Sediment in drinking water is generally found only in well water. Water that feeds municipal water systems comes from reservoirs or rivers before being treated, so is usually sediment free. If you have a private well, or have a town water supply that relies on deep wells for its customers, there is a good chance that some kind of detritus will be in your drinking water.
Sediment vs. Turbidity
When particulate matter appears in the water, it usually is just referred to as sediment, but there is actually a differentiation between sediment and turbidity. When your drinking water has a color to it, or is anything but absolutely clear, you are dealing with particulate matter.
- Sediment encompasses the larger particles that may appear in your water, such as sand or other coarse material. Sediment will settle out of the water relatively quickly and can be removed from the water with a sediment filter designed for that purpose.
- Turbidity involves finer particles such as clay – the individual particles will be so small that they will not be able to be detected singly. This water will be cloudy or yellowish. Turbid water will not settle out fast, and it will often take hours before a coating is found on the bottom of the container.
If you have well water, it is likely that you have some degree of turbidity. Because low levels of turbidity are undetectable by the naked eye, a water filter is definitely recommended for well water. A water filter will collect a surprising amount of fine particles from ‘clear’ well water.
Keeping Your Water Clear
A disagreeable color to the water, that is not either turbidity or sediment, is probably mineral leachate from either the pipes or is present in the groundwater. Iron shows up in water as a rusty color and manganese will leave a black stain on clothing. Iron bacteria are often found in collaboration with both of the previously mentioned minerals and will not only add an off color to the water, but also a disagreeable taste and smell.
Fortunately, there are a number of water filters available that are designed to remove sediment and turbidity to provide you with clear, sparkling water to drink.
- Centrifugal separators are especially good at removing sand from your water supply.
- Spin-down separators use a spinning action to throw the water against strainers to catch sand particles.
- Cartridge filters do a good job not only at removing sediment, but also turbidity. However, the cartridges must be cleaned or replaced regularly.
- Oxidizing filters can help to scrub iron, manganese, and other minerals from your drinking water, but the filters have to be monitored and cleaned frequently.
- Backwash filters can be used along with cartridge filters to remove sediment and turbidity. These filters have the advantage of being self-cleaning.