The water molecule is one of the most complex and studied molecules. One would think with it being only two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom that it would be relatively simple to analyze. The problem with this thinking is that water is the most universal solvent in the world and dissolves anything and everything in its path to some degree. With estimates of 60,000-300,000 possible contaminants in water and 75,000 chemicals used daily in our society, plus the fact that 1,000 new chemicals are invented each year, water becomes even more complex. Water is life sustaining for animals, plants and humans. It is also known to be a very good medium for the spread of disease, bacteria and pathogens.
How contaminants react with media, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides makes an impact on crop production. This series of newsletters will help educate growers on water quality issues, pending regulations that may affect their operation, technologies used to treat water and setting up in house testing. It will also highlight some growers who made changes in water quality and the results they achieved.
Even though there are thousands of contaminants, growers really only deal with simple problematic ones such as hardness, iron, manganese or organics. The hardness minerals, which are the bicarbonates, raise the pH and alkalinity of the water and in turn raise soil and media pH, thus causing problems in production. These contaminants can also cause scaling of pipes; plugged misters and irrigation lines; and chalky, white precipitants.
Scaling and the plugging of pipes and misters raise maintenance and labor costs. Bacteria can cause disease, algae growth and plant mortality. Alkalinity and pH changes cause chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, not to work as effectively, plus raised pH and alkalinity propose problems with plant production. Acid injection to control high pH and alkalinity is probably the most used and cost effective water treatment. Iron can create stains that are an aesthetic nuisance and reduce value at retail, even though they don’t affect plant growth and production. Acid injection to balance the water helps keep these contaminants in suspension; therefore, they do not cause the staining.
Contaminants can vary from different water sources. Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, cisterns, wells or municipal water sources are different, and they all have their own realm of problems. Understanding the water chemistry of each water source can help growers make the proper decision on a treatment process. Each grower that has water quality issues needs to learn how to properly assess the influent water and then which treatment will address the issue and achieve the best possible effluent water.
Growers, whether they are small or large, can benefit greatly by instituting a water quality awareness program. The return on investment can be labor and maintenance reduction, reduced crop mortality and increased chemical effectiveness. Learning how to set up small, in house testing can help save money and provide real time analysis. Adjusting pH can be done right away and not days from the test, thus saving crops and time spent nursing plants back into health. Lab testing is always a more accurate method of testing, but simple tests can help growers understand more about their crop and make adjustments accordingly.
Water treatment technologies are often very difficult to understand because no one technology is universal for solving all water quality issues. Many times, several technologies must be implemented to achieve a solution. Ozone, UV, RO (reverse osmosis), copper ionization, filtration, acid injection and aeration are possible technologies to address water quality issues.
This series of newsletters is aimed at addressing water quality issues and educating growers on treatment technologies, proper testing procedures, pending regulations that could be implemented and what some growers did to lessen the impact of poor water quality. Questions and comments are welcomed to help make this E-newsletter a success, so please contact us for more information.
Jeff Roseman, CWS-V is the owner of Aqua Ion Plus+ Technologies and is located in La Porte, Indiana. He is a Certified Water Specialist with the Water Quality Association and has a background in chemistry, physics, and math from studies in Electrical Engineering at Purdue University and sits on the Editorial Advisory Board for Water Quality Products. Jeff can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org  or Toll Free at 866-415-6159.