Water Quality/RO System

I'd like to start out by saying I'm a big newbie when it comes to water quality. But I wanted to show my RO system and talk about the good and bad about it i've seen so far. I'd also love to hear comments and suggestions about this subject. Compared with hardcore Orchid and Hydroponic growers you hear much less about water quality and RO systems in Bonsai circles in the U.S. I really don't know if that's mostly because it's not as important with Bonsai or if we are missing out on something. I'm wondering what most professionals in Japan use for water and if their water is better quality in general?

I've been at my current home for about two years and we are on standard city water. After moving in I started noticing a white almost chalk like residue that would build up on the end of my hose, faucet head, pots and slightly on the trees foliage. The water also had a distinct taste difference compared with bottled water.

PPM stands for Parts Per Million which is basically a measurement of how pure your water is. These meters pick up the minerals and other junk in your water and are not too pricy, I listed a link for one on Amazon. Above is a PPM Meter, showing my water straight from the tap. As you can see it reads 318ppm, which is high for tap water.

Some PPM Readings I've Taken:
Distilled: 2-8ppm
Bottled Water: 12-38ppm
Out of the Tap: 40-400ppm

I purchased this small RO system which attaches directly to the sink faucet. The water coming out of this unit tested around 20-25ppm. I thought this would work for maybe a year or so which would allow me to make a decision on whether or not I should purchase a much larger unit. The main trouble with this was that it took maybe an hour to make a gallon of water. After 3 months this thing broke to I had to look for other options-which I did not mind anyways because of how slow it was.

When my very generous friend Peter Tea went to Japan he offered to let me use his system which is pictured above. This is called the GE Merlin RO System and so far it's been working great.

I like the set up that Peter created, he made two holes near the top of the trash can. One has the blue line or the good RO water going in and the other is an opening for the hose and power cord for the submersion pump going out.

Here's the good RO water filling the can.

Picture of the submersible pump which is at the bottom of the can and is connected to the hose. This pumps water out of the can.

One of the issues with an RO system is the waste water. I would guess that for ever gallon of water you get around 12 gallons of waste water. This black line shoots out the waste water, in general I water my lawn with the waste water. But sometimes I don't- I need to be better about that.

The water in the can measures 41ppm using the Merlin RO system. I've been using an RO system for about a year now and have been very happy with the results. The Merlin produces water very fast, I believe somewhere around 30 gallons/hour. There is no more white chalky build up anywhere on the hose, pots or foliage. My conifers seem greener and slightly healthier and deciduous seem much healthier. Health of the tree is difficult to judge because all the other variables. I feel my horticultural skills have been improving every year which makes it difficult to tell as well. The main drawbacks to a system like this are the cost, the waste water and setting it up for the first time could be a bit of a pain. I'd love to hear your experience using any type of filtering water, how you collect rain water or anything else you would like to share? Thanks!

9 thoughts on “Water Quality/RO System”

  1. Thanks for sharing your RO adventures Jeremiah! I just use city water, but it sounds like my water does not have the minerals that your has. I don’t see any build up on pots or nozzles. I have stayed clear of RO mostly because of this and I have never seen any convincing evidence that it makes a big difference. I think the biggest thing in my mind is the chlorine in the water that would not be good for trees. Does RO remove chlorine? I know there are dechlorinators that you can add to water to take care of that, I use that for my aquariums, because the fish will die in chlorinated water.

    1. Hey Lonnie, yah the water quality in general seems to be better in Nor Cal compared with Central and So cal-from what I have seen. The water at my cousins in Napa is much better than where I live. Yes, RO systems get rid of chlorine. However, some get rid of more than others. Take Care

  2. Hi Jeremiah,

    Great stuff you’re sharing with everybody! I’m glad that the RO system is working out for you. It for sure worked well for me because my deciduous trees stopped loosing branches after I started using it. It’s good to see the numbers that you are getting also. The water at my house in San Jose is at about 120-200 ppm. Have you tried testing to see what kind of numbers are showing on the waste water side? I drank a bit of it when I first got the machine and it wasn’t a very nice experiences. LOL! I think anything higher then 400ppm is hazardous to humans. Take care my friend and Happy New Years

    1. Ha ha! I can’t believe you tasted it. I’ll have to test it now, but I don’t think I want to taste it. That’s really funny! Hard to believe you’ve been in Japan for a year now. Take care and Happy New Year!

  3. I water almost exclusively with rainwater. I capture the rainwater from the roof into water butts. I dont check this water for disolved salts at all. I do keep it clear of algae and i check the PH. I have many acid lovers so i check the PH of the water once the fertilizer is added too. I have found some organic fertilizers ( chicken sh!t ) can raise the PH massively and upset magnolias and azaleas.

  4. I use RO water on my trees as my tapwater is very alkaline with high ppm (around400). My trees all look better, but the Japanese maples really improved their leaf quality. No more burnt edges, the leaves last well into fall and I have better color.

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