Residential Non-Municipal Water Treatment
By Greg Reyneke CWS-VI
The statement “my parents drank this water for 75 years and it never hurt them,” is no longer a valid excuse to not be concerned with water quality.
Every day, billions of tons of water evaporate from the earth’s surface. As the heat of the sun evaporates the water and draws it from the earth’s surface into the atmosphere, many impurities are left behind.
The water vapor eventually cools to form clouds and then falls back to earth as precipitation. On its way from the clouds to your faucet, rainwater dissolves and absorbs a part of almost everything is touches.
The falling rain cleans the air as it falls. Unfortunately the impurities that were removed from the air have not left; they have just been relocated through the water onto the ground.
As it percolates through the earth, the water can absorb hardness minerals, iron, heavy metals, radioactivity, gases, organic contaminants and many other complex elements and compounds. Gases and other contaminants can cause undesirable tastes, colors and odors.
Water can also collect numerous man-made chemical impurities throughout this cycle. These synthetic chemicals are generally odorless, colorless, tasteless and can often be life-threatening. The statement, “my parents drank this water for 75 years and it never hurt them,” is no longer a valid excuse to not be concerned with water quality.
The US government estimated in 1986 that close to two percent of the nation’s ground water supplies were moderately polluted by sources such as hazardous waste dumps and leaking landfills. The scientific and medical community has not had time or the resources to study the long-term health effects of the more than 70,000 chemical compounds in use today that have found their way into the ecosystem.
Approximately 1,000 new synthetic chemical compounds are entering the industrial marketplace each and every year. Precipitation falls upon commercial and municipal dumpsites, toxic waste sites, industrial refuse depots, military test sites, leach fields, mining operations and farmer’s fields, where it dissolves, minute amounts of the toxic chemicals present and carries them along.
About 80 percent of American homeowners live in metropolitan areas, where they can rely on clean, clear municipal water that meets federal minimum standards for utility-grade water. The rest of America has an entirely different experience; they are their own water utility.
While living in the country can be rewarding, one’s water supply should be carefully protected, developed and improved. This helps to ensure the very best water for people and livestock.
Most dealers have a certain segment of their market area comprised of people who live with non-municipal water supplies (wells, springs, surface water, etc.). These clients have individual, specialized needs that pose unique challenges and opportunities.
The challenge in treating non-municipal water is in selecting the appropriate solution for the actual problem at hand, not just treating symptoms. This requires a systematic approach as well as the discipline to propose a sustainable solution, not just ‘something to make a sale.’
A good strategy to pursue is the five-step process that follows:
Build a good relationship with a reputable systems manufacturer.
Non-municipal water applications have an extremely high consequence of failure. Whether you’re addressing aesthetic issues like color and odors or health issues like arsenic, MTBE or bacteria, it is critical that your system be designed, installed and maintained to be sustainable and reliable.
Cultivate the relationship that you have with your OEM to ensure that you get the best assistance possible. Reputable manufacturers will be willing and able to assist you in selecting and sizing the appropriate solutions for your client that are affordable to them and good for your business.
Invest in a reasonable selection of water testing equipment.
Without proper test data, your attempts to address issues are generally fruitless and you might even put people’s health and safety at risk. Invest in titrant-based testing equipment and be prepared to test all the basics like pH, hardness, iron, alkalinity and TDS on every single appointment.
You also may need to perform specialized field tests as each case may warrant, such as sulfates, nitrates, arsenic and hydrogen sulfide. Remember that if human health is on the line, rely on the testing services of a state certified testing laboratory.
Invest in your education.
The WQA provides extensive dealer training though the Certified Water Specialist program. Buy the books, take the tests and you’ll be better for doing it. There are numerous other resources available through trade-groups, manufacturers and even through governmental organizations.
The more you know, the more likely you are able to serve your clients better than the next guy
Take a systematic approach with every client.
Selling water quality solutions without a site survey is like buying clothes by mail order. Sometimes things don’t quite fit.
After an initial discussion with your client, arrange for a site survey to evaluate the suitability of the treatment solution and to observe any special considerations that would be pertinent to the design on a system. It is quite appropriate to charge for the site survey.
When visiting the job site, be mindful of what you see and hear. If you arrive at the home and see massive iron staining on the sidewalk, chances are good that there might be iron in the water, whether the client complains about it or not.
Listen to what the client tells you about how their lifestyle has been affected by their water. When performing the initial site survey, observe the effect of their water on toilet tanks, drains and shower stalls. If the water looks, smells or tastes funny, there has to be a reason.
When performing a site survey you should, at a bare minimum, determine the following information to ensure that you are able to provide a sensible solution:
- Water source
- Well/cistern pressure switch range
- Well/water source capacity (maximum amount of water flow that it can sustain)
- Peak water flow-rate available to the water treatment system
- Drainage facilities
- Pipe size and material of influent water supply
- Peak flow demand of the facility being treated
- Space available for the system
- Electrical power available for system
- Dimensions of doorways and other entryways
- Daily water consumption habits
- Client’s perception of water quality issue to be treated
- Water chemistry
Don’t fear new technologies.
Numerous innovations in the water quality management business have hit the marketplace recently that show real potential. I’ve been particularly enamored by recently launched products like the WaterD.O.G. Pentair’s FreshPoint Ultrafilter and Erie’s new advanced control valve with Pur-Gard injection.
Always look for the best solutions to help your client, but remember to test new technologies and products before unleashing them on your clients! New technologies like nanofiltration are also becoming more prevalent in the non-municipal market.
Installation and start-up
Once you and your supplier have decided on the appropriate technological solution and your client has made the appropriate financial investment, it’s time to install and start-up the system. After incorrect sizing and/or selection, improper installation is one of the leading causes of system failures and client dissatisfaction in this particular market.
Make sure that your installer has the proper installation and piping instructions. Also ensure that all manufacturers’ installation instructions are followed in accordance with prevailing plumbing codes.
A key step that many installers forget to perform is sanitization of household plumbing after installation. Take the time and effort to perform a proper sanitization of all downstream plumbing once the equipment is installed in order to minimize callbacks and provide your client with the very best water as quickly as possible.
Follow-up with your client
Don’t plan on forgetting about your client once you’ve made the sale. Instead, plan on returning within 30 days after installation to retest the influent and effluent water and request referrals. Create a lifetime service relationship!
Discuss a sensible preventative maintenance plan with your client to help ensure that your system is properly maintained and that you are able to best serve them. Plan on visiting your client at least annually to tune-up the system, perform software updates and ensure that their water is the way that they expect it to be.
Non-municipal water treatment can be extremely rewarding, since you’re helping people with serious problems. Just remember to work systematically to protect yourself and your client.
About the Author
Greg Reyneke, CWS-VI, is currently General Manager at Intermountain Soft Water in Lindon, UT and serves on the WC&P Technical Review Committee. He also serves on the advisory board of the Smart Dealer Network, a non-profit trade association dedicated to helping independent water treatment dealers succeed and reach their full potential in today’s changing world.