Having a good pH balance plays a significant factor in your overall health, which doctors and scientists generally agree upon. In your body, the pH, or potential hydrogen level, is influenced by the food and kind of drinks you consume. pH is the measurement of hydrogen ions concentration. This measurement is based on a scale that goes from 0 to 14. It is worth taking note that pH levels of seven (7) is the neutral level, under seven (<7) is the acidic, and above seven (>7) is the alkaline. You may have encountered diet fads or special kinds of drinks that claim to be having “high alkaline.” What does this mean, and how does pH level has something to do with it?
In this article, we will discuss the pH level more. We will know the recommended pH level for tap, pure, and filtered drinking water. Furthermore, we will discuss the importance of pH in water and determine its difference with alkalinity.
What is pH?
According to Wikipedia, in chemistry, pH is a scale value to tell whether an aqueous solution is acidic or basic. The numbers range from 0 to 14. Like already mentioned, the lower the scale, it is acidic. Meanwhile, the higher the scale, it is basic or alkaline, and the seventh is the neutral scale.
Some types of foods that are acidic are processed foods like yogurt, fish, and cheese. Meanwhile, some basic foods are vegetables like beets, bell peppers, and kale which are highly alkaline.
Remember that not all liquids have a pH value. For example, there is no pH value in gasoline, vegetable oil, or pure alcohol.
pH is used in everyday life, even in science and technology. It is used in cooking when a baking powder reacts with food to make the goods rise. It is used to design cocktails, food preservation, and cleaners. Finally, pH is important in chemistry, agriculture, medicine, oceanography, engineering, biology, and water purification.
Why Do We Test our Water for Ph?
Again, pH is a numerical value that is used to determine if the water is acidic. The water quality regulations specify that the tap water should have a pH level of 6.5 to 9.5. Water leaving the treatment works should have a pH of 7 and 9. However, this can change as it passes through the network of water mains and reservoirs.
We consume various beverages and foods with a wide range of pH. For example, citrus fruits like limes, oranges, and lemons are acidic. They have a pH level of 2.0 to 4.0. Meanwhile, carbonated drinks like cola have a pH level of 4.0 to 4.5. On the other hand, egg whites are slightly alkaline, and it has a pH level of 8.0, while the milk of magnesia has a pH level of 10.
pH and Alkalinity
The acidity of a solution is measured using its pH level on a scale from 0 up to 14. The closer the pH level gets to 0, the more acidic it is. Meanwhile, the closer it gets to 14, the more basic it is.
A pH level of 7 means it is neutral. So basically, those with a pH level below 7 are acidic, and those with a pH level above 7 are alkaline.
Acids and bases are two opposing extremes, so mixing acid and base of equal extremity makes the solution even out and become neutral, just like mixing hot and cold water.
Although some substances differ in acidity by a unit of measurement, their actual difference is about tenfold. Meaning the pH scale is logarithmic. For example, tomato juice with pH 4 is ten times more acidic than black coffee, whose pH level is 5.
The concept behind pH is the existence of Hydrogen (H+) ions that control the acidity level. pH measures the concentration of H+ and Hydroxide (OH-) ions that make up water (H2O): 1H+ + 1OH- = H2O. If the two ions are of equal concentration, they form water, which is neutral. However, if H+ is greater than OH-, the substance is acidic, and otherwise, it’s basic.
What Does pH Have to do With Water?
The neutral pH of 7, located in the middle of the pH scale, is pure water. Unluckily, not every kind of water available is pure water, and the chance of getting the actual neutral level is, in fact, rare.
But why do pH levels change? The fluctuation is caused by varying factors affecting the alkalinity and acidity of water.
The primary and most common reason for this is the soil composition and bedrock where the water is located. The pH of water here can be influenced by the rock type. The acidity of the water can still be neutralized.
Another factor can be the organic material and plant growth near the water, which may also influence its acidity. Plants also give off carbon dioxide in the form of cell respiration and also during its decomposition. This carbon dioxide reacts with water only to increase its acidity. Other factors are acid precipitation, dumping of chemicals, and coal mine drainage.
