The pH scale measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. A solution with a pH lower than seven is considered acidic, while a solution with a pH greater than 7 is basic (alkaline). We will explore what exactly is pH and how the change in pH levels can affect our environment and the beautiful species that live within it.
What is pH?
pH stands for potential hydrogen and refers to the hydrogen ion concentration of water. It measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The pH scale does this by measuring the electrically charged particles in the substance and is a common measure used in chemistry. The pH scale ranges from 0-14. The lower the rating, the more acidic the substance. The higher the rating, the more alkaline the substance.
Why pH is Important
Water pH is an important parameter to measure when analysing water and wastewater. If the pH is too high or too low, the water may be corrosive and cause damage to pipes, valves, and other equipment. And the more acidic or basic the solution, the more toxic it is to aquatic life and plants. In fact, most environmental and industrial processes are highly sensitive to pH.
pH and Living Organisms
Water pH can affect our environment because even a slight change in the level of acidity could lead to the death of many fish and other aquatic organisms and affect all the inhabitants of lakes, rivers, and oceans. An increase or decrease in acid rain forces sea creatures to adapt to new conditions, often by migrating or dying if they are unable to adapt.
Environmentalists have observed that certain types of marine life flourish in highly alkaline waters, and other types of organisms thrive in acidic waters, which balances out. Acidity can also affect nature's watersheds through nutrient runoff, encouraging certain microorganisms to grow dangerously out of control. Acid rain is another well-known threat to organisms as it erodes vital soils needed for animal and plant life.
External Factors That Affect Water pH
Factors that influence water pH include natural factors, such as runoff from nearby soil, lake sediment, microbial activity, and volcanic activity; human factors such as industrial pollution and acid rain; and biological influences such as photosynthesis.
The pH scale can also be used to determine soil acidity. Surface water and groundwater have a natural pH range that varies worldwide and over time. Typically, soil pH measures between 3.5 and 10.
When acidic rainwater falls on the earth, it changes the soil pH and affects plants, animals and fish in lakes and streams. Acid rain is more likely to occur in places with high levels of nitrogen and sulphur compounds released into the atmosphere from cars and industrial processes. These compounds mix with oxygen and water molecules in the air to form nitric acid (HNO3) or sulphuric acid (H2SO4).
What Can We Do To Help?
At BRITA, we are committed to changing how people drink water sustainability. Our water dispensers produce 86% less carbon emissions than bottled water. And this can help to keep pH levels stable in the environment. When carbon dioxide is dissolved in water, it lowers the pH of water as hydrogen ions in carbonic acid are released. Read more and discover how we are dedicated to sustainability.