Water – Your Part in the Pursuit of Quality

I recently posted an article on my blog site that addressed the issue of water quality as it relates to the water that comes from Village wells.  In that article I addressed acquiring lake water and treating the well water we currently have in our system.  In this article, I want to address what the Village currently does to help deliver better quality water to the residents and what the residents themselves can do to help improve their own quality. 

The Village water has naturally occurring iron particles mixed in with the water that comes from our wells and Crete water is naturally slightly acidic in nature.  These iron particles are microscopic in nature and are not harmful to drink.  These particles move along with the water as it is pumped through the system.  If the flow decreases, the particles tend to settle out because they are, after all, iron and iron is heavy.  Consequently, in areas of low flow, which there are many, these particles will settle in the bottom of the water main pipes.  Then, if flow increases dramatically or vibrations reach the pipes, the particles are stirred up and appear as rusty water in your house.  To combat the settling rust or iron particles in the water mains, the Village water department flushes the water system twice a year, spring and fall, by opening every fire hydrant in the town.  By opening the hydrant, we can speed up the flow of water in the mains, stir up the rust particles and flush them from the system.  If we get complaints in certain areas between flushing’s or we determine that other areas need special attention, such as dead end water mains, we flush those areas more frequently to help improve quality.  This is what the Village does to improve overall system water quality.  Now, let’s discuss what the homeowner can do to improve their water quality.

Much like the Village water system, each home or business is like a mini water system all by itself.  The same issues exist in a home as in the larger village system.  If you have low flow areas that don’t get used very often, iron can settle in those pipes also, causing you to have rusty water.  If you only wash clothes once a week, there is a bathroom that never gets used, or the outside valves where you hook up your hose for watering (called a sill cock) never get opened, you will most likely see some rusty water when you finally turn them on.  Keep in mind that flow is what moves the iron particle through your pipes.  So, if you have aerators on your faucets or other things that are meant to reduce flow and save water, you are not going to produce enough flow to move particles that are accumulating in the horizontal piping in your home.  In short, you need to flush your system periodically, just like the village flushes their system.  This is all a part of home ownership when you are on well water.

Here are some common sense suggestions that are easy to do: 

Once a month or so, open the sill cocks around your house all the way and let the water run until no discoloration is noted.  Do this by starting at the faucet closest to the street and flush to the back.  Flush any other raw un-softened water faucets next.  If you have a water softener, which helps remove iron particles, and it is working properly, your system should now be clean.  If you are not using a water softener or it is not working properly, then you should continue to flush the system by opening up all faucets, one at a time, full blast and run them until the water is clear.  This needs to be done at all faucets in the house.  If you have a water softener, make sure it is operating properly and you are keeping salt in the brine tank.  If you fail to supply the softener with salt, it will actually make the quality of your water worse.  If you choose not to use the softener, do not just unplug it.  First operate the bypass valve to stop running raw water through the softener and then unplug it.  All your water will be hard until you begin using the softener again.

Softening the water is a cheap and easy way to improve your overall water quality in the home.  Crete has about 35 grains of hardness for raw water, and if you are purchasing a softener, the person selling it to you would need to know that.  A demand style softener is considered the best, because it only regenerates after a specific amount of water has been run through it.  Older style softeners regenerated on specific days whether it is need or not, regardless of water usage.  It is suggested that you soften the water you use for bathing, washing clothes, and flushing your toilets, while you use hard/raw water to water your lawn or plants and to cook and drink.  If you feel the necessity to filter your water, and you are using a water softener, then the only water that would typically need to be filtered would be for drinking and cooking.

There are several other ways to improve your personal water quality and some can become very expensive to install and maintain.  In the end, it kind of comes down to personal preference and what you are willing to spend.  My personal experience is that softening is the cheapest and easiest way to go, but you still have to do your part to maintain the proper function of the system, including flushing, just like we do with the Village system.

There is one final issue that can have an adverse affect on your water quality and that is the piping in your home or business.  If you do not have copper or plastic water supply pipes, you are most likely going to have difficulties with water quality, no matter what you do.  Steel or iron pipes just don’t work well with hard water, and can be a very significant negative factor in water problems, especially as it relates to rust.  Changing them to copper or plastic will be a great improvement, and softening will help.

It is my sincere hope that this article, and the previous one, have helped to provide significant insight into the question of water quality in Crete.  As always, if you need further information, want to discuss this topic or need assistance from village staff, please feel free to contact me though the village office, 672-5431 or meinhorn@villageofcrete.org via my cell 708-473-2670.  I am here to help.