What Is Alkalinity?


Acidity and alkalinity is measured on the pH scale. pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions. The acronym pH stands for “potential of hydrogen.” The higher the pH of the liquid, the fewer free hydrogen atom it has. Conversely, the lower the pH, the more free hydrogen atoms it has. One pH unit reflects a tenfold change in ion concentration. For example, there are 10 times as many hydrogen ions availan at a pH of 7 that at 8.2.

pH Scale

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is neutral and anything above it is alkaline, anything below it is acidic. For example, batter acid is the most acidic with a pH level of 0.3 and lye being the most extreme acidic pH level of 13.3. Natural water ranges in pH from 6.5 to 9.0 depending on the vegetation and soils surrounding the water, season variations and weather, even time of day responses to sunlight. Human activities effect the pH of the water from toxic industrial pollutants.

According to an educational website called Water on the Web, “Pollutants in water can cause it to have high algal and plant growth, as a result of increased temperature or excess nutrients, causing pH levels to rise. Although these small changes in pH are not likely to have a direct impact on aquatic life, they greatly influence the availability and solubility of all chemical forms in the lake and may aggravate nutrient problems. For example, a change in pH may increase the solubility of phosphorus, making it more available for plant growth and resulting in a greater long-term demand for dissolved oxygen.”

Most aquatic plants and animals have adapted to life in water with a specific pH. These animals and plants will die if there are even slight changes in the pH of the water. If the pH is below 4 or above 10 most fish will die. There are few animals that can survive with a pH below 3 or above 11. Living systems are sensitive to changes in pH, therefore, it is no surprise that humans are sensitive to the pH of their water too.

Studies on pH Significance on Health

Scientific literature indicates that pH is important for nutrition and vitality.
Michigan State University studied greenhouse growth media, which included the pH of that media. It was found to be important for the media pH to be adjusted before planting. It the pH was higher than 6.5, it increased the chances of micronutrient deficiencies. It the pH was less than 5.3, it resulted in calcium and/or manganese toxicity.

Ohio State University Extension Service reported that alkaline water affects a plant’s ability to obtain nutrients from the soil and can alter the pH of the soil over time.
An ecological study conducted in the Netherlands discovered that an influx of alkaline water led to the death of a native plant called Stratiotes aloides L.

Fish that are constantly exposed to alkaline water show signs of stress, which is sometimes fatal. Fish that are in alkaline hard water did not have any adverse side effects. This study was conducted at the University of British Columbia.

Types of Water Available to the Consumer

Here are some basic definitions in terms of water.

Purified Water: physically processed to remove impurities
Distilled Water: boiled and evaporated away from dissolved minerals, then the vapor is condensed
Bottled Water: typically from a spring, or has gone through reverse osmosis before being bottled. However, some brands are bottled tap water that may or may not have gone through additional filtering.
Alkaline Water: has be separated into alkaline and acid fractions using electrolysis, which takes advantage of the naturally occurring electric charges found in the magnesium and calcium ions.
Deionized or Demineralized Water: the mineral ions have been removed through exposure to electrically charged resins that attract and bind to the salts
Hard and Soft Water: Hard water contains an appreciable amount of dissolved minerals; soft water is treated so that they only positively charged ion is sodium.

By Jeanette Smith


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Image Courtesy of Emma Websdale's Flickr Page - Creative Commons License

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