Causes, Risks and Solutions of Acidic Water

Blue background with white text and orange line underneath next to cup of water in foreground of blurry background.

Jump Ahead:

Understanding the causes, risks and solutions of acidic water can help you maintain the pH and acidity levels of water within your system. Different industrial applications rely on neutralized water, whether you work in aquaculture, food and beverage, hydroponics, wastewater treatment or pool water installations. The acidity vs. alkalinity levels of water are the difference between low and high pH levels, which determine the useability of your water sample, depending on the industry.

Through our tower packing solutions, MACH Engineering professionals can help you optimize the performance of your water systems by assisting in the selection of efficient scrubber packing and internals. We are here as your long-standing partner when it comes to customized and semicustomized solutions.

What is Acidic Water and What Makes Water Acidic?

Acidic water is water with a pH balance below 7. Acidic water can occur naturally, coming from highly dissolved oxygen levels or humans. Natural occurrences can range from rain to tree roots and soil microbes that produce acids and emit carbon dioxide. Mine spills and chemical dumps from humans can also push down the pH levels of a water sample.

While both natural and human-made incidents can cause acidic water, sediments in soil and rocks within the earth can actually neutralize acid, acting as water filters. As such, deep, underground water is often purer compared to shallow groundwater.

Determining the acidity level of water depends on the amount of pH in a given sample. The pH level of a solution measures how many hydrogen ions are in it, relating to a scale of zero to 14. The lower numbers indicate a higher level of acidity or a low pH while the higher numbers indicate a basic solution or higher pH and lower acidity. The average pH level for groundwater ranges from 6 to 8.5. Pure water’s neutral pH at room temperature is 7.0.

The pH scale is as follows:

  • Acidic — 0 to 6.5 pH
  • Neutral — 7 pH
  • Basic — 7.5 to 14 pH

Water with a low pH can corrode metal pipes and leach other metals. However, hydrogen ions aren’t the only thing that determines the corrosive effects of water.

Alkaline also plays a role in understanding what makes water acidic. Alkalinity measures the water’s capacity to resist pH changes that can make the solution more acidic. Both alkalinity and pH measurements dictate corrosion levels.

Symptoms of Acidic Water

An easy way to tell if water is acidic is if it tastes metallic or sour. However, acidic water can be hard to detect in industrial settings because you’re not drinking the water and are typically using it for business purposes instead. Depending on your industry, you may be treating water or using it for manufacturing, research and food and beverage, among other things.

Industrial businesses should look for signs of discoloration on fixtures like faucets, pipes, aquifers and any other surface your water touches. Acidic water can leave blue-green stains on surfaces the water comes in contact with. The blue-green stains from acidic water are often a result of copper leaching into the water. Acidic water is corrosive, which leads to leaching. This means harmful elements from metal pipes and fixtures are released into the water stream.

Risks of Acidic Water

Acidic water creates health risks when it comes to copper pipes. Acid can dissolve copper from the pipes, contaminating the source and the water used in your industrial business applications. Small amounts of copper are OK, though long-term exposure can be damaging.

Angular orange background with white text on top. Blue line underneath text and next to young women with a pained face.

Ingesting acidic water that’s been contaminated by heavy metals and minerals is harmful to humans. If you’re using acidic water to process food and beverages or other products people will ingest, the water can contaminate those products. While consumers won’t be directly ingesting your acidic water, they will be ingesting potentially contaminated products.

Additionally, acidic water is extremely corrosive, which damages industrial pipes and water fixtures. Damaged water fixtures will eventually require repairs, which can be costly and result in downtime. Downtime can result in loss of money for your company, making acidic water a big risk for your industrial business.

Solutions to Acidic Water in Industrial Settings

You can treat acidic water by installing a pH water filter that neutralizes the water, such as a balancing calcite filter or proportional injection system. The calcite filter dissolves the mineral into the water to make it less acidic, and it’s ideal for water that has a pH balance of about 5.5 or higher. This process also may require a water softener as part of the treatment.

The second solution to acidic water corrosion is a proportional injection system that injects precise amounts of neutralizer into the water solution. This solution creates a uniform pH level and doesn’t add hardness back into the water.

When it comes to industrial settings, carbon dioxide is the most common cause of acidic water. If you’re experiencing high CO2 levels in your water system, a carbon dioxide stripping system can neutralize the water and keep your pipes and other fixtures in tact.

Carbon dioxide strippers, also known as CO2 degasifiers, are an effective way to reduce water acidity levels. CO2 degasifiers are similar to air strippers because decarbonization causes the water to flow down through the CO2 degassing tower while a stream of air flows up. Many of these solutions also feature tower packing to increase the surface area between the water and gas being stripped.

Within the decarbonization processes, free and fixed CO2 exist. As the pH level increases, free CO2 shifts to fixed, resulting in a slower transfer from CO2 to air in the lower section of the packed tower. Therefore, the higher the pH, the more packed height necessary.

While many industrial companies apply solutions to acidic water, aquaculture and farming also rely on the careful maintenance of pH and acidity levels in the water systems.

Gradient white background with blue bolded text on top and red contact us button next to water equipment and man working.

Treat Acidic Water with MACH Engineering

No matter what industrial setting you work in, treating acidic water can support your operations. MACH Engineering designs water treatment applications based on your specific requirements. We partner with a third party to complete the manufacturing process, and once complete, our engineers will install the equipment for you. Our team of experts here at MACH Engineering guarantee material quality and top-tier designs within fast turnarounds.

Contact us online to learn more about our industrial water solutions and how we can support new or existing projects you’re working on.