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Old 04-30-2008, 09:08 PM
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Watering

Hi! I've been watering my orchids with tap water that I leave sitting out for a few days before watering. I read that was a good thing to do. I was just wondering if it really is the best option when it comes to watering with tap water, or if there is something even better that I could do, or if I really even need to do this at all. Thanks!
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Old 04-30-2008, 09:39 PM
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Except for one very small orchid (Den. cuthbertsonii), and one mounted one that I mist regularly, I use tap water right out of the tap for everything else. I'm curious to hear what others do, too.
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Old 04-30-2008, 09:52 PM
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I water only with distilled water, except in times of desperation(when I forget to buy some). If you water with tap water, make sure you water thouroughly every time so that salts and minerals do not build up and kill the roots. I have no clue why leaving the tap water out would help, what would be the benefit?
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Old 04-30-2008, 10:41 PM
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The reason to leave tap water out overnight is to release chlorine from the water. It is important in areas where high chlorine levels are added to the city water. Throughout the Northeast United States the chlorine levels are very high. In more rural areas the chlorine level can be very low.

You can contact your water company to learn the levels they use.

Dissolved mineral slats will be higher in well water than most city tap water. High dissolved salts can damage roots, but before that they inhibit the plants ability to absorb micro nutrients that are important for the plant. This is not an issue of tap water alone.

My Ag rep recommended that I use water softener water to water the orchids, with the precaution of running the rinse cycle of the softener twice.
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:57 PM
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Water quality varies with location so the best people to ask are your water suppliers. Some water supplies are OK for even the most salt sensitive orchids while others are completely unusable. Water suppliers should analyse their water regularly so check with them to see if you can get hold of a water quality report. Check the concentrations of individual salts as well as the TDS. As the TDS of the water can change over the course of a year it probably worth seeing if you can get reports for each season. Once you know the TDS and take note of any salts that seem high people can give you a better idea of whether and/or how you should use your tapwater. As Jerry said letting water stand will get get rid of chlorine from the water. However, many suppliers treat the water supply with chloramine instead of chlorine which can not be removed by letting the water stand. Check with your supplier regarding what is added.
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Old 05-01-2008, 12:14 AM
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I use straight tap water. The water in this area is hard, lots of minerals, so I use lots of water to keep the minerals from building up. The only time I let my water sit for 24 hours is if I want to mix a batch of worm tea. The directions say to do that to get the chlorine out.
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Old 05-01-2008, 12:39 AM
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I just set up a reverse osmosis filter. I do this because I need to be careful with the ph and TDS since I grow in hydroponics.
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:28 AM
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Actually straight distilled water are not enough on the long run, it is recommended to add at least a 1/3 of tap or well water to the distilled water. I have a hundred liter tank for the spraying and the watering of my green house, and i add daily about 10 liter of distilled water; the automatic system uses about 25 liters per day, and the plants are very happy.

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Old 05-01-2008, 03:42 AM
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I only water with tap water, but I give a really good soaking to remove dissolved salts and old fertilizer. If I have time I water again 20 minutes later. I've noticed the tips of the leaves don't burn anymore since I've been doing that
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Old 05-01-2008, 05:57 AM
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Guys, I'm not being smarter-than-thou in this post, however I actually have academic credentials relating to this issue. That does not mean that I know more than anyone else with experience on the subject, but it does mean that I'm trying to talk science and avoid some of the misinformation that is prevalent on the internet and unfortunately gets repeated over and over and becomes faith based belief. Hopefully you will take it as offered...an effort to present some scientific facts. Unfortunately my history with facts on internet forums leaves me a little gun shy which is why this preamble is so lengthy.

Chlorine in the water supply will not hurt your plants. Chlorine in the water supply is volatile and will gradually vaporize out of water left standing for couple of days. Because of that shelf life issue, water companies have largely quit using chlorine to prevent biological growth in treated water. They now use a chemical commonly referred to as chloramine. Think of it as a combination of chlorine and ammonia. It is not volatile and will not not vaporize from the water left standing. It also will not hurt your plants, but as many of you know will kill fish and must be treated before use in aquariums or ponds (previously chlorinated water for fish could be treated by standing around in an open container).

Second issue...hard water and orchids. So called hard water is water containing dissolved salts from the earth that have low overall solubility...mainly the carbonate salts of magnesium and calcium. Both these elements are used by plants, but the problem is that they deposit onto your planting medium as the water evaporates. Since they are only slightly soluble, they are difficult to remove once they deposit. Thus the very good advice to minimize this accumulation of harmful salts by flushing frequently.

Third water softeners...here is the real danger. Many companies provide water softeners to homeowners in hard water areas to improve the ability of the water to make soap suds and prevent "bathtub rings" which are the same magnesium and calcium salts we are talking about here. Water softeners work by taking magnesium and calcium ions out of solution and substituting sodium ions which are very harmful to your plants. So you remove Ca and Mg which are OK for the plants (as long as you minimize insoluble deposits) and substitute Na (sodium) which which is deadly to plants. NEVER use softened water for plants, not even once.

RO (reverse osmosis) and distillation remove all ions from solution and provide excellent water for orchids. Be sure to use a fertilizer that replaces some of the Ca and Mg which now is not in your water.
RO is pretty wasteful, but it works. Be careful because units are rated on input water capacity, not output of pure water. So a 100 gal/day RO unit uses 100 gal of water daily and wastes 66 gallons and makes 33 gallons of pure water. Distilled water from WalMart is 64 cents a gallon and I have tested it to be sure it is distilled and it is.....not spring water...not some other kind of hyped water..distilled water.

