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12.1: Is Dilution the Solution to Pollution?

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    Dilution is not the solution to pollution, but dilution can be used to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water supplies. Blending water sources of different water quality is common practice. However, when a water utility wants to blend sources of supply to lower a certain contaminant to acceptable levels they must receive approval from the governing Health Department. A Blending Plan must be created that specifies what volumes of water from each source will be used and what the expected resulting water quality will be. In addition, a sampling strategy must be included in the plan. The Health Department may not allow blending for all contaminants. For example, the local health agency may not approve a blending plan for a contaminant that poses an acute health effect or is deemed to be too high of a risk to public health.

    An acceptable blending plan may be for reducing manganese in a source that has exceeded the California Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 0.05 mg/L. Manganese causes black water problems for customers at levels over the secondary MCL. Additionally, an approved blending plan may involve a Primary MCL for nitrate. Nitrates above the MCL of 45 mg/L as NO3 can cause methemoglobinimia in infants under 6 months old. These are just two examples of blending plans.

    How are blended water quality results calculated? The blending of water supplies is nothing more than comparing ratios. For example, if 100 gallons of one source was mixed with 100 gallons of another source, the resulting water quality would be the average between the two sources. However, when you mix varying flows with varying water quality, the calculations become a little more complex. Using the diagram below will assist you in solving blending problems.

    If two sources are to be blended, the water quality data for both sources is known. One of the sources with a poor or high water quality result for a certain constituent will need to be blended with a source that has good or low water quality data. Source A will be the high out of compliance data point and Source B will be the low in compliance data point. Source C is the desired blended result. Typically this value is an acceptable level below an MCL. Once these values are established the ratios of the differences between these numbers can be calculated. For example the ratio of C ‐ B to A ‐ B yields the quantity of Source A that is needed. Therefore in the example below, the quantity of A needed is 37.5%. The same thing holds true for Source B. Simply take the ratio of the difference between the high (A) and desired (C) values and divide it by the difference between the high (A) and low (B) values. However, once you solve for the quantity of one source, simply subtract it from 100% to get the value for the other source. See the example below.

    It is expected that water quality results can and will fluctuate. It is always a good idea to take the highest result from recent sampling when calculating needed blend volumes to reduce the impacted water to acceptable levels. For example, if a well is being sampled for trichloroethylene (TCE) quarterly and the results are 6 ug/L, 7.8 ug/L, 5.9 ug/L, and 8.5 ug/L from a recent year of sampling, it would be prudent to use the 8.5 mg/L result when calculating blending requirements. It is also important to note that the local health authority should be consulted with respect to any blending plan.

    This says that 37.5% of Source A is needed and 62.5% of Source B is needed to achieve the desired blended value. Once the percentage of each source has been calculated the actual flows can be determined. Sometimes the total flow from both sources is known. In this case, you would take that known flow rate and multiply it by the respected percentages of each source. In the example below 5,000 gpm is needed.

    This example demonstrates that Source A can provide 1,875 gpm of a supply that has a water quality constituent result of 10 ppm and Source B can provide 3,125 gpm of a supply that has a water quality constituent result of 2 ppm to achieve a total flow of 5,000 gpm with a resulting water quality result of 5 ppm.

    This is just one example of how this equation can be used to calculate the answer. Another example is where the flows and the existing water quality results are known and the utility must calculate what the desired result will be. In any of these examples, if the process above is followed, the resulting answers can be calculated.


    Solve the following blending problems.

    12.1: Is Dilution the Solution to Pollution? is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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