If your water supply is from a groundwater system it’s common to struggle with hard water (high TDS) and heavy metal levels. These problems impact the pH scale range of your water supply which can impact a multitude of issues on your home and health. There’s two common words when referring to the pH levels of water. Water with a higher pH is more alkaline, whereas water with a lower pH is more acidic. Acidic well water is a result of dissolved carbon dioxide, low calcium carbonate, or run off from mining and industrial areas.
The majority of surface level wells have a pH between 6.5-8.5, with underground well levels ranging 6-8.5 on average. It’s important to test your own pH as this number is greatly influenced by where you’re located. To test your pH, you can purchase a pH TDS testing meter or paper testing strips. In order to understand how to best raise pH in well water, let’s break down the importance of pH and some common problems you may be facing.
What is pH, and Why Is It Important In Well Water?
PH refers to the power of hydrogen, or hydrogen potential, in your water. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 and measures how basic or acidic a substance is, with the neutral point being 7. High pH is less common, and is a result of excess calcium, boron and magnesium. It’s common for high pH to have a pungent sulfur smell. On the other hand, low pH acidic water can corrode plumbing and leach metals.
This means water coming from a well pump can carry lead, manganese, copper, iron, and other large amounts of toxic metals. In order to prevent your drinking water from being contaminated with pollutants, it’s important to raise the pH range to healthy levels. Before breaking down how to raise pH in well water, let’s review some common signs of acidic water you should look out for.
Symptoms of Low pH Well Water
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that drinking water supplies have a pH range between 6.5 and 8.5 to prevent corrosion issues in plumbing. If you are struggling with any of the following, it’s important that you test and increase the low pH of your water supply.
- Premature failure or leakage in water heaters due to heavy metal index.
- Corrosion or pinhole leaks in plumbing systems and copper pipes.
- Bitter or sour water taste due to metal levels.
- Blue green stains on sinks, filters, toilets, drains, and other household fixtures.
- Damage to water softeners, iron filters, and sulfur filters.
- Health problems such as: low calcium retention, teeth damage over time, exposure to heavy metals, gastrointestinal issues and high risk issues for young children.
While acidic water is usually safe to drink, it’s better to take preventative measures against it. When you are unaware of the pH levels and metal contaminants present in your water, you can never be certain of the direct impact it’s having on your body.
Now that we’ve broken down the importance of pH and the common problems acid water can have on your home and health. Let’s get into tips for raising the pH of well water.
Treatment For Acidic, Low pH Drinking Water
Option 1: Acid Neutralization Filter
Most pH water issues can be solved by acid neutralization systems that add minerals to the water to balance pH levels. Oftentimes this will include a combination of calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide (corosex) or a single tank filled with fine, granular calcium carbonate (calcite) crystals.
An acid neutralization system will involve a single tank and a control head. When the acidic water filters through the tank a portion of the minerals will dissolve into the water allowing the pH to rise.
It’s important to note that an acid neutralization system doesn’t function as water filtration. If this is a priority for you, you’ll need to have an additional home well water filtration system installed for your drinking water.
Maintenance Tips for Calcium Carbonate or Corosex systems:
- Re-bedding:As the mineral compounds dissolve, eventually the system has to be re-bedded to keep it running properly. The necessary frequency will depend on water usage and pH levels.
- Backwashing:Periodically backwash your neutralization system to reposition the calcite or corosex. This is done by sending water through in the opposite direction. This helps your system deliver optimal results with consistent use.
- Tank Size: It’s important to choose a tank size that fits your lifestyle. Take into account water usage, and home appliances.
Pros of Calcite Neutralization:
- It’s usually less expensive than leading alternatives.
- Maintenance is simple, and requires yearly upkeep.
- The system functions without electricity.
- It protects your home, pipes, and appliances from corrosion.
- There’s a minimal environmental footprint if that’s important to you.
Cons of Calcite Neutralization:
- It increases the hardness of your water.
- You can’t fine tune the settings, so there’s less control over pH levels.
- You’ll need a water softener to balance out hardness levels.
- It requires a post-filter.
- This system won’t protect your well pump or pump casing from corrosion.
If you’re using a calcite neutralization system, you pH should rise to 7 or 7.5 depending on the initial levels. If you use a calcite-corosex blend media, your pH can rise up to 1.5 versus only 1 pH level with calcite alone. So it’s important to make your decision based on your level of water acidity, and main priorities for your acid neutralization system. Be cautious with corosex, as water with a high alkaline pH can pose its own issues. You don’t want to fix one problem just to create another.