I use rainwater collected off my GH roof. In a pinch, distilled water is great. Tap water is OK as long as you flush thoroughly every watering. Leaving water sit out does nothing. DO NOT use softened water. RO is great, but expensive to obtain if you need much.

Thank you who actually got this far.

Last edited by JLu; 05-01-2008 at 06:46 AM.
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Old 05-01-2008, 06:59 AM
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Excellent information JLu. Thanks for the post. I have been using tap water with
thorough flushings and have had no problems. I do use distilled water when I make
up my worm tea for misting.
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Old 05-01-2008, 07:28 AM
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JLu, thanks so much for taking the time in explaining this.

I'm getting a case of distilled water today after reading your comments.
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Old 05-01-2008, 07:53 AM
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Sandra, be sure you use a fertilizer with Ca and Mg included such as MSU for pure water. There are others and they usually say Cal-Mag or something similar. In spite of the problems of hard water, your plants still need Ca and Mg, just less than hard water provides and the complications it causes.
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Old 05-01-2008, 08:23 AM
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JLu,
Very nice explanation & in words we can all understand. Thanks
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Old 05-01-2008, 08:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLu View Post
Sandra, be sure you use a fertilizer with Ca and Mg included such as MSU for pure water. There are others and they usually say Cal-Mag or something similar. In spite of the problems of hard water, your plants still need Ca and Mg, just less than hard water provides and the complications it causes.
OK JLu. I'm glad you added this, I would have overlooked that! Thanks!
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Old 05-01-2008, 09:22 AM
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I would suggest that JLu's post be made sticky as it is the most informative I have seen on the forum regarding water chemistry.

Bill
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Old 05-01-2008, 12:22 PM
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I add 60 ml of tap water mixed with fert to every gallon of my distilled water. But sometimes I skip this for a good residue flush.
Edit: Yes, I vote sticky for JLu's info!
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Last edited by made4engineering; 05-01-2008 at 12:25 PM.
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Old 05-01-2008, 12:37 PM
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Info on Water

Thanks JLu for the wonderful explanation. It was helpful to me.
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Old 05-02-2008, 11:41 AM
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Great info everyone. Thanks!
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Old 05-02-2008, 01:12 PM
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Thanks I was wondering about water. When we make wine I have found it tastes much better when I use distilled water rather than tap. I guess my orchids can benefit from the same.
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Old 05-02-2008, 01:54 PM
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EXCELLENT post JLu!! Very informative and in terms everyone can understand and make useful. I have been leaving a gallon out to dissipate the clhorine for use when making worm tea. I'll be switching to distilled for this purpose from now on. Thanks!!

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Old 05-02-2008, 02:13 PM
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After I checked with my water company and learned what the TDS of my water is, my watering method changed. I realized that if I added fertilizer to my water, the TDS became much too high for the plants. So I now use half tap and half distilled or purified water. The only time I use all tap water is when I give the plants the monthly plain water flush because without fertilizer the water is okay to use.
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Old 05-02-2008, 02:46 PM
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11orchid, I've been told that the NYC water is very soft (low in TDS). Your water is probably sourced differently. What is your TDS? The other thing you need to know is the pH. Usually water with high TDS is also too high in pH. The fertilizer, if formulated properly (like MSU for whatever they call it...not pure water formula) will lower the pH. In order for all the nutrients to be available to the plant (in other words all in solution at the same time) you need a pH in the 5.5 to 6.5 range (ideally 5.8 to 6.2) for your mixed fertilizer solution.

Based on what you are doing, you are probably alright. Sounds like you have a good plan.
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Old 05-02-2008, 03:13 PM
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JLu,
I noticed that you referenced MSU fertilizer a couple of times. I've been using it for about
4 years now and I really like it for my orchids. I use it year round with good success.
For those that are not familiar with it, here are the ingredients:

MSU (Michigan State University)

MACRONUTRIENTS
Total Nitrogen 19.0%
Nitrate Nitrogen 13.6%
Ammoniacal Nitg. 5.7%
Available Phosphate 4.0%
Potash (K2O) 23.0%
Calcium (Ca) 2.0%

MICRONUTRIENTS
Iron (Fe) 0.16%
Manganese (Mn) 0.08%
Zinc (Zn) 0.08%
Copper (Cu) 0.08%
Boron (B) 0.016%
Molybdenum (Mo) 0.016%
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Old 05-02-2008, 04:20 PM
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JLu, thankyou for making things a little clearer. I use rainwater, but try to bring it up to room temperature ( in winter) before watering.
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Old 05-03-2008, 07:17 AM
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Yeah Tizzy, don't use COLD water...you're right. I collect rain off the GH and currently have about 1000 gal of storage capacity and I need to add 500 more gal to get through real dry periods which seem to be getting more frequent. In the winter I have to pump to the inside storage (from the outside storage) after watering so the new water can warm up before I use it.

Tobi, I do use the MSU fertilizer, but I want to be clear that I do not promote its use. I have not done any tests to compare it with other fertilizers. I'm happy with it, but have no data to suggest other products are better, worse, or the same.

The analysis in your post is the tap water formula. The pure water formula is: (all numbers are weight percent)

Nitrogen 13.0 with 12.3 nitrate and 0.7 ammoniacal (no urea)
phosphorus pentoxide........... 3.7
potassium oxide....................15.9
calcium.................................8.0
magnesium...........................2.6
iron.......................................0.177
manganese............................0.088
zinc.......................................0.044
copper...................................0.044
boron.....................................0.018
molybdenum..........................0.018
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Old 05-03-2008, 07:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillC View Post
I would suggest that JLu's post be made sticky as it is the most informative I have seen on the forum regarding water chemistry.

