Reverse osmosis (also called R/O) is one of today’s very timely technological breakthroughs: producing fresh, clear water from contaminated water or those with impurities that cannot be taken out by even the finest filters. Of course, as in all things, there are pros and cons of the idea of reverse osmosis.
Basically, the process is simply forcing contaminated water through a semi-porous membrane and filtering out organic compounds such as salts and other minerals, chemicals, dyes, sugar, many other TDS (total dissolved solids) thereby producing fresh and clean water ready for use again.
Using the reverse process of the natural osmosis, R/O technology is now used in homes and offices, as well as by big industries. So far, this process is now the world’s leading technology in the treatment of contaminated water and makes it clean and safe for human use again.
Because it eliminates 95 to 99% of TDS (total dissolved solids), reverse osmosis is the best technology today for getting clean water free of contaminants.
R/O systems remove salt, dissolved minerals, nitrates, pesticides, metals, and microorganisms from the water. The system is also effective in treating water for health contaminants like asbestos, arsenic, some pesticides, fluoride, lead, mercury and radium. Removing them gives back the sparkling appearance and taste of water.
Today, R/O systems provide such diverse uses as drinking water, rinse water, car wash water reclamation, pharmaceutical production, ice-making, laboratory and other biomedical applications, farming, and providing clean water to so many other industries that use it.
In fact, one pundit says R/O provides water for the kitchen counter in a private home as well as water for use in space.
What makes it also ideal is the fact that installation costs are low, has very minimal use of chemicals, and with the construction using low-maintenance, non-metallic materials. The technology is also used right now in removing organic and inorganic contaminants from water.
The R/O process, however, have some several downsides.
Despite their effectiveness, the R/O membranes are susceptible to loss of function. Due to the size, shape, and the amount of contaminants present, a buildup of materials might disable the membrane’s functions. Also, the widely-used disinfectant chlorine can attack the membrane.
The small pores of the membrane block particles of large molecules but some pesticides and chlorine are molecularly smaller than water and can pass through. This is why carbon filters must be used as supplement to the R/O process because it can remove chlorine in the water.
Another drawback to the R/O process in purifying water is the fact that it blocks and removes healthy, naturally-occurring minerals in the water. These trace minerals helps provide the natural taste of water and they may be of vital use to the body.
The process wastes a large portion of water, around two to three gallons, for every gallon of purified water it produces. Moreover, the technology needs a reliable energy source and a good spare parts inventory (if it is foreign-made).
The process is slow compared to other water treatment alternatives, requiring a holding tank so that supply is assured during peak use.
The membranes used in R/O are sensitive to abuse. The feedwater usually needs pre-treatment to remove solid particulates. Presence of particulates cuts short the life span of the membranes.
However one may look at the pros and cons of reverse osmosis, one may conclude that until a better, foolproof technology of water treatment comes around, reverse osmosis is still the best technique there is today.