Why is pH Important?
Most living things that reside in different bodies of water have required a range of pH levels in their habitats for optimal growth, survival, and reproduction. An optimal range of pH 6.5-8.0 is usually preferred by these organisms to have physiological stability. When their habitats’ pH levels rise or fall below this range, the organisms become stressed and won’t function properly, such as reproduction and, worse, surviving.
Other features of lake dynamics are also affected by pH levels. Low pH can usually cause the release of different toxic elements and compounds from sediments into the water that can be taken in by animals and plants and can harm them. pH levels can also influence the availability of different plant nutrients, i.e., Phosphate, ammonia, iron, and trace metals, in water.
What Affects pH?
Many factors affect pH includes the bedrock of a location. Regions with glaciated areas have more acidic water (lower pH) than those with limestone bedrock, including Lincoln, Rhode Island, whose water has higher pH levels (more basic). Another factor is atmospheric deposition (acid rains). Because of acid rains, the pH levels in lakes lower and make them more acidic.
The water use of humans also affects the pH level of water. Most water suppliers often raise the pH level to pH9 of potable water to prevent the corrosion of the supply pipes. Similarly, wastewater discharge towards lakes includes soap-based substances, which are mostly alkaline, which increases the pH level of water. On the other hand, wastewater treatment facilities are required to adjust the pH levels of wastewater outside acceptable limits (U.S. E.P.A. range 5 – 10) that are to be discharged into streams or estuaries.
Throughout the day in a lake or pond also changes in response to changing CO2 levels. CO2 dissolved in water forms a mild acid. The higher the CO2 level in the atmosphere, the lower the pH (more acidic). In the morning, CO2 levels are high due to the respiration of different living beings that occurred in the pond or lake overnight. As the sun rises, plants and algae begin photosynthesis and consume CO2, causing the pH to rise (more basic) as the day progresses. Algal blooms can also significantly increase this effect.
How is pH Measured?
There are three methods normally used to monitor the quality of water. Mainly laboratory quality pH meter and electrode, pH “pocket pals,” and multi-parameter probes and color comparators/pH strips.
The pH meter and electrode offer the highest degree of accuracy and precision. It measures the electric potential, which is a function of the H+ activity in the sampled water. The calibration is accomplished using two buffer solutions. The URI Watershed Watch (URIWW) uses a pH meter and electrode to measure the pH of the lake and stream samples.
The other two methods are usually used in the field. The pH “pocket pals” and multi-parameter probes are electronic testers that can be easily carried and dipped directly into the water body, which provide the digital output of the pH level of the tested water. Pocket pals are typically calibrated with one buffer. Conversely, a reagent is added to the water sample that colors the sample for a visual comparison in using the color comparators.
PH strips are dipped into water samples, and their color changes depending on the dipped sample's pH level. The changed color of the strip is then compared on a pH chart in which the pH level of the sample is determined.
Common Water pH Levels
Type of water
Varies; typically about 7.5
Distilled reverse osmosis water
5 to 7
Common bottled waters
6.5 to 7.5
Bottled waters labeled as alkaline
8 to 9
5 to 5.5
What is the pH of RI Inland Waterways?
The pH level in the lakes and ponds of Rhode Island usually decreases from North to South. As monitored by URIWW in 2003, the pH range of inland waterways was 5.1 - 8.2
The pH Level of Drinking Water
Although its pH level is not a health concern, acidic water corrodes the pipes from the plumbing systems, harboring harmful metals that humans may consume. You can visit the website: “Healthy Drinking Waters for Rhode Islanders: pH-Acidity of Private Drinking Water Wells,” a publication of the RI Department of Health and URI Cooperative Extension, for more inquiries about the pH level in private drinking water wells.
What is Alkalinity?