Bill

Great Idea Bill

thank you JLu for posting
this thread is now a sticky
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Old 05-03-2008, 08:10 AM
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Quote:
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I would suggest that JLu's post be made sticky as it is the most informative I have seen on the forum regarding water chemistry.

Bill
I AGREE.
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Old 05-03-2008, 08:54 AM
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Thanks guys. I'm not sure I agree the post justifies that treatment, but I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I guess I'm thinking horse today because it's Kentucky Derby Day in Kentucky. It might be better described as Funny Hat Day, but hey, it's a big tradition here. I'm 75 miles from Louisville, but Lexington is the horse farm area so all the "snob" events (big parties and all) occur at the farms. All the snobs travel over to the derby this morning after a full night of partying (and it's raining pretty good). I've been here 40 years now and I'm still amazed what a deal this is. ALL our local TV stations provide full day coverage both Friday (Kentucky Oakes Day for fillies) and today for the Derby (not network coverage, locally hosted coverage).

Ya'll are awful nice, thanks
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Old 05-03-2008, 09:08 AM
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Old 05-03-2008, 02:16 PM
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JLu - I worked for a race horse trainer several years ago and helped train/condition several Kentucky Derby contenders, including one winner, filly Winning Colors. I was 'eligible' (what a snobby word!) to go to the snob events; I preferred to stay in jeans at the barn with the real celebrities and kiss their noses for luck.

Derby Day is bittersweet for me because it takes my heart back to when I couldn't wait to jump out of bed at 3 AM every day.
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Old 05-03-2008, 02:52 PM
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We named a litter of show Cocker Spaniels after Derby winners. Winning Colors and Genuine Risk were the only two filly names available so we had to name one female without a Derby name.

Interestingly, we had a young college couple come to buy a Standard Poodle puppy from us and we sort of concluded that they couldn't afford a dog of the quality we had. They said they were going to the Derby on the following Saturday and would see us again Sunday. When they came Sunday they said Jennie's (the wife) father's horse had won in Louisville. We said, "oh great, what did he win?" ANSWER: The Derby.....I couldn't speak for 30 minutes..that was Foolish Pleasure the 1975 Derby winner........They got their puppy!

They went on to show the dog and the guy is a licensed AKC judge to this day.

Foolish Pleasure went on to uncertain fame as his owner challenged 1980 Derby winner, filly Genuine Risk, to a match race. Genuine Risk broke down in that race and for years afterward was remembered with bumper stickers all over Kentucky. I quit watching horse races that day. It was too sad.
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Old 05-04-2008, 12:36 PM
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That story reminds me of Ruffian. I saw that race. Years later I lived in the Fairfax Cty area of Virginia and went once a year on the Hunt County Stable tour. Anyone could go that wanted to buy a ticket. At one of the LARGE race stables (they had their own airstrip) the dams all had thier breeding charts posted on their stall. I saw one who was a sister (or partial sister) to Ruffian - atleast that's what my memory says. Its fairly unreliable in some areas.
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Old 05-04-2008, 02:30 PM
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Jirel, you are right!! As I wrote that I was wondering about the 5 year age difference thinking I have something wrong here. It was in fact Ruffian,thanks for getting me straightened out. I hate it when that happens.

I also hate what happened to Eight Bells.

Sorry to get my facts messed up. Old age is a b***h.
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Old 05-04-2008, 02:55 PM
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Yesterday is the reason why I am no longer in the horse racing business. I absolutely sobbed yesterday with Eight Belles tragedy. I always watch the races with fingers crossed just hoping nothing bad happens. I just can't take it any more and yesterday was the last race I'm going to watch live. I'll watch the replay when everything was okay.

I worked for D. Wayne Lucas and few trainers take better care of horses then he does. No matter how careful, he still had horses break down. Hearts were so heavy around the barn and Wayne truly loved every one of his horses, not just the champions. ALL of them are just magnificent animals.

My husband read something on Friday about the increase in racing injuries. It turns out 75% of horses racing today have Northern Dancer's blood in them, and he barely raced due to just plain bad legs and feet. ND wasn't much on the track but was the best stud ever to hit the barn and everyone wanted a piece of him and unfortunately got the worst of him too. This fact could be why fatal injuries seem to be on the rise.

California has gone to a 'cush' synthetic track and it is supposed to decrease injuries, however they are still working the kinks out of how the new track drains after rain. I wonder if yesterday would have been different if Churchill had a more modern surface. I know a lot of the big trainers do not like to train at Churchill Downs because the track is hard on the legs.
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Old 05-04-2008, 03:30 PM
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Bah! Back to buying distilled water...
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Old 05-04-2008, 04:17 PM
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I know, PP. I haven't watched since Ruffian. I turn off the TV every time they mention Eight Belles. I have no interest. It's awful. You did work for the best, you weren't kidding.

On top of this, we have the Rolex Three Day Event here every spring. It's one of the largest equestrian events in the world and a qualifier for the US Olympic team. They put down 2 horses this year, just last month.

In 2010 we have the World Equestrian Games. The first time it's ever been held outside of Europe. It's the largest equestrian event world wide. We are being told it has more spectators than the Olympics. New hotels are being built, new roads, interstates to Cincinnati and Louisville being widened all because of the anticipated traffic. I wonder how many horses won't go home? I hate this...Ooops, I already said that.

