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Water Terminology

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Absolute Filter Rating: Filter rating meaning that 99.9% of the particles larger than specified micron rating will be trapped on or within the filter.

Absorption: The process of one substance actually penetrating into the structure of another substance.

Accumulation Tank: A vessel or tank which receives and stores product water for use on demand.

Acid: A substance that releases hydrogen ions when dissolved in water. An acid has a pH rating lower than 7.0

Acidity: The quantitative capacity of water or solution to neutralize an alkali.

Acre-Foot: The volume of water that would cover an area of one acre to a depth of one foot, equaling 43,560 cubic feet or 325,851 gallons.

Activated Alumina: A media made from aluminum ore so that it becomes highly adsorptive. Activated alumina will remove contaminants including fluoride, arsenic, and selenium.

Activated Carbon: A water treatment media found in block, granulated or powder form, which is produced by heating carbonaceous substances in the absence of air, creating a highly porous adsorbent material. Activated carbon is used to de-chlorination and to reduce organic chemicals and radon.

Activated Silica: A negatively-charged colloidal substance generally formed by combining a dilute sodium silicate solution with a dilute acidic solution.
Typically used as a coagulant aid.

Adsorbent: A water treatment medium usually solid, capable of adsorption of liquids, gases and suspended matter. Activated carbon/silica are typical adsorbents used in the water process industry.

Adsorption: The physical process occurring when liquids, gases or suspended matter adhere to the surfaces of an adsorbent medium.

Aeration: Air is physically introduced to water thus used for oxidation and degassing.

Aerobic: An action or process conducted in the presence of air, such as aerobic digestion of organic matter by bacteria.

Aesthetic Contaminants: Characteristics of water which affect it’s taste, odor, color and appearance but which do not have any adverse health effects in otherwise potable water.

Air-Gap: The unobstructed vertical space between the water outlet and the flood level of a fixture. Air gaps prevent sewage to siphon back into the fixture. Typically a state plumbing code requirement.

Alkali: A substance which creates a bitter taste and a slippery feel when dissolved in water and has a pH greater than seven and is the opposite of an acid. Alkalis include soluble hydroxide, carbonate and bicarbonate salts of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. Also known as a base.

Alkalinity: The quantitative capacity of water to neutralize an acid, expressed in mg/L or ppm of equivalent calcium carbonate.

Alum: The common name for aluminum sulfate which is often used a a coagulant in water treatment.

Anion: An ion with a negative charge.

Anode: The positive pole of an electrolytic system. Controls corrosion of pipes by dissolving into solution.

Aqueous: Containing Water.

Aquifer: A natural water-bearing formation which is found below the surface of the earth.

Atom: The smallest possible component of an element. An atom has a nucleus and one or more electrons which revolve around the nucleus.

Atomic Absorption spectroscopy (AA): A spectroscopy chemical analytical technique used for determining the metal elements in water by measuring the well defined characteristics light wave lengths absorbed by each respective element when the element has been thermally excited into an atomic vapor.


Back Pressure: Pressure which creates resistance against a flow of water.

Backflow: The direction flow of water in a pipe opposite to the normals flow direction.

Backflow Preventer: A device installed to prevent backflow from occurring.

Back-Wash: The upflow or counter current flow of water through a filter medium or ion exchange medium for the purpose of expanding the media bed to remove foreign particulate matter accumulated during the service cycle flushing the discharge to drain.

Bacteria: Single celled organism that lack well defined nuclear membranes and other specialized functional cell parts and reproduce by cell division or spores. Bacteria are free living organisms or parasites. Bacteria cells range from 1 to 10 microns in length and from 0.2 to 1 micron in width. Some bacterias are helpful while others are harmful.

Bactericide: Any substance or agent that kills bacteria.

Bacteriostatic: Having the ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria without destroying the bacteria. For example Silver Impregnated Activated Carbon will reduce bacterial colonization in a bed, but not eliminate it.

Baffle: A deflecting component to affect the flow pattern of water.

Balanced Flow: Controlled flow rates.

Bar: A unit of pressure. One bar equals 14.5 pounds per square inch (psi) or about 0.987 standard atmospheres.

Base: An Alkali.

Batch Treatment: A method in which a fixed quantity of water is processed.

Bay Salt: Coarse salt made from sea water.