Alkalinity is the capacity of a body of water to neutralize acidity and basicity to stabilize its pH level. Alkaline water contains compounds that combine with H+ ions from the water, raising the pH level of the water and making it basic. It is the buffering capacity of water to do so. Without these compounds, any acid poured into a lake would immediately lower its pH level.
Why is Alkalinity Important?
Organisms that reside in bodies of water always benefit from a steady pH level in their optimal range. Higher alkalinity is preferred to maintain a constant pH in a body of water. The high alkalinity of the body of water gives it the ability to neutralize any acidic pollution from different sources such as rainfall or basic inputs from wastewater. Once a lake is well buffered, its daily fluctuations of CO2 concentrations, as what has been previously discussed, result in only very little effect on pH levels throughout the day.
What Affects Alkalinity?
The alkalinity of a body of water is affected by compounds found in rocks and soils, its salinity from plant activities, and the wastewater that may contain soap-based products that are disposed into the water. In an area that is majorly composed of Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or limestone, the bodies of water in there tend to have high alkalinity. In areas like Rhode Island, granite bedrock is abundant. It is deficient in alkaline materials to buffer acidic inputs. That’s why the water in these parts has lower pH levels. Correspondingly, homeowners the lime added as a soil amendment to decrease the acidity in home lawns can runoff into the surface waters and increase alkalinity.
What are the Water Quality Standards for Alkalinity?
Six categories have been developed by the U.S. E.P.A. to describe the alkalinity of lakes and ponds. The alkalinity increases proportionally with the concentration of CaCO3, while the risk of acidification decreases.
How is Alkalinity Measured?
With the unit of mg/L CaCO3 (milligrams of Calcium carbonate per liter of water), the alkalinity is measured as the amount of acid (e.g., Sulfuric acid) needed to bring a water sample to a pH level of 4.2. At this pH level, all the alkaline compounds of the sample are “used up.” Using laboratory equipment, lab technicians dispense the Sulfuric acid drop by drop into the water sample. At the same time, the change in pH is closely monitored with a pH meter and electrode or pH “pocket pal.” Field kits are also available, but they typically target a higher alkalinity range than in Rhode Island waterways.
What is the Alkalinity of RI Lakes and Ponds?
During its data gathering, URIWW monitors the alkalinity thrice annually. Just a few ponds are in the acidified category. This appears to be a natural condition for these lakes. The alkalinity of lakes is proportionally equal to the number of nutrients in them. Meaning, a lower amount of nutrients also means lower alkalinity, while a higher amount of nutrients means higher alkalinity. At large, most regions stay within the same category of pH level yearly.
Alkaline Water: Newest Trends
One of the newest trends today is the use of alkaline water. It has now made its way to the overcrowded world of health and wellness. Some say that drinking alkaline water can offer various health benefits to people. It helps slow down the aging process. It can regulate the pH level of the body and prevent different chronic diseases.
Alkaline water can neutralize the acid levels in the body in which normal water cannot do. This process of neutralizing the acids can prevent different diseases. Indeed, this controversial health practice has been argued by various health experts.
Alkaline water refers to the water that has been ionized, which means that the water's pH level has been increased. Indeed, there are various ways to increase the alkaline properties of water using special filters, additives, and faucet attachments which can raise the pH levels. This will make the normal tap water go from neutral pH to alkaline.
Our body secretes various juices that are acidic. Thus, alkaline water will neutralize this acid that our body will release. It is recommended to consume 70% alkaline and 30% acidic foods, and once you consume them, the pH level of the body will now be neutral. Consuming alkaline water is best if you consume food that does not balance the body's pH level.
Does the Theory of Alkaline Water Work?
In general, regular water is best for people of all ages. There is no scientific evidence that verifies the claim of the supporters of alkaline water. In a study published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology, alkaline water with a pH level of 8.8 might be able to soothe the acid reflux. This is because the higher pH level can kill the pepsin. This is an enzyme that is involved in breaking down food proteins. Indeed, this is the main cause of acid reflux.