I know, we have the new rubber track at Keeneland. It is supposed to be better. It drains fast and apparently provides both more reliable and softer footing. Hope so.
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Old 05-05-2008, 05:36 AM
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My stomach is churning just "listening" to you guys. I really do wonder about the number of animals who are injured, or worse, in the name of "Sport".
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Old 05-05-2008, 11:04 AM
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Jlu, DO you know how so much water is wasted through the r o process? I have seen the water run through and then come out after the process but what happens to the water that is wasted? I haven't seen an r o unit that has a waste water line or does it just get absorbed in the filtering or something? I know it reverse osmosis but do you know what happens to the wasted water? I don't like wasteing especially water but I love r o water so much.
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Old 05-05-2008, 01:55 PM
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I'm curious too kid a. I was thinking of going to RO but was shocked about the wasted water and wouldn't feel good doing that.
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Old 05-05-2008, 03:07 PM
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The RO unit does have a waste line that goes into your drain (assuming its mounted in your house). In the GH my drain just runs out on the ground outside.

Here's how the RO works. Water is forced through a membrane (think of it as a very fine filter, although it's actually a semi permeable membrane). It actually "filters" out ions from the solution and lets pure water pass. You can see that the water outside the filter is getting more and more concentrated in the hard water ions as the pure water passes through and leaves ions behind. At some concentration you begin to pass some ions that you do not want. So to reduce the ion concentration, the unit back flushes the area of the filter to remove that concentrate. It's that flush that goes to drain.

Usually there are three or four filters or carbon beds on a unit. The first filter removes particulates, the second is a carbon bed to remove organic materials, then the RO membrane, then sometimes a second carbon bed to remove anything with taste. The initial filter does act to extend the life of the membrane. The two carbon beds are mainly marketing hype for Fanny homemaker. The only thing you really need is the one RO membrane.

I have a 100 gal /per day unit that produces 30 gallons per day of good water. I have measured the output repeatedly. I have not measured the waste stream. However, it is substantial. I base the 1/3 good 2/3 waste on many generic reports on RO units and on the claimed capacity of my unit of 100 gal/day. Both measures agree.

The reason you might not see a drain is that it's only a 1/8 inch or 1/4inch plastic or copper tube. Start tracing the tubes coming out of your unit and you will find one going to drain probably through a saddle clamp on the drain line. It won't work without a drain.

I bought mine because I wanted something to get me through a drought. Normally I collect rainwater. I decided that I could buy the unit for less than the cost of another rainwater storage tank. I ran it for a month intermittently. (I ran it into a large tank so when it was on it ran constantly. The little 3 gallon, under sink tanks that come with the units shut off the flow when they are full). In the winter, my normal water bill is $16-20 dollars a month, as opposed to 200-300 in the summer. I ran it approximately 1/2 time for the month of Dec and my bill for that month was $45. I decided it was cheaper to buy more rainwater storage so I got another 500 gal tank and plan to get a third one giving me a total of 1700 gal of water. I think that will get me through almost anything but we will see. My next step is to put in a cistern about 5000 gal. Cisterns are common here on rural houses. They are usually about 10,000 gal.

Some folks make peace with RO by collecting the drain water in a fish pond or tank. If it's run separately like mine that is possible if you have a pond or tank. If it goes into your sewer line obviously that's not a choice. The drain water is suitable for outside watering or for a fish pond. Won't hurt a thing. If you just have a few orchids and collect water in the little tank that comes with the unit, RO is a perfectly reasonable choice. We have nearly a thousand plants and room for more. Given that every plant is not watered every day, I use about 30-50 gal per day average so if I depend on RO constantly that means 100 gal per day of water usage with my unit.
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Old 05-05-2008, 03:40 PM
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hmmm.. I never knew that. A freind of mine has a small one that is quite portable he just hooks it up to the sink or the water hose. It is very small and takes quite a long time because the ro water litterally trickles out. But it does not have a waste line. Maybe because it is so small?? It takes about three hours for a gallon.
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Old 05-05-2008, 06:18 PM
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One of the best comments on water quality I have read JLu. I am fortunate that the TDS in my tap water are relatively low so I use straight tap water for everything except for the few Disas I (try to) grow. My tap water is just on the borderline for them and if I add any fertilizer the TDS is higher than I want to use for them. I live in an area where our average rainfall is just short of 6" per year so rain water is not an option. As a result, I use a small DI mixed bed unit to treat the tap water just for the Disas. You have done such a great job of explaining water quality I wondered if you would comment on deionizing units. Thanks JLu.
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Old 05-06-2008, 06:04 AM
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Thanks, Jerry. I prefer that people take anything I say as with enough reservation to check it out further. I have no intention to spread false information and to my knowledge have not. I just think everything you read should be viewed with skepticism especially if it is contrary to what you previously believed or is a subject about which you might not be familiar.

It that spirit, I suggest you read the following link:

Reverse Osmosis Basics

I do not sell anything to anybody. I am, as they say, independently self sufficient. I do not know Ray and I don't pimp for anyone even if I do know them. I don't want my reputation dependent on their's.
I did buy my RO unit from Ray because he has the best prices by far. He also shares his knowledge freely. You will see from the link, that we basically agree although we also differ in some concepts. He explains the waste water stream better than I and his estimation of "good" versus "waste" water is in line with my experience.

Kid-a, there are two reasons that your friend's unit might operate on a temporary hook up basis without a drain. First it may depend on the "temporary" installation concept and expect that you will make very little RO water at one time and then unhook and dump out the unit contents. Second, it just might have a very low membrane life because the membrane is not back flushed and plugs with removed ions. In a very cheap unit I can see where the manufacturer might not care about that, but a new membrane (or new unit) can quickly become the most expensive part of using the unit. If I had to guess, I would assume both things apply here.

