Back To Blog Page

A Guide to Reverse Osmosis Water Benefits

Reverse osmosis (RO) is one of the most popular processes for producing fresh drinking water.

Many people who are exploring whether to get a reverse osmosis system wonder is reverse osmosis water good for you? Among the many benefits of drinking reverse osmosis water is a reduced risk of drinking harmful substances. Reverse osmosis is a highly effective method of reducing the number of contaminants within a water sample, including substances that can be harmful to our health like lead and arsenic.

Even if you have had water that has gone through a reverse osmosis filtration system, you may not be clear on what the reverse osmosis process is. By gaining a better understanding of what reverse osmosis is, you can gain a fully-informed view of the advantages and disadvantages of these types of systems.

What is Reverse Osmosis?

Reverse osmosis is a filtration process used to remove dissolved solids from a sample of water. As the name would suggest, reverse osmosis is the opposite of the natural process of osmosis. To really understand what reverse osmosis is, it is helpful to take a quick look at the process of osmosis.

Osmosis

Osmosis is a natural process that is critical for life as we know it. The concept behind osmosis is relatively simple. In osmosis, a liquid moves across a semipermeable membrane from a solution with a low concentration of solutes to a solution with a high concentration of solutes. The liquid moving across the membrane is considered a solvent, and the solute combined with a solvent is considered a solution. Solutes are a dissolved solid.

Plants are one of the easiest examples of osmosis in action. The movement of moisture and nutrients from the ground into the roots of a plant or tree is the result of osmosis. The inside of a tree’s roots contains a high concentration of nutrients, which are solutes. The soil that the tree is planted in contains lower amounts of nutrients, along with necessary moisture. The roots of the tree function as a semipermeable membrane and nutrient-rich moisture is drawn across that membrane into the area that has a greater concentration of nutrients.

How is Reverse Osmosis Different?

Osmosis occurs naturally due to osmotic pressure, which is a term used to describe the process when a solution with a high concentration of solutes draws in a solvent. Returning to the example of the plant, this means that osmotic pressure is the term used to describe how water and nutrients are drawn naturally into the plant which has a higher concentration of nutrients.

Reverse osmosis is the opposite of the standard osmotic process. The way that reverse osmosis works is that a solvent travels across a semipermeable membrane from a solution with a high concentration of solutes to a solution with a low concentration of solutes. Since this goes against the natural process, it requires a source of external pressure greater than osmotic pressure. This external force is used to push the solvent across the membrane.

In reverse osmosis, the solvent is usually water. The starting solution has a higher-than-desired concentration of dissolved solids. As it is forced through a membrane, the undesired solids remain behind while the water continues through. In the end, you are left with filtered water that has a very low concentration of dissolved solids.

Both osmosis and reverse osmosis rely on a semipermeable membrane to function. Essentially, this membrane acts as a gatekeeper, allowing water molecules through but forcing larger molecules to stay behind. In a reverse osmosis system, the type of membrane used is a determining factor for the types of contaminants and solids that are kept out of the finished product.

Desalination plants are an easy way to see reverse osmosis at work. Desalination is the process of removing salt from seawater, turning it into fresh water that is drinkable. The seawater is the starting material, which has a high concentration of solutes, in the form of salt. Pressure is then applied to this seawater to force it to travel through a membrane. The membrane has holes small enough to allow water molecules through, but those same holes are too small for salt molecules. The end result is that salt is left behind at the membrane, and the finished product is clean drinkable water.

How is Reverse Osmosis Used?

You may not realize the many ways you interact with substances that are impacted by reverse osmosis. Here are a few of the most common ways that reverse osmosis is used around the world today.

Agriculture

Reverse osmosis is a key component of modern industrial agriculture. Reverse osmosis helps farmers by giving them greater control over the PH of their irrigation water. Water that has a PH that is too high, making it basic, can have numerous negative consequences for agricultural purposes. Typically this is due to the presence of carbonates in the water. These carbonates change the chemistry of the soil, disrupting nutrient delivery. To combat this, farms utilize reverse osmosis systems to produce water for their irrigation systems.

Power Plants

Power plants are an industrial application where reverse osmosis systems are used extensively. Most power plants utilize some type of fuel source to heat water up, turning it into steam. While fuel sources for power plants can vary, with nuclear, gas, or coal all being commonplace, they all share the need for clean water. That’s because if water containing contaminants is heated in a power plant boiler it can quickly lead to problems, while also reducing the efficiency of the power generation process. The use of RO water, on the other hand, improves efficiency and reduces maintenance costs. 

Desalination

The first use of reverse osmosis outside of a laboratory was a desalination plant opened in 1950 by the University of California Los Angeles. Desalination has come a long way since the 1950s and is now used in arid regions around the world as a reliable source of fresh water. Israel is the world’s leading example of the successful use of desalination, receiving roughly 55% of its freshwater supply from desalination efforts.

Food Production

Some of the foods we eat are even produced using reverse osmosis. Fruit juice concentrates are manufactured using a reverse osmosis process to extract water while leaving behind the fruit solids and sugars that give the juice its flavor. Reverse osmosis produces fruit juice concentrates that are far superior to evaporation. Winemakers also use reverse osmosis to extract excess alcohol from wine, while leaving behind the tannins and flavor molecules. 