Another study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition stated a significant difference in the whole blood viscosity as you consume high pH water versus regular water after working out. A study was published in the Shanghai Journal of Preventive Medicine, which states that drinking alkaline water can be beneficial for people who are suffering from cardiovascular diseases like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Benefits of Drinking Alkaline Water
Indeed, there is still a lack of proven research about the health benefits of alkaline water. But various proponents claim that various benefits of drinking alkaline water:
- Alkaline water has ultra-hydrating properties versus normal water. This can be very helpful for people who work out each day and need to drink lots of water to nourish their bodies. Science proves that the water molecules in alkaline water are smaller. Then, it can be readily absorbed by the cells, which can rehydrate the body quickly.
- Alkaline water can boost the body’s immune system. With this, it can help neutralize the acidity of the body. This is sometimes caused by stress, environmental toxins, and poor diet.
- Alkaline water includes various minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Both are very important to maintain the healthy bones of the body.
- Alkaline water has various potent antioxidants that can prevent the growth of cell-damaging free radicals in the body. This can rush the aging process of the body.
- Finally, alkaline water can neutralize the acidity of the body. It can lower down the excessive acidic content in the gastrointestinal tract or the stomach.
The Side Effects of the Alkaline Water
In general, alkaline water is safe for consumption, but there are also negative side effects. Yes, it may be alkalizing the body. But there is a chance that with its excessive consumption, it can ruin the natural acids of your stomach, which can kill the good bacteria. Moreover, excessive alkalinity in your body can lead to problems in the skin and the gastrointestinal tract.
How to Make Alkaline Water
Making Alkaline Water with a Baking Soda
To make alkaline water, use baking soda, which is alkaline and has a pH level of 9. For about four liters of clean drinking water, you have to mix a half tablespoon of baking soda. You have to shake the water until the baking soda completely dissolves. As soon as it is dissolved, you can now drink the water.
Making Alkaline Water with Lemon
Lemon is acidic, and it has a pH level of below 7. When you add it to water, fully metabolized and consumed, it will have an alkalizing effect. Thus, it will raise the pH level in the body, which is above 7, and it is now alkaline. This is why it is recommended to drink a glass of water with lemon every morning to power up our day.
What is the Best pH Level for Drinking Water?
The common pH level of tap water, generally coming from groundwater systems, is 6-8.5. Environmental Protection Agency or EPA consider tap water drinkable. However, it can cause different problems. For instance, chlorine is not good for human consumption, but the human body can technically tolerate it. But, it would become carcinogenic (leads to cancer) and other health complications. Lead is another risk present in tap water in your home due to the lead present in the pipes.
In the Washington, DC territory, the tap water originates from the Potomac or Patuxent Rivers. This water is processed with essential filtration methods like flocculation, which adds chemicals to the water to get particles to coagulate and coast to be removed; sand filtration, which filters out large pieces of debris; or chlorination, which adds chlorine to eliminate bacteria and other microorganisms.
Filtered water is common in many households and is part of their daily life. Most people filter their tap water from the dam, public source, or sometimes from a desalination plant. In this case, the water travels miles and miles of metal pipes to reach tap water in your home.
The pH level of filtered water can vary from acid to weak alkaline. The body needs to flush out toxins, and for that to be effective is to drink water with higher pH. A good pH level is 8.0. This is not too alkaline and not acidic. Higher than that may cause detoxing effects like nausea, light-headedness, and others. Short-term consumption can be okay if you are acidic. Otherwise, you can experience the mentioned above. For very high pH levels, one may also increase their number of free radicals more than what your body needs and may risk your healthy cells.
Fluoride is added to your water supply. This is what helps prevent dental decay. However, it is also water contaminates. Most water filters do not filter all contaminants out of the water. Furthermore, filters are the perfect breeding ground for microorganisms, including algae and mold. So it is really necessary to change your water filter regularly. Otherwise, this could be worse than your tap water. If you have a poor water quality water supply, you will also end up with poor water quality.
