Bottled Water Glossary

Below is a bottled water glossary of terms which may be useful for those considering the purchase of a water cooler.
The terms in the glossary are not limited to water coolers, anyone with an interest in water will find them handy. A complete list of terms relating to drinking water is available from the Environmental Protection Agency.

acceptable daily intake (ADI)
Estimate of the largest amount of chemical to which a person can be exposed on a daily basis that is not anticipated to result in adverse effects (usually expressed in mg/kg/day).

The condition of water or soil which contains a sufficient amount of acid substances to lower the pH below 7.0.

The addition of an acid (usually nitric or sulfuric) to a sample to lower the pH below 2.0. The purpose of acidification is to "fix" a sample so it won't change until it is analyzed

activated carbon
Adsorptive particles or granules of carbon usually obtained by heating carbon (such as wood). These particles or granules have a high capacity to selectively remove certain trace and soluble materials from water.

The material being removed by the adsorption process.

The material (activated carbon) that is responsible for removing the undesirable substance in the adsorption process.

The material being removed by the adsorption process.

The material (activated carbon) that is responsible for removing the undesirable substance in the adsorption process.

Microscopic plants which contain chlorophyll and live floating or suspended in water. They also may be attached to structures, rocks or other submerged surfaces. They are food for fish and small aquatic animals. Excess algal growths can impart tastes and odors to potable water. Algae produce oxygen during sunlight hours and use oxygen during the night hours. Their biological activities appreciably affect the pH and dissolved oxygen of the water.

algal bloom
Sudden, massive growths of microscopic and macroscopic plant life, such as green or blue- green algae, which develop in lakes and reservoirs.

Any substance or chemical specifically formulated to kill or control algae.

Various soluble salts, principally of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, that have the property of combining with acids to form neutral salts and may be used in chemical water treatment processes.

The condition of water or soil which contains a sufficient amount of alkali substances to raise the pH above 7.0.

The capacity of water to neutralize acids. This capacity is caused by the water's content of carbonate, bicarbonate, hydroxide and occasion- ally borate, silicate, and phosphate. Alkalinity is expressed in milligrams per liter of equivalent calcium carbonate. Alkalinity is not the same as pH because water does not have to be strongly basic (high pH) to have a high alkalinity. Alkalinity is a measure of how much acid can be added to a liquid without causing a great change in pH.

A natural underground layer of porous, water-bearing materials (sand, gravel) usually capable of yielding a large amount or supply of water.

Water held under pressure in porous rock or soil confined by impermeable geologic formations. An artesian well is free flowing. See confined aquifer.

Singular: bacterium. Microscopic living organisms usually consisting of a single cell. Bacteria can aid in pollution control by consuming or breaking down organic matter in sewage, or by similarly acting on oil spills or other water pollutants. Some bacteria in soil, water or air may also cause human, animal and plant health problems.


bottleless water cooler

A water cooler that utilizes a direct water line feed as its water source.  Sometimes referred to as POU (point of use).  May include or be used  with various types of filtration.

Test which determines the effect of a chemical on a living organism.

The application of chlorine to water, generally for the purpose of disinfection, but frequently for accomplishing other biological or chemical results (aiding coagulation and controlling tastes and odors).

A metering device which is used to add chlorine to water.

A group of bacteria found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals (including humans) also in plants, soil, air and water. Fecal coliforms are a specific class of bacteria which only inhibit the intestines of warm-blooded animals. The presence of coliform a is an indication that the water is polluted and may contain pathogenic organisms.

coliform organism
Microorganisms found in the intestinal tract of humans and animals. Their presence in water indicates fecal pollution and potentially dangerous bacterial contamination by disease-causing microorganisms.

Very small, finely divided solids (particles that do not dissolve) that remain dispersed in a liquid for a long time due to their small size and electrical charge. When most of the particles in water have a negative electrical charge, they tend to repel each other. This repulsion prevents the particles from clumping together, becoming heavier, and settling out.

confined aquifer
An aquifer in which ground water is confined under pressure which is significantly greater than atmospheric pressure. See artesian aquifer.

Any physical, chemical, biological, or radio- logical substance or matter that has an adverse effect on air, water, or soil.

The introduction into water of microorganisms, chemicals, toxic substances, wastes, or wastewater in a concentration that makes the water unfit for its next intended use.

The deliberate removal of chlorine from water. The partial or complete reduction of residual chlorine by any chemical or physical process.

The removal of excess fluoride in drinking water to prevent the mottling (brown stains) of teeth.

Of intestinal origin, especially applied to wastes or bacteria.

Organic substances (produced by living organisms) which cause or speed up chemical reactions. Organic catalysts and/or biochemical catalysts.

A process for removing particulate matter from water by passage through porous media.

Microorganisms that move by the action of tail-like projections.