Bead Count: A method to evaluate the physical condition of the resin bed by determining the percent of whole, cracked, or broken beads in a wet sample of the resin.

Bed: The mass of ion exchange resin or other media through which the water passes in the process of water treatment.

Bed Depth: The height of the media in a bed. Expressed in inched.

Bed Expansion: The effect produced during backwashing when the medium becomes separated and rises in the tank column. Expressed in %

Bicarbonate Alkalinity: The alkalinity of water due to the presence of bicarbonate ions.

Bicarbonate Hardness: The hardness of the water due to the presence of calcium and magnesium bicarbonates, known as total hardness.

Biodegradable: Subject to degradation (break down) into simpler substances by biological action.

BIRM: The tradename for a manganese dioxide – coated aluminum silica used as an oxidizing-catalyst filter for iron and manganese reduction.

Bleach: A strong oxidizing agent and disinfectant formulated to break down organic matter and destroy biological organisms. Known as 5.25% nominal solution of sodium hypochlorite which is equivalent to 3%-5% available free chlorine. Commercial concentrations available between 5% and 15% available chlorine.

Blind Spot: Places in the filter medium or membrane where no filtration takes place.

Blinding: The reduction of production due to filter medium or membrane fouling.

Blowby: 1. Recycling concentrate back to feed. 2. Contaminant leakage through or by a water treatment device.

Blowdown: The withdrawal of water containing a high concentration of solids from an evaporating water system such as a boiler or cooling tower, in order to maintain the solids-to-water concentration ratio within specified limits.
Dry Bleach is a dry calcium hypochlorite with 70% available chlorine.

Bored Well: A shallow (10 to 100 feet) large-diameter well (8 to 36 inches) constructed by hand-operated or power driven augers tools.

Brackish Water: Water containing dissolved solids in the range greater than 1,000ppm to 15,000ppm.

Brass: A metal alloy of copper, zinc and some lead. Brass is harder and stronger than copper because of it’s zinc content. Lead contributes malleability and ductility. Machined brass plumbing products are often made from Copper Development Association (CDA) 360 series brass which contains 65% copper, 32% zinc, and 3% lead.

Breakpoint Chlorination: A chlorination process in which the chlorine is added until the chlorine demand is satisfied and a chlorine residual occurs. The breakpoint is reached when a free chlorine residual is achieved.

Breakthrough: The appearance in the product water of an amount of the contaminant which exceeds the design performance criteria.

Bridging: 1. In water softening, the caking in a dry-salt brine tank which causes failure of the liquid or brine beneath the dry salt to become saturated. 2. The ability of particles to form a crust like film over void spaces within a filter or membrane.

Brine: 1. A strong solution of salts with total dissolved solids concentrations in the range from 40,000 to 300,000 or more milligrams per liter or ppm.Potassium or sodium chloride brine is used in the regeneration process of cation and or anion exchange systems. Sodium chloride brine saturation in an ion exchange softening brine tank is about 26% NaCl by weight at 60 deg. F.
2. Reverse Osmosis brine is the reject water from rinsing the membrane.

Brine Collector: A device used to gather and retrieve brine from a brine tank or ion exchange bed.

Brine Draw: Drawing the brine solution into a cation or anion exchange water treatment device during regeneration.

British Thermal Unit: The amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

Brownian Movement: The ransom movement of microscopic particles suspended in a fluid.

Bubble Gas: The average diameter of the gas (ozone or air) bubbles discharged from a diffuser.

Buffer: A chemical substance which stabilizes pH values in solutions.


CA: Cellulose acetate.

Calcite: 1. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3). 2. A tradename for a finely ground grades of marble or limestone, very high in calcium carbonate, which are used to raise the pH or to filter out sediment.

Calcium: (Ca) One of the

Carbon filter
A filter that removes …

Dissolved solids
Impurities dissolved in water, including minerals, compounds, metals, …

A process in which water …

A chemical element often obtained from industrial waste that is added to drinking water …

A characteristic of water that contains a large amount of dissolved solids.

The part of a reverse osmosis system where impurities are removed from the water by …

A process in which ozone is added to water in order to …

A material used for making water bottles that is superior because …

Reverse osmosis
A process in which water …

Sediment filter
A filter that removes particles from water by …

A property of water …

Water softening
A process in which …

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