When the water from a water source is removed from all impurities, it is called pure water or purified water. Pure water can be purified by micro-porous filtration, carbon filtration, and ultraviolet oxidation. Distilled water is the most common kind of pure water. Purification processes involve a combination of any of the processes in some places. Pure water can be used as drinking water, cooking, and in laboratories as in scientific studies.
Pure water is characterized by the quality and level of the impurities found in the water. For water to become legally defined as “purified water,” water impurities should be reduced to an extremely low level if not removed at all costs. The impurity level of dissolved solids in the purified water must not be above ten parts per million. If the water meets this limit inherently has a higher purity than tap water, filtered water, or even spring water.
According to EPA standards, drinking water must have a 6.5-8.5 pH value. They firmly indicated that even within the acceptable pH range, a slight change in the high or low-pH water could be unappealing for many reasons. High pH water may taste like baking soda, a slippery feel, and may leave deposits on fixtures. This is according to EPA on their website. However, low-pH water may be bitter or metallic in taste which may also contribute to fixture corrosion.
pH levels of drinking water are monitored and checked by EPA, and the required level must be kept intact. Otherwise, if not carefully regulated, the effects of drinking too much alkaline or acidic water can be dangerous. When the pH level reaches lower than 7.0, it can lead to the corrosive quality of the water. This means it contains zinc, iron, copper, and lead from plumping and different metal fixtures. Thus, there is a metallic or bitter taste in the water.
High alkaline water does not bring too serious health problems except that one may have aesthetic problems. Thus, there is a taste of baking soda and a slippery feel. It also leaves scale formation or pipe precipitates on fixtures, dishes, and utensils.
Optimum Body pH
The typical definition when you refer to “optimum body pH” refers to the blood's pH. Different parts of the body have different optimal pH to function properly. For instance, the gastric juice in the stomach should have a pH between 1.5-3.5 to be properly digested. The blood, on the other hand, should have a 7.36 pH level.
What Happens If Your Body Isn't Balanced
Just as the saying goes, too much of something is bad. Being too acidic or too alkaline can cause problems for your health. If your diet is too acidic may let you gain weight, slower immune response, and susceptible to infections. However, if your diet is too alkaline may let you slow down your metabolism, especially in absorbing key nutrients. Fortunately, our body strives to keep the pH level at constant balance. What contributes to our pH level is what we take in, such as the liquids we drink and the foods we eat, even the emotions that we feel.
The Health Effects of pH
It is named a secondary drinking water contaminant whose effect is viewed as aesthetic. Be that as it may, the EPA suggests that open water systems maintain pH levels in the range of 6.5 and 8.5, a great guide for individual well water owners. Water with a low pH can be acidic, normally delicate, and corrosive. Acidic water can filter metals from funnels and fixtures, for example, copper, lead, and zinc.
It can likewise harm metal pipes and cause aesthetic issues, for example, a metallic or harsh taste, clothing recoloring, or blue-green stains in sinks and drains. Water with a low pH may contain metals like what is already mentioned copper, lead, and zinc. Drinking water with a pH level over 8.5 shows that an abnormal state of alkalinity minerals is available. High alkalinity does not represent a health hazard but rather can cause aesthetic issues, for example, a soluble alkali taste to the water that influences coffee to taste bitter; scale develop in pipes; and brought down the productivity of electric water warmers.
How to Test the pH Value
Contact your state or local health officer for a rundown of ensured certified laboratories that can test the pH level of your water. If your water is acidic (under seven pH), you may have issues with the leaching of copper and lead from your pipes. Think about testing for copper and lead if the pH test demonstrates your water is exceptionally acidic. If testing demonstrates that your water has a high pH, think about testing for alkalinity and hardness also, as these can be related to high pH water.
In any case, the primary method to treat the problems of low pH water is with the utilization of a neutralizer. The neutralizer encourages a solution into the water to keep the water from reacting with the house pipes or adding to electrolytic corrosion; a common neutralizing substance is soda ash. Neutralizing with soda ash builds the sodium substance of the water.
What are the Treatments for pH in Drinking Water?