The addition of a chemical to increase the concentration of fluoride ions in drinking water to a predetermined optimum limit to reduce the incidence (number) of dental caries (tooth decay) in children. Defluoridation is the removal of excess fluoride in drinking water to prevent the mottling (brown stains) of teeth.

ground water
The supply of fresh water found beneath the Earth's surface. usually in aquifers. which is often used for supplying wells and springs. Because ground water is a major source of drinking water there is growing concern over areas where leaching agricultural or industrial pollutants or substances from leaking underground storage tanks are contaminating ground water.

hard water
Alkaline water containing dissolved salts that interfere with some industrial processes and prevent soap from lathering. Water may be considered hard if it has a hardness greater than the typical hardness of water from the region. Some textbooks define hard water as water with a hardness of more than 100 mgAL as calcium carbonate.

hardness, water
A characteristic of water caused mainly by the salts of calcium and magnesium, such as bicarbonate, carbonate, sulfate, chloride and nitrate. Excessive hardness in water is undesirable because it causes the formation of soap curds, increased use of soap, deposition of scale in boilers, damage in some industrial processes, and some- times causes objectionable tastes in drinking water.

The study of the occurrence, distribution and circulation of the natural waters of the earth.

The application of hypochlorite compounds to water for the purpose of disinfection.

Chlorine pumps, chemical feed pumps or devices used to dispense chlorine solutions made from hypochlorites such as bleach (sodium hypochlorite) or calcium hypochlorite into the water being treated.

Chemical compounds containing available chlorine; used for disinfection. They are available as liquids (bleach) or solids (powder, granules and pellets). Salts of hypochlorous acid.

Type of exposure through the mouth.

Type of exposure through the lungs.

Material such as sand, salt, iron, calcium salts and other mineral materials. Inorganic substances are of mineral origin, whereas organic substances are usually of animal or plant origin. Also see organic.

A genus of bacteria, some species of which have caused a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires Disease.

macroscopic organisms
Organisms big enough to be seen by the eye without the aid of a microscope.

maximum contaminant level (MCL)
The maximum permissible level of a contaminant in water which is delivered to the free flowing outlet of the ultimate user of a public water system, except in the case of turbidity where the maximum permissible level is measured at the point of entry to the distribution system. Contaminants added to the water under circumstances controlled by the user are excluded from this definition, except those contaminants resulting from the corrosion of piping and plumbing caused by water quality.

maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG)
The maximum level of a contaminant in drinking water at which no known or anticipated adverse effect on the health of persons would occur, and which allows an adequate margin of safety. Maximum contaminant level goals are non-enforceable health goals .

An agent that causes a permanent genetic change in a cell other than that which occurs during normal genetic recombination.

The capacity of a chemical or physical agent to cause permanent alteration of the genetic material within living cells.

National Interim Primary Drinking Water Regulations
Commonly referred to as NIPDWRs.

National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations
Commonly referred to as NSDWRs.

Of the mouth; through or by the mouth.

Substances that come from animal or plant sources. Organic substances always contain carbon. (Inorganic materials are chemical substances of mineral origin.) Also see inorganic

The passage of a liquid from a weak solution to a more concentrated solution across a semipermeable membrane. The membrane allows the passage of the solvent (water) but not the dissolved solids (solutes). This process tends to equalize the conditions on either side of the membrane.

Oxidation is the addition of oxygen, removal of hydrogen, or the removal of electrons from an element or compound. In the environment, organic matter is oxidized to more stable substances. The opposite of reduction

Water at a desirable temperature that is free from objectionable tastes, odors, colors, and turbidity. Pleasing to the senses.

particle count
The results of a microscopic examination of treated water with a special "particle counter" which classifies suspended particles by number and size.

A very small solid suspended in water which can vary widely in size, shape, density, and electrical charge. Colloidal and dispersed particulates are artificially gathered together by the processes of coagulation and flocculation.

Microorganisms that can cause disease in other organisms or in humans, animals and plants. They may be bacteria, viruses, or parasites and are found in sewage in runoff from animal farms or rural areas populated with domestic and/or wild animals, and in water used for swimming. Fish and shellfish contaminated by pathogens, or the contaminated water itself, can cause serious illnesses.

pH is an expression of the intensity of the basic or acid condition of a liquid. Mathematically, pH is the logarithm (base 10) of the reciprocal of the hydrogen ion concentration, [H+]. pH= Log (I/[H+]) The pH may range from 0 to 14, where 0 is most acid, 14 most basic, and 7 neutral. Natural waters usually have a pH between 6.5 and 8.5.

potable water
Water that is safe and satisfactory for drinking and cooking.

Descriptive of kind, type or direction, as opposed to size, magnitude or degree.

Descriptive of size, magnitude or degree.



point-of-use (POU)

An industry term for water coolers that incorporate a direct water line feed in lieu of traditional bottled water.

reverse osmosis
The application of pressure to a concentrated solution which causes the passage of a liquid from the concentrated solution to a weaker solution across a semipermeable membrane. The membrane allows the passage of the solvent (water) but not the dissolved solids (solutes). The liquid produced is a demineralized water. Also see osmosis.

safe water
Water that does not contain harmful bacteria, or toxic materials or chemicals. Water may h

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