Jerry, the term "ion exchange" covers a lot of territory that includes water softeners, but also a lot more. In the "softeners" that we have already discussed, Ca+2 and Mg+2 ions are adsorbed (it is adsorbed not the more common absorbed) by an inorganic resin called a Zeolite resin. The resin active sites are saturated with Na+1 (sodium) ions and the Ca and Mg displace the Na. The key to knowing if you have a unit like this is to know how the resin is regenerated. If it uses a strong salt (NaCl,sodium chloride, table salt) solution to regenerate then you have a typical "softener" and you should beware that the water from your tap is safer for plants than the output of the softener.

However, those "softeners" are usually referrred to as "softeners". Ion exchange units that substitute hydrogen (H+) ions or hydroxide (OH-) ions for Ca and Mg are usually the ones called ion exchange units and they typically contain synthetic (plastic type) resins. You will recognize these because they use strong acid or strong base solutions for regeneration. Since water is HOH, if you substitute H or OH for the Ca and Mg than you are effectively just adding water which is always in a state of equilibrium anyway. I can't make chemical equations here, but in words, water is in equilibrium with ionized H+ and OH - ions. So adding these ions just effects the equilibrium. In short.....if you know your unit is regenerated with strong acid or strong base, it produces excellent water that is the equivalent of RO or distillation. These units are more expensive and usually are exchanged in your installation because the regeneration materials are dangerous and best used at a place designed for them by people who understand them.

If you have unit like this, I encourage you to get a cheap pH meter and a TDS (or electrical conductivity) meter. Sometimes the initial water could be more acidic or basic that you might want to have. Also as the efficiency drops, you might want to decide for yourself when you reach the unusable point rather than leave it up to a company that might not deal with plants regularly.
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Old 05-06-2008, 10:28 AM
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JLu, Your comments about never using softened water need to be updated to include the use of potassium salt in a water softener. For those not aware of it, Potassium is a constituent of fertilizer. I used potassium softened well water, 500 ppm, on Cymbidiums for 2 years and saw absolutely no problem with its use. Most water softeners will work well with both types of salt. Many people, like myself, have their whole house on the softener, even the outside spigots, and this is the only solution for watering plants.

Buying water to water orchids has the down side of not letting you do a thorough job of watering due to cost and shear bulk, so there may be issues of not properly wetting your mix with purchased water. I watered my GH in Los Angeles for 25 years with chlorinated (old style chlorine) Colorado River water (~400 ppm) with no problems, but used lots of water.

When using a pure water, one not only has to consider the lack of minerals, which is fixable by adding a portion of tap water, or alternating watering with tap water, but a very serious problem can occur if one puts regular fertilizer into pure water. Since manufacturers of fertilizers expect most people have high Ph water (alkaline), they make their fertilizer somewhat acidic to compensate. When these acidic ferts are added to pure water, they can go extremely acidic, as there is no buffering action from the non-existent mineral content. So, a quick fix is to ALWAYS add a portion of tap water to the mixture of fertilizer water. This will prevent the acidity from going off the deep end.
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Old 05-06-2008, 12:24 PM
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I have never seen a KCl softener, but I take your word for their existence. There certainly is no technical reason they should not exist. I doubt the affinity of the resin for Na and K is much different and, if so, that is controllable. One would need to remember this when adding fertilizer because you can have too much K though plants seem pretty tolerant to it and it won't accumulate in an orchid medium as it does in clay soil.

I totally agree with your second paragraph. Hopefully I did not say anything so poorly that I appeared to disagree.

Your last paragraph is also 100% correct. You need to use fertilizer intended for pure water if you use pure water (rain,distilled,RO,deionized). I use MSU for pure water. I'm sure there are others. Adding some tap water back works, but it's hard to get consistent results is why I don't. You need some instrumentation to get it right. My tap water varies from 150-400 ppm TDS on a regular basis. If it rains a lot and the river flow is high the TDS is low. If it rains a little, the river sits there and dissolves limestone raising the TDS and pH. The pH of my tap water ranges from 7.0 to 7.5. The best pH for the plant is 6.0 +/- 0.5 so it's hard to know what you need to do with tap water unless you do measure it occasionally and react to the results.

True that you can reduce the pH too much with fertilizer intended for tap water by using it in pure water. The pure water formula fertilizer is buffered so that you get the right results regardless of the quantity of fertilizer you choose to use....within some reasonable limits. Regular fertilizers (like for regular water)are also buffered because they have to work acceptably in a wide range of waters. However, your concern about lowering pH too much is definitely valid. The use of regular fertilizer in pure water will also result in too little Ca and Mg because most fertilizers assume some Ca and Mg is present in water supplies.
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Old 05-07-2008, 11:08 AM
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Almost all softeners will use both types of salt, but people may want to check with their softener manufacturer on that. For us we just removed as much of the sodium salt as we could, and refilled with the potassium salt. Softeners using potassium salt are VERY common, as evidenced by the fact that home centers like Home Depot carry potassium salt for softeners, with about 1 pile of potassium salts bags for every 4 piles of sodium salt bags. Even grocery stores carry potassium salt for softeners.
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Old 05-07-2008, 02:10 PM
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That must be a western thing, Cynthia. I think we are too busy keeping our mobile homes tied down in tornadoes to be working on alternative water softeners. I checked on First Rays site also to see if he mentioned KCl water softeners and he does not. They must not know about them in Philadelphia either. I don't think they have mobile homes either, so I'm at a lose to explain it.

I'm on my way to Lowes and HD to see if we have KCl for sale. You're not pulling my leg are you? Remember what Mark Twain said, "If they declare the end of the world tomorrow, I'm moving to Kentucky. It'll take another 20 years for it to get there".
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Old 05-07-2008, 05:39 PM
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She's not pulling your leg JLu!!

Before I got down to your last post I was thinking "It must be a western thing." I have several neighbors who have water softened with KCL. Having lived in the south for four years it's hard to imagine why anyone would need a water softener; the water was delightful! We did not, however, have a well, so I can't speak for well water.