Two home treatment techniques to alter pH are acid neutralizing filters and chemical feed pump systems infusing a neutralizing solution. An acid-neutralizing filter utilizes calcite or ground limestone (calcium carbonate) for normal pH correction. Yet, it could likewise incorporate a mix of magnesium oxide and calcite if the pH is low. Since the water ingests these minerals through the channel, the alkalinity and hardness will rise.
Hardness is effortlessly treated with a water softener that uses an ion exchange process to put off hard minerals. A chemical feed pump solution is made with well water and soda ash (similar to baking soda) and blended in a solution tank.
While choosing the pH treatment method, the levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) and carbon dioxide in the water should be considered. For instance, acid-neutralizing filters are not as viable in raising pH when the water contains extreme TDS or carbon dioxide levels. Suppose the pH level of the well water is more noteworthy than 8.5. In that case, you can lessen the impacts of extreme alkalinity by introducing either a special ion-exchange unit intended to diminish alkalinity, or a substance nourish pump framework that infuses a weak acid solution. This system is more complex. If high pH is an issue, please contact your local water specialist for detailed advice.
A neutralizing filter is used in the water if it is acidic or has a low pH level. This is a simple device that can raise the pH level of the water by adding a neutralizing material.
These filters are point-of-entry devices that can raise the pH level of the water into a neutral level which can prevent corrosion or plumbing problems. Calcium carbonate can be able to treat water with a pH that is greater than 6. Meanwhile, synthetic magnesium oxide will treat water that has a low pH level.
The untreated water will flow through the filter. This is now filled with limestone of calcium carbonate or a synthetic magnesium oxide medium. This material will dissolve in the water, and it can raise the pH level.
Soda Ash or Sodium Hydroxide Injection
This one is used whenever the water is acidic, or it has a low pH level. Sodium carbonate or soda ash will raise the pH of water near-neutral whenever it is injected into the water system. Unlike neutralizing filters, this will not cause hardness problems in the treated water.
Remember that the injection systems are point-of-entry systems. A corrosion-resistant chemical feed will pump or inject sodium hydroxide solution or soda ash solution into the water, which will raise the pH level. The solution must be directly fed into the well, which will protect the pump from corrosion.
If the water should be disinfected or neutralized, it is possible to have dual treatment within the injection system. Do this by adding a chlorine solution of sodium hypochlorite with the neutralizing chemical.
The acid injection will treat the water with a high pH level by lowering the pH of the water to 7. This can eliminate the soda taste and now improve the effectiveness of chlorination. This can reduce the potential of pipe corrosion since water with a pH level above nine can corrode metals like zinc, copper, brass, iron, and aluminum.
Other Effects on Humans
Exposure to extreme pH values brings about irritation to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. Eye irritation and complication of skin disorder have been associated with pH values of more than 11. Furthermore, solutions of pH 10– 12.5 have been accounted for to make hair strands swell. Insensitive people, gastrointestinal irritation may likewise happen. Introduction to low pH esteems can also bring related effects. Less than pH 4, redness and irritation of the eyes have been reported, the seriousness of which increases with diminishing pH. Less than pH 2.5, harm to the epithelium is irreversible and intense. What's more, since pH can influence the erosion of metals and disinfection efficiency, it might indirectly affect health.
Even though pH generally has no immediate effect on water consumers, it is an essential water-quality parameter. Careful attention regarding pH control is crucial at all stages of water treatment to guarantee tasteful water clarification and disinfection. For effective cleansing with chlorine, the pH ought to ideally be under 8. The pH of the water entering the distribution system must be controlled to limit the erosion of water mains and pipes in household water systems.
The inability to do so can result in the contamination of drinking water and can have awful effects on its taste, scent, and appearance. The ideal pH will vary in various sources as indicated by the composition of the water and the nature of the construction materials used in the distribution system. However, it is frequently in the range of 6.5– 9.5. Higher pH values can result from accidental spills, treatment breakdowns, and unfixed cement mortar pipe linings.