Option 2: Chemical Feed Pump
Another option for getting carbonate into your water is using sodium carbonate, or soda ash solution through a chemical feed pump. This operates like an injection system that supplements the soda ash into your water. Soda ash comes in powder form that must be mixed into a liquid solution and added into the water supply. This is a great option if you don’t have natural hardness, iron or manganese present. The hardness of your water won’t be altered with a soda ash solution.
If you want your soda ash injection system to filter you water, you can also add chlorine to the system. This will keep your drinking water clean and increase the pH levels simultaneously. This is a good alternative if you don’t want to hassle with an additional home filtration system.
Maintenance Tips for Soda Ash or Sodium Hydroxide Chemical Injection Systems:
While a soda ash chemical feed pump requires minimal maintenance, here’s a few things to keep in mind.
- Refill: You’ll need toperiodically refill the soda ash solution tank.
- Clean screens: Keep up with regular screen cleanings.
- Pump:The pump will require regular maintenance and cleaning
Pros of Soda Ash:
- This system won’t increase the hardness of water, so you might not need a water softener.
- There’s more control over strength and length of injection (i.e. more control over pH).
- No post-filter is required.
- You don’t have to worry about a backwash cycle.
- It protects your home, pipes, and appliances from corrosion.
- The well pump and well casing is protected.
- Overall the treated water helps prevent scale build up.
- Maintenance is usually minimal with annual service and upkeep.
Cons of Soda Ash:
- They can run more expensive.
- They require electricity for use.
- The solution must be mixed frequently.
- There’s a larger environmental footprint.
Option 3: Remineralizing Reverse Osmosis Systems
Another option is installing a remineralizing reverse osmosis system. A RO System purifies water, lowers hardness levels, and then adds alkalizing minerals back into the water. The process of reverse osmosis removes both the good minerals like calcium and magnesium, as well as the bad stuff like pesticides, heavy metals and pharmaceuticals. After filtration, the water is remineralized with a post filter containing calcium or magnesium. This helps balance the waters minerals levels, and re-instill a healthy level for consumption.
When raising the pH levels in well water, it’s essential to be mindful about the balance of minerals you’re consuming. While alkaline water has gained more traction through the years, it’s still important to keep your drinking water around a healthy range, and test it regularly if you’re seeing signs of low pH issues. Acid water doesn’t contain enough mineral ions, whereas alkaline water carries too many ions. These neutralization system options will bring fix low pH issues you may be experiencing in your well water.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Can I use baking soda or lemons to increase the pH of well water?
It’s not recommended to use baking soda or lemon to raise the pH of your water as a long term solution. Research shows that the baking soda method raises pH to a steep 8.4. Lemon water
increases the alkalizing effect after it’s been digested, so this isn’t a sustainable option either. If you’re interested in alkalizing your water, there’s other options for you. You can looking into the reverse osmosis with remineralization or an alkaline water filter.
2. What’s the safest pH range for drinking water?
It’s recommended that you stick between 6 – 8.5 pH range. The neutral point falls at 7, so this pH range is neither acidic or alkaline enough to be considered dangerous for ingestion. If you test your water and it comes out in this range, it’s still important to keep an eye out for pipe corrosion or signs of metal contamination.
3. How do I lower the pH of well water?
If your well water has a high pH, you should run it through a filtration system that allows the dispersion of citric or acetic acid to lower the pH. The goal should always be to maintain neutralization in your water, and not keep it fluctuating between extreme pH levels.
4. Can I drink my well water with a low pH?
If your water’s pH is extremely low and you’re concerned, you may want to pick up some distilled water to keep in storage. Drinking low pH or polluted water can cause a slew of side effects over a long period of time. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Test your water pH, and take the proper precautions for neutralization if needed.
5. How do I tell if my water is corrosive?
After you test for pH, you might be wondering how to test your water for other contaminants. You can get a well water test kit that helps you assess if your water is corrosive. This way you can see if your well water is within the parameters of over 11 different contaminants and dissolved solids. You can find comprehensive testers on the market that include pH, alkalinity, total dissolved solids, metal levels, mineral deposits, and other testing strips.
6. How can I identify the size of my pipes to fit my neutralizer system?
Check the side of your pipes for writing or a label stating the size. If you can’t locate this, you can use the string method to measure the circumference. If you have a 1” pipe, you want to assure your calcite neutralizer or soda ash feeder has 1” pipe connectors, so it’s important to measure accordingly.
7. Does acid neutralization also purify my water?
No, if you choose a Calcium Carbonate or Corosex System you’ll have to install an additional filtration system to purify your water. If this is important to you, a chemical feed pump may be a better option. You can add chlorine into the pump so that the Soda Ash system takes care of both jobs for you.