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Chemical Characteristics Of Water

Composition Of Water :

Everyone is very familiar with water. We observe it as rain and snow and can see it in the oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams. Although the water in our bodies is not as apparent, recognize that most of our weight is made up of water. In fact, the normal adult is made up of approximately 60% water. Thus, water is essential for life.

Water is made up of hydrogen ions (H+) linked to hydroxyl ions (OH-) to form H2O. The molecular formula for water is H2O. From this formula and the atomic weights for hydrogen and oxygen you can calculate that the molecular weight of water is approximately 18 grams.

Note: The atomic weight of hydrogen (H) is 1 gram and the atomic weight of oxygen (O) is 16 grams.

18 grams of water can also be referred to as being 1 mole of water. A mole of a substance (e.g. water), contains a particular number of molecules. That number is 6.02 x 1023 and is often referred to as Avogadro's number; named after Amedeo Avogadro, an Italian physicist.

Recognize that 6.02 x 1023 is in scientific notation and represents a huge number: 602 billion trillion. Written in standard form, this number is: 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Thus, a mole of water which weighs 18 grams contains a huge number of water molecules.

18 grams or 1 mole of water occupies a volume of 18 milliliters. Therefore, 1000 milliliters (1 liter) of water contains 55.6 moles of water (1000 milliliters / 18 milliliters per mole).

Water molecules exist in the form of H2O; hydrogen ions (H+) linked to hydroxyl ions (OH-). A few of these water molecules split apart to create free H+ and OH- ions. Pure, deionised water contains the same number of H+ ions and OH- ions. One liter of pure, deionised water contains 1 x 10-7 moles of H+ and 1 x 10-7 moles of OH- ions. This is still a very large number of free hydrogen ions, namely: 6.02 x 1016 or 60,200,000,000,000,000.

Acidity :

Acidity or alkalinity is measured by pH. PH measures the concentration of Hydrogen ions in water. Ionization of water is HOH H+ + OH- In neutral solutions [OH] = [H] hence pH = 7 If acidity is increased, [H] increases and pH reduces from 7 (because H is log of [H]). The value of pH of water is important in the operations of many water and waste water treatment processes and in the control of corrosion.

Alkalinity :

The values of pH higher than 7, shows alkalinity. The alkaline species in water can neutralize acids. The major constituents of alkalinity (or causticity) are OH-, CO32- and bicarbonates HCO3 ions. Alkalinity in water is usually caused by bicarbonate ions.

Hardness of water :

Hardness is the property that makes water to require more soap to produce a foam or lather. Hardness of water is not harmful for human health but can be precipitated by heating so can produce damaging effects in boilers, hot pipes etc by depositing the material and reducing the water storage and carriage capacity.

Absolute soft water on the other hand is not acceptable for humans because it may cause ailments, especially to heart patients. Hardness in water is commonly classified in terms of the amount of CaCO3 (Calcium Carbonate) in it.

Concentration of CaCO3 Degree of hardness
0 – 75 mg / L Soft
75 – 150 mg / L Moderately hard
150 – 300 mg / L Hard
300 up mg / L Very Hard

Alkalinity :

The values of pH higher than 7, shows alkalinity. The alkaline species in water can neutralize acids. The major constituents of alkalinity (or causticity) are OH-, CO32- and bicarbonates HCO3 ions. Alkalinity in water is usually caused by bicarbonate ions.

Hardness of water :

Hardness is the property that makes water to require more soap to produce a foam or lather. Hardness of water is not harmful for human health but can be precipitated by heating so can produce damaging effects in boilers, hot pipes etc by depositing the material and reducing the water storage and carriage capacity.

Absolute soft water on the other hand is not acceptable for humans because it may cause ailments, especially to heart patients. Hardness in water is commonly classified in terms of the amount of CaCO3 (Calcium Carbonate) in it.

Concentration of CaCO3 Degree of hardness
0 – 75 mg / L Soft
75 – 150 mg / L Moderately hard
150 – 300 mg / L Hard
300 up mg / L Very Hard
Table 1 - Degree of Hardness

Low level of hardness can be removed just by boiling but high degree of hardness can be removed by addition of lime. This method has also the benefit that iron and manganese contents are removed and suspended particles including micro-organisms are reduced.

Turbidity:

Turbidity is a measure of water clarity how much the material suspended in water decreases the passage of light through the water. Suspended materials include soil particles (clay, silt, and sand), algae, plankton, microbes, and other substances. These materials are typically in the size range of 0.004 mm (clay) to 1.0 mm (sand). Turbidity can affect the color of the water.

Higher turbidity increases water temperatures because suspended particles absorb more heat. This, in turn, reduces the concentration of dissolved oxygen (DO) because warm water holds less DO than cold. Higher turbidity also reduces the amount of light penetrating the water, which reduces photosynthesis and the production of DO. Suspended materials can clog fish gills, reducing resistance to disease in fish, lowering growth rates, and affecting egg and larval development. As the particles settle, they can blanket the stream bottom, especially in slower waters, and smother fish eggs and benthic macro invertebrates. Sources of turbidity include:

  • Soil erosion
  • Waste discharge
  • Urban runoff
  • Eroding stream banks
  • Large numbers of bottom feeders (such as carp), which stir up bottom sediments
  • Excessive algal growth.

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