I used to think California/Arizona had very hard water until I started reading about the water in the midwest from some of our forum members. Ours is clear and drinkable; theirs has muscle and fights back!
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Old 05-07-2008, 07:33 PM
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Oh Connie, talk about muscle. Ours has bite! Literally. BTW the KCl salt is in a white bag.
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Old 05-07-2008, 08:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLu View Post
there are two reasons that your friend's unit might operate on a temporary hook up basis without a drain. First it may depend on the "temporary" installation concept and expect that you will make very little RO water at one time and then unhook and dump out the unit contents. Second, it just might have a very low membrane life because the membrane is not back flushed and plugs with removed ions. In a very cheap unit I can see where the manufacturer might not care about that, but a new membrane (or new unit) can quickly become the most expensive part of using the unit. If I had to guess, I would assume both things apply here..
Hey, I think you'r right. I do remember him having to unscrew the filters and dump out water every once in a while! I guess I didn't realise thats what that was. Thanks for explaining this to me! I think he paid around $300 for it. I don't know how quality it the unit itself is compared to others for that same range and output though. Thanks again Jlu!
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Old 05-08-2008, 10:29 AM
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PhalPal, I grew up in Florida and the water was pretty good. I lived in Beaumont, Texas for a while and it was pretty good there, too. When you get up to Birmingham, they have the hardest darn water I've ever seen. Up here in limestone country, it's hard with Ca and Mg but not too bad with iron which is real nuisance. Our municipal water supply is 150-200 to 400 ppm TDS almost all being Ca and Mg carbonate. That's not too friendly for orchids which evolved largely in rainwater which had never touched the ground.

Cynthia, here's where I'm comfortable with the postassium chloride softener situation. I did Google searches on a number of search criteria to get some information. The sources I read (over 100) ranged from comments on internet forums like this one, to technical sites, commercial (supplier) sites, and fertilizer sites.

I found some suggestions (especially on fish forums) that KCl softeners are safe for fish and aquatic plants, but I never saw one that seemed to be coming from a scientific viewpoint. It was mostly anecdotal observation and the observers did not impress me with their ability to make useful observations. I never found a commercial (even marketing type site) that would say definitively, that output is OK for plants though some made ambiguous statements that seemed designed to deny later if necessary. Even technical sites like universities seem to fuzz up any statements. I assume that it means that no one knows for sure or that horticulture is not a big customer base and no one thinks to address the issue.

At this point, my position is to continue to have doubts about all softeners that utilize Na or K ion exchange. I do admit that K is certainly safer than Na that is not safe at all.

That does not mean that I have any objection to your position, based on your use, of the safety and usefulness of potassium ion exchange. I highly respect the excellent answers that you supply on this forum and I realize that your background in fact based observations makes your observation a legitimate one that deserves respectful consideration. The concern is that I could not corroborate the observation from another source. I guess I expected that would be easy. To be clear, I did not find anything suggesting you are incorrect, but nothing with any strong conviction agreeing either.

I certainly will not disagree if you choose to take a position that potassium ion exchange is safe. At this point, I'm not joining you, but I'll continue to dig and hopefully will join in your opinion in the future.

I believe this has been a useful discussion. Thanks
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Old 05-09-2008, 10:19 PM
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Watering

Thank you so much! I just acquired an orchid and am very grateful for your fact-based information.

I have a filter on my refrigerator. Does anyone know whether this makes the water better or worse for orchids?

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Old 05-10-2008, 04:47 AM
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No effect whatsoever. It just removes any particulate solids from the water. Perfectly safe to use. If you plan to use the water coming from the refrigerator, let it warm to room temperature first.
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Old 05-10-2008, 04:11 PM
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Hi,
I am new and have enjoyed reading all the posts about watering. My orchids seem to thrive on tap water twice a week in spring, summer and fall, once a week in winter. Our water is hard, but not as hard as some areas. All my plants are doing well except one little catt named "George" which suddenly stopped growing about six months ago. He is still green except for one influoresence that recently turned brown, but there is no growth at all. Does anyone have any ideas on what might have happened and is there any hope for "George?"
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Old 05-10-2008, 04:38 PM
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Sestina, have you checked the little catt's roots?
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Old 05-12-2008, 06:00 AM
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Poor little George

Sestina, the thing to do is to try to re-pot. On the way, get rid of any rotten roots, change the mixture to fresh, and hope for the better.
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Old 05-12-2008, 07:23 AM
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I have to make one serious correction to the use of a water softener.

For back-ground I have a chemical engineering degree and am a commercial orchid nursery. When I make a suggestion, remember that I put $100,000 in orchids at risk every year with the methods I use. My farm still has a section for the raising of tropical fish so that is another $300,000 of risk to sodium.

A properly running water softener has NO sodium or potassium coming out of the softener into the water system.

The salt is in a holding tank and only enters the system at a re-charge cycle. After
the re-charge the unit goes to a rinse cycle to remove the salt.

I was too casual to mention that my Aq rep suggested softener water for improved growth. This advice is not given lightly. There are many millions of dollars invested in agriculture in this area. If I preferred he would willing sell me an injector system and $300 per filling of citrus acid to accomplish the same results. He did not make any money recommending the softener.

What is happening chemically with hard water is that the dissolved minerals prevent the plant from absorbing the trace elements in fertilizers. Trace elements are necessary for the long term heath of the plant. Sodium and Potassium are only two and they are present in most fertilizers. The Worm tea I use has 76 trace elements. I pay a lot of money for the products I use and want them to be effective.

