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The Purpose and Nature of Commercial Water Treatment

Given that we live in an age when potable water is readily available to the homes and businesses in our cities and towns, we seldom give a thought to the processes that are necessary to achieve this, or even why those processes are required. Whether drawn from lakes, rivers, or underground sources, water must undergo intensive treatment for either domestic or commercial use before it is fit for purpose.

The Need for Water Treatment

Even before widespread industrialisation, natural sources contained a plethora of contaminants that could threaten the health and, sometimes, the lives of consumers if present in sufficient concentration. Today, effluents from industrial plants have added considerably to the amounts of harmful substances such as arsenic, lead, asbestos, nitrates and various organics present in those sources. The result is that the need for purification is now greater than ever as is that for new and more effective technology for use in both domestic and commercial water treatment.

Water Purification in Commercial Applications

Although the potable supplies delivered to our taps by local authorities are perfectly safe and pose no threat to our health, there are circumstances in which markedly higher standards of purity are necessary. For example, in those healthcare facilities currently battling a pandemic, only the very highest quality is acceptable for use in the aseptic environment of their wards and operating theatres. This is equally true within the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries and in factories that conduct electroplating or manufacture semiconductors. All of these depend heavily on commercial water treatment to sustain their need for improved quality.

Treating Hard Water with Ion-Exchange

One of the problems facing many industries is hardness, caused by calcium and bicarbonate ions in the source. Most domestic treatment plants fail to remove these, leaving consumers to deal with the minor irritations caused by poor lathering and scale formation on taps and in kettles. However, in a processed food plant, for example, where boilers are a prominent feature, limescale threatens production and can seriously damage a boiler. One form of commercial water treatment used to treat hardness is ion-exchange, in which specially-treated resin beads act to absorb the unwanted calcium and bicarbonate ions.

Micro-, Ultra- and Nanofiltration

However, in most cases, the extra purity required by manufacturers can be attained by using some form of filtration. Unlike the filter papers found in school chemistry labs, modern filtration media can remove particles at the molecular level. Microfiltration, ultrafiltration and nanofiltration employ advanced membrane technology to remove progressively smaller particles. However, reverse osmosis remains the most effective form of commercial water treatment in use today.


WaterIcon specialises in all forms of water treatment and purification, and has the experience and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of industries across southern Africa. Consult an expert at WaterIcon for more details of these and other purification technologies.