Use Of Alkalinity In Water Softening Calculations

It will be noted that we have avoided the use of alkalinity in any of the softening equations, yet, in the literature, this parameter is used in softening calculations. The reason is that the use of this parameter in softening is often misleading. It will be recalled that the carbonate ion and the bicarbonate ion play very different roles in the unit process reactions. They are on the opposite sides, the carbonate being produced from the bicarbonate.

How then is the literature able to use alkalinity in calculations? The answer is that the literature is conceptually wrong. Alkalinity values cannot be used in any softening calculations, unless it is assumed that the alkalinity is mostly bicarbonate. If this is assumed, then the calculation can proceed, because as we have seen, this bicarbonate will then produce the carbonate. Although this assumption is, of course, accurate, it does not make its use conceptually correct. To repeat, alkalinity values should not be used in any softening calculations, without prior knowledge of its constituent species. Its various constituents have very different roles to play in the process.

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