Chemicals in Water

The Global Water Crisis

An Introduction to Chemicals in Water

Chemicals in water come in a variety of forms, safe and unsafe, organic and inorganic. They also come from a variety of sources, from pollution to water treatment.

Organic and Inorganic Chemicals in Water

While some chemicals in water are harmless at lower concentrations, many chemicals in water are toxic. Chemicals in water come in two basic varieties, organic and inorganic. Organic chemicals in water are chemicals that can naturally occur. These include chemicals from food processing waste, petroleum products, and cosmetics. Inorganic chemicals are chemicals that do not naturally occur. Some inorganic chemicals in water come from heavy metals from industrial by-products, cars, and fertilizers.

Chemicals in Water: Water Treatment

We think of water treatment as a process that removes chemicals from water, purifying it. However, in the process of eliminating the chemical contaminants in water, water treatment also adds some chemicals in water. Water treatment is applied not only to drinking water, but also to water that’s used for industrial, medical, and other purposes. The goal of water treatment is to make water safe enough to return to natural environments without causing negative ecological effects. Water treatment can refer to water settling and filtration, but it can also refer to the chemical processes of disinfection, desalination and coagulation. Contaminants in water include bacteriaviruses, and chemical pollutants like fertilizers.  Water treatment is hugely important because waterborne diseases kill 1.8 million people each year.

Naturally Occurring Chemicals in Water

Chemicals in water do not necessarily constitute water pollution. Some chemicals can naturally occur in water (like sodium and calcium, for instance). However, even these chemicals can harm us and Earth’s ecosystems if they are too highly concentrated.