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Minerals in Water

minerals in water, unregulated contaminants in drinking water, is reverse osmosis bad

How Important Are Minerals in Drinking Water?

Some people suggest that reverse osmosis is a 'bad' technology because it removes minerals from your water, however I suggest that:

A Review of Your Water Quality Report May Override Concerns
About Minerals in Your Drinking Water

Minerals or Contaminants: That is Often Your Choice 

by James P McMahon


How important are minerals in drinking water? There’s an authentic debate among wellness professionals about the type of water that is healthiest to drink. Some people advocate water that has naturally occurring minerals. Others suggest drinking low temperature distilled water, as opposed to heat distillation.  The unique conditions affecting your water will determine the type of water filtration you need. Physical characteristics and contamination present in drinking water vary widely. This article will help you weigh the importance of minerals in your water in contrast to the information contained in your local water quality report.

The issue of minerals in water is complex.  The scientific principle of osmosis is that water will move from an area of lower (solute) concentration to an area of higher (solute) concentration.1  In other words, water that is void of minerals is more hydrating because it will more readily cross the cell membranes in your body.2 

You may have heard that distilled water and water produced by reverse osmosis are ‘dead,’ due to the intensity of the processing and the lack of minerals.  However, measuring the energy of reverse osmosis water disputes this argument.3  The notion of ‘dead’ water is a misnomer that you should disregard.  This is one of those silly internet rumors that has no basis in fact.

Water has been demonstrated to have a healthy condition, and it may be true that water’s physical condition, specifically the angle of the bonds between water molecules, is affected by transport in pipes and by filtration.4  Another objection to drinking either distilled or RO water is that both will be acidic. This is easily countered with the addition of a filter to raise pH.  Numerous water treatment salespeople claim to ‘remineralize’ RO water but tests show a rise in pH only and no significant increase in mineral content from any of these filters.

Some wellness professionals advise drinking spring water. Spring water has minerals and is thought to be naturally vibrant – if it has not been conveyed in a pipe. Mineral content has been show to be beneficial by a number of independent studies funded by the World Health Organization. These studies indicate that people who drink water containing minerals suffer lower rates of heart disease than people who drink water lacking minerals.5

Spring waters can vary widely in water quality and mineral content. Mineral content is measured as total dissolved solids (tds).  EPA suggests an upper limit for tds of 500 ppm for drinking water. This is because water with a high mineral content is not hydrating.

What does this mean for you?  It means that lower tds water is more hydrating, and that minerals in water may be beneficial. Minerals should be present in relatively low amounts, however, far less than EPA’s limit of 500 ppm.  I like to drink water with a tds between 30 and 200.

Other considerations are just as important as minerals. For instance the presence of contaminants in your water may have serious health effects. When looking at your water report there is a section which identifies your specific water source. If your water source is a river, and there are cities upstream of your location, then your water will contain a dangerous mix of contaminants, many of which are unregulated.

Recent studies show that the water provided to 43 million Americans contains pharmaceuticals such as hormones, pain killers, and other drugs.6  Even trace amounts of these chemicals can have serious health effects.7  The only treatment proven effective at removal of these contaminants is reverse osmosis.8  Therefore a review of the water source and contaminants in your water quality report will lead you to determine which type of water filtration system will be effective in removing the contaminants present in your water.  In many cases these factors will far outweigh the benefit of mineral content.



1Osmosis. (2011). Wikipedia. Retrieved January 26, 2011, from

2Hourmanesh, M. personal interview by James McMahon. (2011,January 17). Distilled Water. Retrieved from

3 Niesen, C. email between Niesen and James McMahon. (2011, January 23). Energy of RO Water. Retrieved from

4McMahon, J. (2011, January 19). Vibrant Water. Retrieved from

5Dissanayake, C. (2005, August 05). Of Stones And Health: Medical Geology In Sri Lanka. Science Magazine, 309(5736), Retrieved from

       This is one of 80 studies funded by WHO that show a correlation between minerals in water and heart disease. Still, I have read these and DO NOT see a strong correlation

6Dell'Amore, C. (2010, February 26). Cocaine, Spices, Hormones Found In Drinking Water. National Geographic News, Retrieved from

7How meds in water could impact human cells. (2008, March 10). MSNBC, Retrieved from

8Reynolds, K. A. (2003, June). Pharmaceuticals In Drinking Water Supplies. Water Conditioning & Purification Magazine, 45(6), Retrieved from



James P McMahon studied ecology at the University of Illinois and, years later, deep ecology at Naropa University in Boulder, CO.  He has worked in the environmental field since 1974 when he launched one of the first recycling collection programs in the country in Seattle.  In 1994 Jim began working on rivers with Mackinaw River Project in central Illinois. It was his work on rivers and protection of endangered fish that led him to realize the extent to which we have inadvertently degraded the same water that we drink, mostly by using water as both sewer and supply.  When the chance came to start a business he decided to do something which would help people have the healthiest drinking water possible.  Jim launched Sweetwater LLC in September 2002.  You can learn how to make your water healthy at or see the equipment he sells at


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