Total Dissolved Solids: Six Major Contamination Sources

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is the combination of any cations (positively charged) and anions (negatively charged) in your water. Having a test for TDS can tell you the amount, but will not identify the nature of these ionic relationships.

Total dissolved solids can come from a number of sources, and the location of your home, climate, water treatment method, source, and a number of variables can contribute to the composition of your water. Common TDS contaminants can include ionic compounds derived from calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chlorides, sulfates, phosphates and nitrates.

1. Industrial Wastewater and Sewage – treatment of both can include nitrates, which is important for animal growth. Algal blooms can be more likely to occur with the availability of nitrogen, causing an uptick in disinfectants being used by your municipality, which can lead to chlorine taste and smell. Phosphates can also be a non-point (water pollution from diffuse) source of total dissolved solids from wastewater treatment.

2. Urban Runoff – one of the leading sources in water quality problems, urban runoff occurs when rainwater runs across impervious surfaces through drainage systems. Some of these surfaces contain gasoline, motor oil, metals and trash, while lawns contain fertilizers and pesticides. Fertilizer is also a source of phosphorous and nitrates. Storm water runoff where de-icing salts are applied can also permeate drainage systems.

3. Piping/Hardware/Plumbing – the infrastructure of your own home could be the source of dissolved solids – particularly if the TDS is low. How can this be? Water in its purest form is a corrosive solvent, and can rake toxic materials such as lead and copper into your household problem This can be a major health risk. It’s a rare event the water source in your home is so low in TDS that it could become an issue, but if you are concerned about this, have your water tested today.

4. Sea Water – sea water, naturally, contains an excessive amount of NaCl (sodium) and other ionic compounds that can contribute to a salty or brackish taste. While there are a handful of desalination plants (designed to remove sodium compounds from sea water) in certain areas around the world, the hard truth is that purifying sea water takes an increased amount of energy and money to break such chemical bonds that most municipalities can not afford.

5. Agricultural/Farming/Irrigation Systems – just like in lawn treatment, synthetic farm fertilizers have nitrates that can dissolve into the soil. Elevated levels of nitrates also occur in animal waste and compost.  Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth. But excess nitrogen can combine with organic materials on the surface to product nitrates, which can be harmful to drinking water systems.

6. Naturally Occurring –  When water makes its way through the ground, it encounters layers of limestone and chalk. These beds are typically comprised partly of calcium and magnesium bicarbonates. The bi-product of these dissolved solids is hard water. More than 85% of U.S. households have hard water, according to studies. Contact your local Culligan dealer to see if a water softener is right for you today!


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