Reverse Osmosis Systems starting at only $25/mo. Try before you buy!

Key Benefits of Reverse Osmosis Water

There are some substantial benefits to drinking reverse osmosis water. Although we touched on many of the ways that reverse osmosis is utilized in industrial and commercial sectors, reverse osmosis systems are also relied upon in a residential setting for water purification. 

Here are some of the key reverse osmosis water benefits:

Fewer Contaminants

The water coming through our tap often contains contaminants that we don’t want to drink. While municipal water suppliers must meet certain standards for the water reaching your house, those standards are not always adequate. 

A decade ago, the New York Times published a story detailing how over 62 million Americans were exposed to drinking water that didn’t meet at least one government health guideline. One might think that over the subsequent decade those failings had been addressed, but that simply isn’t the case. A more recent article, published in July of this year, found that over 300 public water systems within the State of California were out of compliance with federal requirements for safe drinking water.

RO water contains substantially fewer contaminants than the water that is typically provided by a municipal water supplier. This includes things like salts and carbonates, which are the minerals that increase water hardness. In the filtration process, reverse osmosis systems will remove heavy metals like iron and lead that can be toxic if consumed over time. Water-borne bacteria and viruses, such as norovirus and salmonella, as well as protozoa like giardia, are also removed by reverse osmosis systems. 

With a reverse osmosis system, you’ll have the peace of mind that nearly all of the contaminants in your drinking water have been removed, giving you fresh, clean water. Some people wonder, “is purified water good for you?” The answer is complicated. While RO water doesn’t contain trace amounts of minerals like tap water does, those minerals aren’t typically necessary for a healthy life. Most people in the United States get a sufficient amount of minerals from their diet, and so the extra minerals found in their water provide little benefit. Against that backdrop, the risk that contaminants pose is usually greater than the risk of developing a mineral deficiency.  

Highly Efficient

Reverse osmosis systems are very efficient when compared to other types of filtration systems. This means you’ll use less energy to produce consistently clean drinking water. One of the downsides to reverse osmosis filtration systems in the past was that they produced a large amount of wastewater. 

Some modern reverse osmosis systems, such as the Rayne Eradicator, have addressed this issue by using  over 75-95% less water than other systems. Although the efficiency of residential reverse osmosis systems hasn’t reached the same level of efficiency as industrial systems, they are rapidly closing the gap.

Small Form Factor

In a residential setting, most reverse osmosis filtration systems are designed to provide a clean water supply at a specific tap, such as your kitchen sink. Although there are reverse osmosis systems that can provide clean water to your whole house, these are less common. One of the core advantages of typical reverse osmosis systems is that they can be easily installed in small spaces, such as under your sink. 

Less Waste

Residential reverse osmosis systems replace the need for getting drinking water from other sources. Most people that need drinking water simply buy bottled water from the store. However, these bottles quickly produce a massive amount of waste. About 50 billion bottles of water are purchased annually in the United States, averaging to about 156 bottles per person per year. At the same time, less than a quarter of those bottles are recycled, leading to millions of plastic bottles that end up in landfills every year.

Water bottle delivery services are another common avenue of getting drinking water for most households. These services typically deliver drinking water in 5-gallon reusable bottles. The downside to these services is that they are expensive. They also don’t provide drinking water on-demand, so if you run out you’ll have to wait for your next delivery. 

In contrast, reverse osmosis systems allow you to conveniently produce gallons of drinking water whenever you need it, without the hassle of bottle delivery or bottle recycling.

Closing Thoughts

Reverse osmosis is used to remove contaminants and unwanted molecules from water by forcing it through a membrane. The membrane allows water to pass through, but not anything that is larger than a water molecule. While reverse osmosis systems are a critical component for many industrial and commercial applications, they are also a very popular way to produce drinking water in your house.

The benefits of reverse osmosis systems are that they are efficient and cost-effective. These systems are low-maintenance, and only require changing the semipermeable membrane periodically. The use of a reverse osmosis system allows families to eliminate waste in the form of used water bottles, and reduce costs if they are using a water delivery service.

The core benefit that reverse osmosis systems provide is turning tap water into incredibly clean drinking water. Reverse osmosis is one of the most effective filtration methods in the world, and cutting-edge residential systems can reduce dissolved solids in water by 95% or more. If you want consistently clean drinking water at your sink, there is simply no better choice than a reverse osmosis water filtration system.

Rayne Water is proud to provide services to California, Nevada, and Arizona! We have you covered whether you need reverse osmosis in San Diego or a water softener in Phoenix. Check out all of our locations to find the nearest to you! To learn more about reverse osmosis systems for your home, please contact Rayne today.

Sources

  1. Lasky, Jack. 2019. “Reverse Osmosis (RO).” Salem Press Encyclopedia of Science.
  2. Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al. Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000. Section 15.8, Osmosis, Water Channels, and the Regulation of Cell Volume. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21739/
  3. https://sciencestruck.com/osmosis-examples
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/17/us/17water.html?_r=2
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/24/us/the-crisis-lurking-in-californians-taps-how-1000-water-systems-may-be-at-risk.html
  6. https://www.earthday.org/2018/03/29/fact-sheet-single-use-plastics/