You should use common sense when deciding what to use on orchids. You drink water from a water softener and did you ever taste salt? If the unit is not working properly you will think you are in the ocean. The salt is very strong. It is removed in the rinse cycle. This is why the Ag rep suggested a double rinse for safety.

Sodium is a mineral and if you only substituted one mineral for another you would not have softened the water. The minerals are removed sodium included.

The fish portion of the farm has very sensitive South American fish in breeding vats. They get water through a water softener. Most dealers in South American fish use water softeners. In order to maintain the continuous availability of softened water a special unit uses two tanks and switches automatically between them on every cycle. One is always in use while the other recycles. Sodium would kill these fish in hours. I can assure you they live and there is no sodium in the water.

------------

As for watering orchids, everything can be made to look bad. Rain water is probably best, but acid rain in the northeast has been killing forests for years. Even rain water has its problems. I use 38,000 gallons of water a day. Rain water is not possible fro me even though mine is good quality..

Back to my first comment. Know your water. Contact the water company and ask them. It is free and it is what they do. Chloroamines are used in bad water areas like NY NJ but regular chlorine is used in most areas, so leaving the water out will work for most. If you use a hose the spray nozzle removes the chlorine as you water, as will the spray from a kitchen faucet. One drop of sodium thiosulfate in a gallon of water with chloroammine will remove it immediately and is harmless to everything at that level.

If you ask around you will probably find someone that is using every "do not" in this thread and getting good results.
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Old 05-12-2008, 08:48 AM
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This is really unfortunate. Fred has made it known that he does not want any serious disagreements on the forum and I plan to honor his request. I'm left with the dilemma as how to respond to the misinformation in Jerry's post. The chemistry of water softening is simple, high school chemistry. It is not theory or rocket science or any such thing. The following is a quote from the link following the quote, but you can get the same information from hundreds of other sources as well. This is well understood stuff.

"The idea behind a water softener is simple. The calcium and magnesium ions in the water are replaced with sodium ions. Since sodium does not precipitate out in pipes or react badly with soap, both of the problems of hard water are eliminated. To do the ion replacement, the water in the house runs through a bed of small plastic beads or through a chemical matrix called zeolite. The beads or zeolite are covered with sodium ions. As the water flows past the sodium ions, they swap places with the calcium and magnesium ions. Eventually, the beads or zeolite contain nothing but calcium and magnesium and no sodium, and at this point they stop softening the water. It is then time to regenerate the beads or zeolite."

Howstuffworks "How does a water softener work?"

I'm not sure why Jerry went into the chlorine/chloramine discussion. As for my part, I made it clear that those water treatment chemicals would not harm your plants (go back up and read it). I casually mentioned that both would kill fish and they will. I also agreed with another poster that leaving chlorine treated water sitting out would eliminate its chlorine if it was left sitting out for a couple of days...and it will. Jerry claims that only "bad water areas" use chloramines. I refer you to the quote below from the link supplied. I also assure you that the exact information is available from hundreds of sources.

"Most of the tap water, coming from local water districts and running out of most people's faucets in the U.S., contains chloramines. In fact most tap water has contained chloramines for several years, so chloramines are not really new.

Chloramines are a chemical combination of chlorine and ammonia. Before chloramines were used, most tap water contained chlorine, which killed most of the pathogens in the water and made tap water “safe to drink”.

Without question killing pathogens in tap water by adding chlorine or chloramine improves the safety of the tap water for most of the people most of the time.

But the chlorine apparently reacts with organic matter in the water to form chlorinated-hydrocarbons, which are thought to cause cancer, and epidemiological evidence confirmed higher cancer rates in people in areas with chlorine in their tap water. Chloramines safer, so chlorine was replaced by chloramines in tap water."

Chloramine in Water for Aquariums, Fish Bowls, and Ponds.

