The Water Superstore:800-439-0263
View Cart View Cart
0 item(s)

Glossary of Water Terms


Absorption - The physiological process by which substances pass body membranes and enter the bloodstream or other body components from the site of exposure.

Acceptable standards - Guidelines for safe drinking water have been established by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), which provide levels for maximum contaminant level (MCL). As well, there are goals for even higher levels of purity for water, called the MCLG (MCL goal).

Acenaphthene - EPA priority pollutant

Acenaphthylene - EPA priority pollutant

Acequia - gravity-driven waterways, can be a simple ditch or be lined with concrete; often used in agricultural systems in the southwest.

Acetaldehydeon CA prop 65 list; toxicity potential: cancer

Acetochlor - on CA prop 65 list; toxicity potential: cancer

Acid - substance with a pH less than 7.0 in water; an in-home example is vinegar or lemon juice

Acid rain - unusually acidic rainfall, generally resulting from nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, which then react with air-borne water.

Acre-foot (acre-ft) - Volume of water required to cover 1 acre of land (43,560 square feet) to a depth of 1 foot. Equal to 325,851 gallons or 1,233 cubic meters.

Acrolein - EPA priority pollutant

Acrylamide - on CA prop 65 list; origin: sewage/wastewater treatment additive; toxicity potential: increased risk of cancer, blood/nervous system problems, male developmental issues; MCL = 0

Acrylonitrile-EPA priority pollutant; on CA prop 65 list; toxicity potential: cancer

Activated carbon - carbon that has been treated to produce many small pores, increasing the available surface area for subsequent adsorption <

Adsorption - binding or adhering of a substance to a surface; in water purification generally refers to the use of Carbon in filtration system, where impurity adsorbs to the carbon surface. Hence, carbon surface area is important for efficiency.

Alachlor - CA Prop 65 list; origin: herbicide runoff; toxicity potential: cancer; MCL= 0-0.002 mg/L

Aldrin - EPA priority pollutant

Alkalinity - another term for the pH of water, meaning that the pH is over 7.0; this can be caused by the presence of limestone in the area, with dissolved carbonates, bicarbonates, and hydroxides

Alluvium – gravel, clay, sand, silt deposit(s) left by flowing water in delta or river valley

Alpha-BHC - EPA priority pollutant, also Beta-BHC, Gamma-BHC, Delta-BHC; Lindane

Alpha emitters – origin:emission from radioactive minerals called alpha radiation; Certain minerals are radioactive and may emit a form of radiation known as alpha radiation. Toxicity potential: increased risk of getting cancer.

Alpha-endosulfan - EPA priority pollutant

Aluminum (Al) - metallic element, non-magnetic; origin: commonly found in nature, possibly implicated in Alzheimer's disease, although data are contradictory.Aluminum is difficult/expensive to extract from bauxite ore, using considerable energy; hence recycling aluminum cans (beer, soda, catfood, etc.) is an appropriate choice, and many town recycle centers will pay for aluminum. Test cans with a magnet - because aluminum is non-magnetic, the magnet will not adhere.

Amoebae - A unicellular organism that can change its shape, and is commonly found in water and/or soil. Also called FLA (free-living amoebae); amoebae may vary in size from 0.25 - 2.5 mm, and may be found in un-purified household water. Hartmannella, Acanthamoeba, orVahlkampfia are most commonly found in households.

Animal waste - excrement and urine from animals such as pets and livestock; not normally found in 'potable' drinking water unless by contamination; may be in unfiltered stream or river water.

Anion – negatively charged ion, like Cl-‑‑, CO3-2

Anion Exchange - see ion exchange, process that separates ions in water filtration that uses anion exchange resins to facilitate deionization and demineralization.

Anthracene - EPA priority pollutant

Anthropogenic pollution - pollution caused by humans

Antimicrobial - Agent that kills microbial growth. See disinfectant, sanitizer, and sterilizer.

Antimony (Sb) - metallic element; EPA priority pollutant; origin: metal contaminant from solder, ceramics, electronics, petroleum refineries; toxicity potential: symptoms include increase in cholesterol & decrease in blood sugar; MCL = 0.006 mg/L

Aquifers - underground water, either non-confined or confined; tapped for use in wells and irrigation.

