119 It would be hard to improve the healthfulness or cleaning power of water without adding any chemicals or supplements to it. But companies are claiming to do just that by "ionizing" water. Enagic USA's Kangen Water Companies are selling machines that put drinking water through an "ionization" process. According to the companies, the process, also called "electrolysis," is accomplished using negatively and positively charged electrodes. In the process, water atoms give electrons to the electrodes or receive them, according to a graphic on Chanson Water USA Inc.'s website. The result is a chemical reaction that results in water becoming more acid or alkaline. Tap water typically has a pH of around 7, or neutral; alkaline water has a pH of more than 7; acidic water, less than 7. Companies say alkaline water has a variety of benefits, ranging from giving you energy to counteracting unhealthy effects of acidic foods you eat.
Some scientists, however, say there aren't any good studies supporting the ionized-water companies' marketing claims. Alkaline Water Machines, long sold internationally, have been generating increased interest in the U.S. during the past couple of years, says Pauli Undesser, director of regulatory and technical affairs at the Water Quality Association, a nonprofit trade group for the water-treatment industry. Earth Trade Water Inc., Carlsbad, Calif., posts testimonials from professional athletes who say its ionized alkaline water boosts their performances by providing better hydration and aiding "energy" and "focus." A Laguna Hills, Calif., unit of Chanson Taiwan LLC, says on its website that its ionized water has smaller clusters of water molecules than ordinary water and these "microclusters" are better able to "penetrate into more places in the body." In a marketing brochure, Enagic USA Inc., a Los Angeles unit of Japan's Enagic Co., says its "Healthy Kangen Water"—which has a pH of 8.5 to 9.5—"helps your body balance the acidic effects" of eating foods such as meat and eggs. Enagic's Leveluk SD501 model, which sells for $3,980, uses seven electrodes. Enagic also says Kangen water tastes better with "superior mouth-feel." In an informal blind taste test at a local spa offering Kangen water, I found the Kangen water tasted soft and velvety, but with a mineral aftertaste, compared with ordinary tap water. The machines, which typically range from $1,000 to $6,000, are generally attached to a faucet, but some models go under the sink. The alkaline water, which the companies say is ideal for drinking and cooking, comes out of one of the machines' spigots, while acid water, which can be used for cleaning, comes out of another. The degree of alkalinity is often adjustable. The machines have a built-in filter, which filters impurities just like any other water filter.
California continues to suffer through a fourth year of water shortages, bordered by the largest body of water on earth. The crisis has encouraged residents to once again wonder if the Pacific Ocean is the answer to the state's water woes. Some are pushing for additional desalination plants like those used in water-starved Israel and Australia to convert ocean water into unlimited fresh water. Coastal Santa Barbara turned to desalination during a devastating five-year drought in the late 1980s, but by the time a new plant was ready for operation in 1992, heavy rains had returned. The $35 million facility ran for a few weeks before being shuttered. That's because the desalination process is not only potentially harmful to marine life, but removing salt by pushing salt water through membranes takes far more energy than simply pulling fresh water from inland sources. All that energy use is not only counter to the state's push for lower emissions, but it only seems economical during the worst of a drought. As Santa Barbara reactivates the plant this summer, water bills in the area are expected to increase by 40 percent.
Since California will be using desalination, they will need an Alkaline Water Machine to return the minerals to their water
Compared to local freshwater sources, desalination is certainly energy expensive. But it's only slightly more costly than other options available during drought conditions. That's why Santa Barbara is spending another $40 million to reopen its plant, and why 17 others are in the works along the state's coast. In Carlsbad, California, Poseidon Water is opening a $1 billion plant that will be the largest in the U.S. when it is completed in the fall. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, CEO Carlos Riva defended desalination plants against those that worry that they represent a step backward in the state's efforts to reduce carbon emissions, pointing out that the plant will "use less energy than one of the data center that are being built, and nobody claims that they are somehow immoral." According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, data centers are expected to consume 140 billion kilowatt hours of electricity a year by 2020—the output of 34 large coal power plants. According to the Pacific Institute, the Carlsbad plant will take 750 megawatt hours per day, so more than 500 equivalent plants would have to be constructed to match the energy cost of our Facebook and Google habits... 324