.
The atmospheric water generator had no detectible levels of any contaminants. It produced the cleanest test results I have ever analyzed.
The machine tested at our client’s house was made by Island Sky Corporation (http://www.islandsky.com/) but other companies also manufacture these units, such as Ecoloblue (http://www.ecoloblue.com/), Water Pure International (http://waterpureinternational.com/) and Atlantis Solar (http://www.atlantissolar.com/fwater.html). These units range from $1,200.00 to over $3,000 depending on size, capacity, and features.
If you are concerned about your drinking water and cost is not your primary concern, an atmospheric water generator may be a viable option.
On a side note, I am an avid sailor and they also manufacture a marine version of the atmospheric water generator. Fresh water in a marine environment is always a concern. Filtering seawater is possible but problematic and storing water is heavy, space consuming, and the stored water can become stale or contaminated. Just one more possible beneficial use of this novel machine.