Arochlor - (PCB Arochlor) - EPA priority pollutants; polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) group of industrial chemicals; includes Arochlor 1016, 1221, 1232, 1242, 1248, 1254, 1260; origin: leaching from landfills or other waste deposits; toxicity potential: potentially cancer-causing; MCL = 0- 0.05 mg/L

Arsenic (As) - element; EPA priority pollutant; origin: naturally found in soil, occurs in water due to erosion & runoff; contaminant from electronic processing; toxicity potential: poisonous, can also cause long-term health effects when consumed. No presently known beneficial uses in human body. MCL: 0.10 mg/L

Arsenic (As) filters – because arsenic, As, is not easily dissolved in water, when found in a water supply it usually comes from mining, metallurgical operations, or agricultural runoff. As in water has no color, taste or odor, so it can only detected via arsenic-specific water tests. As is potentially quite toxic, and EPA levels are only 0.10 parts per million (10 parts per billion). The common way to remove arsenic from water is a specialized, arsenic selective resin - a strongly basic hybrid Anion Exchange Resin. This is a proprietary resin that has been certified to NSF/ANSI standard 61.

Asbestos (fiber) - EPA priority pollutant; origin: found in water due to erosion or decay of water mains; toxicity potential benign intestinal polyps; MCL: 7 million fibers/L

ASTM - American Society for Testing and Materials.

Atrazineorigin: herbicide runoff; toxicity potential: reproductive or cardiovascular issues; MCL= 0.003mg/L


Bacteria - tiny living organisms, found throughout the planet; some are unhealthy for human when ingested in water; these are removed by water purification methods

Bacterial contamination - for water, this means that bacteria are present, and need to be removed; generally these may be species such as the coliforms or giardia.

Barium (Ba) –origin: found in water due to erosion, discharge of drilling wastes; toxicity potential: increase in blood pressure; MCL: 2 mg/L

Base - (basic) a substance, that has a pH over 7.0; a home example is sodium bicarbonate in water

Benzene - EPA priority pollutant; can act as a pre-carcinogen; origin: factory discharge, leaking of landfills and gas storage tanks; toxicity potential: increased risk of cancer, anemia; MCL = 0 - 0.005

Benzidine - EPA priority pollutant

Benzo(a) anthracene - EPA priority pollutant

Benzo(ghi) perylene - EPA priority pollutant

Benzo(a)pyrene (PAHs) - EPA priority pollutant; origin: leachate from water storage tanks; toxicity potential: increased risk of cancer; reproductive difficulties; MCL = 0 -0.0002

Benzo(b) fluoranthene - EPA priority pollutant

Benzo(k) fluoranthene - EPA priority pollutant

Beryllium (Be) - element; EPA priority pollutant; origin: waste from factories such as aerospace, electrical, metal refineries, coal-burning; toxicity potential: intestinal lesions; MCL = 0.004 mg/L

Beta-BHC - EPA priority pollutant [also Alpha-BHC, Gamma-BHC, Delta-BHC]; Lindane

Beta-endosulfan - EPA priority pollutant

Bicarbonate (HCO3-) - occurs naturally in water due to photosynthesis; non-harmful unless present at very high concentrations

Biocide - substance used to kill some living organisms, such as chlorine used in water purification

Biofilm - a surface layer of microorganisms.

Biological Contaminants - Living organisms, or material derived from living organisms; Agents derived from or that are living organisms (e.g., viruses, bacteria, fungi, and mammal and bird antigens) that can be inhaled and can cause many types of health effects including allergic reactions, respiratory disorders, hypersensitivity diseases, and infectious diseases. Also referred to as microbiologicals or microbials.

Bis (2-chloroethoxy) methane - EPA priority pollutant

Bis (2-chloroethyl) ether - EPA priority pollutant

Bis (2-chloroisopropyl) ether - EPA priority pollutant

Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate -EPA priority pollutant

Bodily wastes - human and animal excretion products such as urine and feces

Body Hydration – The first sign of dehydration is thirst. Recommended minimum water uptake is 8-10 cups (eight oz) of water daily to maintain proper hydration and body function. Symptoms of Dehydration

Brine - A strong solution of salt (s), such as the sodium chloride brine used in the regeneration of ion exchange water softeners, but also applied to the mixed sodium, calcium and magnesium chloride waste solution from regeneration.

Bromate (BrO3-) - origin: byproduct of water disinfection or due to ozonation of naturally occuring bromide; toxicity potential: suspected human carcinogen; MCL: 0.0 - 0.010

Bromoform - EPA priority pollutant

4-bromophenyl phenyl ether - EPA priority pollutant

Budget whole house water filters – smaller water filters that use one to many replacement cartridges in order to filter water Budget Whole House Systems


Butyl benzyl phthalate -EPA priority pollutant

Drinking Water Hotline: 1-800-426-4791