Water is life, and so is osmosis. This is why when clever humans decided to create things like reverse osmosis water, distilled water, and sparkling water, many mere mortals were left confused.
We don’t even understand ourselves and our environment anymore! Quite literally because our bodies and our environment are coincidentally made up of about 70% water.
So instead of worrying about how many water glasses to drink a day, we are pushed to worry about what water to drink.
And that is why we are in this blog again. To try and simplify the seemingly complex things that find their way into our bodies.
The Changing Water World
With growing technology and globalization, humans have become creative and choosy.
Everyone wants to be everywhere but have what they are used to at home. This led to the emergence of different types of drinking water to soothe complex humans.
As usual, I will try and break them down here in the simplest scientific language possible.
As evident in my introduction above, the main focus of this article will be on the newly catching up technology of using reverse osmosis water system in industries and homes.
What is Reverse Osmosis of Water?
You are probably drinking reverse osmosis water and unknowingly calling it mineral water or distilled water or vice versa.
It doesn’t help that many manufacturers don’t bother indicating it on the labels. Even if they indicated, you probably wouldn’t bother reading since you are my favorite type of busy consumer.
Simply put, reverse osmosis is the opposite of osmosis.
And what is osmosis?
Again simply put, osmosis is a process where water molecules pass through a selectively permeable membrane from a low concentrated solution to a higher concentrated solution.
If you still feel lost, I will break it down further.
See, if you have salty water and fresh water separated with a semi-permeable membrane (one that only allows water molecules to pass through), the water molecules in pure water will naturally move into the salt solution as shown in the diagram below.
In reverse osmosis, pressure is applied mechanically on the salt solution side of the membrane.
The pressure alters the natural process of osmosis thus allowing water molecules in the salt solution to move into the pure water section. As shown in the diagram below.
Benefits of Reverse Osmosis Water Technology
With this technology, humans are able to make sea water or contaminated water drinkable. The simple process I just explained takes place in a complex reverse osmosis water filter that can be installed in homes.
The system is extremely effective since the semi-permeable membrane wouldn’t allow impurities into the other side.
Its efficiency levels eliminate contaminants in water, remove excess salts, and also eliminate bad tastes in water.
The RO water system itself is easy to install in homes which rids the use of single-use plastic bottles that are a course of concern in global environmental degradation.
On the downside, the RO water system is said to be wasteful since more water is rejected with contaminants.
A small RO water system can also be slow and ineffective in places where large quantities of water are consumed daily.
If you have used the reverse osmosis water system, let us know your experience in the comment section below.
Am I Losing Out on Nutrients by Drinking RO Water with no Minerals?
Good question. Is reverse osmosis water good for you? The answer here is an annoying YES and NO.
Well, YES because it is true that you are losing out on minerals since the process of reverse osmosis as discussed above eliminates minerals in water.
The NO part is as interesting as it is a little technical.
This is why.
In Biology, there is something called Homeostasis. This is a natural process our bodies use to maintain constant internal body conditions.
It includes balancing of mineral ions inside and outside of our body cells. This is one reason you need a kidney.
Just like food, the body doesn’t need all the minerals you ingest. It is the process of homeostasis that determines your cellular mineral needs and excretes the excesses.
With a normal and regular pattern of eating, a human body will have more minerals than needed just from the food to keep you going.
Scientific studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) actually agree that there are no health concerns associated with drinking water without minerals.
It is common to see the tag ‘distilled water’ in water bottles. Some even go further to claim how many times the water has been distilled; such as “triple distilled.”
So, what does it mean to distill water?
Simply put again, distillation is a water purification method where water is heated to evaporation and the vapor produced cooled and condensed back to water in a separate container.
The equipment used in this process is a distillation column such as the one shown in the diagram below.
This leaves out the impurities since they do not escape together with the vapor. It is another way of getting rid of dissolved solids in water which include most minerals.
With that said, both distilled water and reverse osmosis water usually come out as ‘flat’ in taste. This is due to the removal of minerals that contribute to the natural taste of water.
Another downside of distilled water is the amount of time and energy it takes to get the purified water.
The process requires heating and cooling which are big energy consumers thus making it an uneconomical venture for both domestic and industrial applications.
Mineral water is what most people know as bottled water. This is not to say that the other types of water discussed above cannot be bottled.
In fact, most mineral waters go through the processes of reverse osmosis or distillation before being stabilized with minerals and sold as the bottled water we know.
Majority of bottled mineral water brands will have the claim that ‘it is bottled at source.’ If that is the case, it means you are being served natural water straight from its original spring.
The water is said to have naturally occurring minerals such as magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium among others.
Regulatory authorities recommend that mineral water must have at least 250ppm (250 parts of dissolved minerals in a million units of water) for it to pass as natural mineral water. These minerals should also be similar to those in the original spring where it was fetched from.
The Different Faces of Mineral Water
Commercialization of water led producers to diversify so as to meet the needs of the ever dynamic customer’s taste palates.
For bottled water to have variety, numerous techniques are involved to alter the original taste and structure of water so as to meet customer preferences.
Mineralization of water can lead to production of other water products such as:
- Sparkling Water
- Tonic water
- Flavored or Soda water
All the above are also referred to as carbonated water. That is to mean, they are infused with carbon dioxide gas to give them their characteristic fizzy feeling in the mouth. The same feeling you get when drinking soda.
Sparkling water is usually naturally carbonated at the original spring it was fetched from. It is the most preferred carbonated water due to its decent hydration properties. It has also been found to be important in digestion.
Tonic Water is a unique type of carbonated mineral water usually laced with quinine. The quinine gives the tonic water its characteristic bitter taste. Tonic water is taken as medicinal water for treatment for malaria but is also largely used as a cocktail mixer in gin and tonic drinks.
Flavored Water or Soda water is just that… mineral water with artificially added flavor. They should not be confused with the cola sodas we know such as coke and Pepsi since their ingredients and processing methods are very different.
I am not sure if they are proper for quenching thirst, but some people will swear that they know nothing else that quenches their thirst better than flavored water.
As a consumer, it is your right to know what goes down your gut. Since water is becoming a big commercial commodity, it is important to pay attention to the new technologies cropping up and the water purification systems used.
Given the above descriptions, which water do you think you have been consuming, and which one do you prefer? Let me know in the comments.