Indians are a fascinating people. Nowhere else in the world have I come across sheep mentality to such a greater degree except in my native country. I remember reading the popular book by Thomas Hardy, ‘Far from the maddening crowd’ as a child. I was too young to comprehend it fully back then but now as I am wiser, I do realise that Farmer Oak would have saved his herd if he had known about sheep mentality.
The Indian philosophy of following the neighbour and imitating colleagues is exemplified right from our investment habits to articles of daily use. We keep purchasing traditional life insurance policies (only to make LIC and the government more richer than they already are) but instead what we should be doing is to go for a term insurance plan. Icing on the cake? Half of you reading this article wouldn’t even know what a term plan is. This copy paste mentality also reflects in why the country shies away from mutual funds and stock markets and ‘invests’ in insurance policies which are not an investment product to begin with.
Let us now come back to the RO purifier. Why you shouldn’t waste money on one, you ask? Simple, it is not required unless of course you live in a place where the water is heavily polluted and yes, the water in many metro cities in India is still quite good and a simple water purifier is good enough, no matter how heavily polluted our rivers may appear. But before we come to RO, let us first understand what osmosis is.
Osmosis is the movement of any solvent (usually water) from a region of low concentration to a region of high concentration when separated by a semi permeable membrane (the membrane should allow for the movement of the solvent but not the solute). Naturally, it would happen because of some force, this is known as osmotic pressure. Take some raisins and place them in a bowl full of water. They swell up. Voila! You just saw osmosis in real time. Osmosis is quite natural and is vital for many biophysical processes that take place inside our body.
But let’s say, I apply more pressure so that the process gets reversed. The pressure applied should be enough to overcome the osmotic pressure so I forcibly remove water to one side of the semi permeable membrane leaving the solutes on one side. So, we have simply pure water (not really pure but for explanation purposes will stick to that for now) on the other side. This is known as reverse osmosis or RO.
The process is quite useful and is used widely for desalination plants (getting portable water from sea water) and nowadays has gained immense popularity in households. Due to clever marketing and as a result of running continuous advertisements, people somehow feel that an RO is the best technology currently available which is nothing but a bunch of lies. Nothing could be farther away from the truth. Each technology has its merits and demerits and is useful only in a particular scenario. If you live in a place where let’s say, fluoride concentration in water is high, then you should definitely get an RO. If you are able to get water from underground sources, then simply purchase a simple water purifier which is less costly and saves water.
Each of the fancy water purifiers we see nowadays has some basic components. They will have a basic filtration unit installed along with some mechanism for UV treatment that kills harmful bacteria. This much is sufficient for most users as the water supply in your region will probably not be so polluted that you need to remove excessive minerals from it. Before you splurge on that expensive RO unit that will harm you probably in the long run (yes, you read that correctly, it will HARM) and so, instead, do a bit of research and test the water supplied in your household. If it’s not too enriched in extra minerals, do not purchase an RO unit. Buy an ordinary water purifier without RO. You could also simply boil and filter water which is the least expensive and easiest way to get clean and portable water in India.
Let’s list the disadvantages of RO for a quick recap:
You don’t need it. You are simply wasting your hard earned money on it because your neighbour Sharma jee has got it. Sharma jee is probably stupid but why should you be too? Just buy a simple water purifier that gives you purified water. The minerals in it are required by your body and you are punishing your body and harming yourself in the long run by deliberately removing those required minerals.
It doesn’t taste that good. Water gets some of its natural taste from the wealth of minerals associated with it. RO water is bland and I for one dislike the taste. I will never drink it unless of course, am in a place where the water is heavily polluted and am left with no choice.
It wastes a lot of water. Remember I told you, we need to overcome the force to proceed to RO. In reality, only large scale commercial plants can generate large scale forces and even then their efficiency is limited to 70% while the RO in our households generally operate on an efficiency of anywhere between 5% to 15%. Ask yourself if you can afford to waste so much water each time you switch on that RO. With limited water supply in our households, can we really afford to waste so much water with that fancy RO?
It is not recommended to remove all the minerals from water. They are required by the body. In fact, some studies have suggested that long term drinking of demineralised water is actually harmful to human health. Do not go by clever marketing. They will say anything on Television to make you buy an RO. As a consumer, you should decide what you need because it’s your money, after all. In some European countries, to sell such water after purifying normal water with the help of RO treatment is actually illegal. Mineral water should have minerals provided naturally by mother earth.
So, the next time you see a pretty woman or handsome man begging you to purchase an RO purifier, just ignore. Buy what you need, not what you have been persuaded to purchase.