I apologize the readers of this forum for posting this information. It was not done lightly. However the information Jerry posted is so egregious that it must be challenged for the benefit of everyone's best interest. I take no pride in being the one to respond, but it was my information to which Jerry chose to incorrectly respond. Fred, I hope I handled this in a manner satisfactory to you. I certainly tried,but if I failed I'm sorry. I am convinced that I had no reasonable alternative.
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Old 05-12-2008, 03:31 PM
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I checked with the Aqua water company here in the Trenton/Hamilton area of N.J. and they said that they use chlorine, and not chloramine.
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Old 05-12-2008, 05:58 PM
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I read the most recent water quality report for where I live, and they use chloramine.
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Old 05-19-2008, 02:53 AM
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At the risk of ticking EVERYONE off, I would like to interject the following;
1. Nearly all of the modern water softeners utilize a type of "ion exchange" resin. This resin is rechargeable. The resin works by "exchanging" monovalent + ions (i.e. sodium or potassium) for divalent + ions (i.e. calcium, magnesium, etc) {note that these resins do NOT remove divalent iron}. By definition, "exchange" = replacement. So, if a water softener is to work, calcium, magnesium and some other divalent cations are bound to the resin and the sodium or potassium present on the resin enters the water stream. In defense of modern water softeners, the amount of sodium in the exit stream of some of the newer resins is less than the amount of sodium in a single slice of bread/quart of exit water. Don't ask me how, maybe it's witchcraft!
2. Chlorine or choramines? If letting the water sit overnight makes you feel better, by all means do so! It certainly won't hurt it! On the other hand, instead of worrying about the amount of chlorine/chloramine in the water perhaps we would all be better served by concentrating on the problems of just what is contributing to that 15-18 grains of hardness and what the pH is of the water + fertilizer is.
3. Most likely meaningless, but chloramines ARE volatile at very high temperatures. By FDA definitions, DWI (distilled water for injection) MUST be distilled (not deionized). Stills don't last long unless you pretreat the feed water and soften it and that process does not remove chloramine. One of the big problems is maintaining the distilled water stream free of chloramines especially in the spring and fall (they have to add more due to the higher organic material concentration at those times of the year {rain run off}.
4. True "deionized" water uses an exchange resin where hydrogen (H+) and hydroxide (OH-) are exchanged for the divalent cations i.e. calcium, magnesium, etc. Since these ions (H+ and OH-) are in equilibrium with the unionized form, HOH (H2O) you are essentially exchanging WATER for the divalent cations. There are many kinds of these DI resins i.e. strong acid, weak acid, strong base, weak base and mixed bed. In nearly all cases to purify water, a mixed bed resin (mixture of an acid resin and a base resin) is used. These resins can NOT safely be regenerated by the home owner since it requires the washing of the resin with strong acids and bases. These units can have a very useful place in the fact that they strip BOTH cations and anions from the feed stream. However you pay a price in that the resulting water has virtually NO buffering capacity. So, using this type of water will require careful monitoring of the pH, especially once the fertilizer is added.
5. Jerry, I have absolutely no idea these days just what level of sodium is toxic to fish, but a lifetime ago, I raised large numbers of ciclids and one of the tricks I used was to exchange about 1/2 of the water in the tank with water run through a softener and acidified by recirculation of this water through a filter containing peat moss. Not very scientific, but it worked for me. So, while I have NO idea what the sodium level was in this water, it certainly did NOT hurt the fish.
6. I think that I mentioned earlier on in this thread that "Murphy's Law" may be more important than any scientific reasoning we might use. In this case, maybe everyone is right!!!!
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Old 05-20-2008, 05:03 AM
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Am I the only one who waters orchids with rain?
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Old 05-21-2008, 08:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhalPal View Post
I have been leaving a gallon out to dissipate the chlorine for use when making worm tea. I'll be switching to distilled for this purpose from now on.
I've been doing likewise, thanks for the education!
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Old 07-14-2008, 05:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brassavola View Post
Am I the only one who waters orchids with rain?
Nope, you're not. In winter (our rainy season) most fo the water my orchids get comes as rain. In summer though it is incredibly dry here so I have to water them. I use tap water.
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Old 07-14-2008, 11:50 PM
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Kevin, I don't know why your post made me think of this but it did. Through out this thread there has been mention of "flushing" to remove salt buildup from the potting media. Your mention of using rain water reminded me of an issue that has really not been addressed completely. In most areas, rain will have an average pH of about 5 to 6. Not so municipal tap water. In order to reduce the corrosive effects of water, most municipalities will adjust the pH to a value above 7.0 (the average pH of the water here is about 8.3). If one uses just plain tap water at this pH to flush their pots, it does little to remove divalent cations from the mix (i.e. calcium, magnesium, etc.). When flushing my plants here I adjust so that the final pH is between 6.0 to 6.5. Does that make a difference? Darned if I know but I sure feel better having done it. With your rain water, you are already at a good pH!
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:33 AM
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Reading all these posts was very intertesting, it also made me glad I have to do things simply. I use tap water with good results,our rain water here is so badly poluted I killed a nice nepenthes using it, some garden plants turn a bit yellow after a few days of rain.
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Old 07-17-2008, 02:06 PM
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Red face

Hi there... well, I personally water my orchids by filling up a clean gallon jug with tap water, and letting it sit out for atleast 24 hours. But I have gone some time with watering my plants with straight tap and they didnt seem to have any adverse affects.

Like others have said, it all depends on your location. City water tends to have higher levels of chlorine in it (however, they do sell chlorine filters for faucets- i just bought one) and Well-water can have multiple different types of dissolved solids; minerals, like iron, calcium and magnesium, that can be in excess in the water and ultimately not too swell for plants. And well-water tends to deteriorate over time, so water that is good one year can be bad the next. If you have well-water, you can get a clarifying system installed where professionals come out to your home and change these tanks once a month. (only go to this measure if the well-water isnt satisfying to "you" because it can be expensive)

***If you are like me and would rather be safe than sorry, just try filling something up with tap water and letting it sit out overnight. This gives a twofold advantage- it gives the water enough time to reach room temperature (which plants like) and it allows certain chemicals, like chlorine, to evaporate out. (If you have unfiltered well-water, don't do this because minerals will not evaporate out. Your best bet would be to go to wal-mart or the grocery store and buy a gallon of distilled water)

Hope this helped explain some things! Goodluck!
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Old 07-17-2008, 02:13 PM
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I just found out last night that pH of city water is intentionally adjusted to a more alkaline level (about 8.1-8.3) to decrease deterioration on the pipes.
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Old 07-17-2008, 02:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christina View Post
Hi there... well, I personally water my orchids by filling up a clean gallon jug with tap water, and letting it sit out for atleast 24 hours. But I have gone some time with watering my plants with straight tap and they didnt seem to have any adverse affects.

Like others have said, it all depends on your location. City water tends to have higher levels of chlorine in it (however, they do sell chlorine filters for faucets- i just bought one) and Well-water can have multiple different types of dissolved solids; minerals, like iron, calcium and magnesium, that can be in excess in the water and ultimately not too swell for plants. And well-water tends to deteriorate over time, so water that is good one year can be bad the next. If you have well-water, you can get a clarifying system installed where professionals come out to your home and change these tanks once a month. (only go to this measure if the well-water isnt satisfying to "you" because it can be expensive)

***If you are like me and would rather be safe than sorry, just try filling something up with tap water and letting it sit out overnight. This gives a twofold advantage- it gives the water enough time to reach room temperature (which plants like) and it allows certain chemicals, like chlorine, to evaporate out. (If you have unfiltered well-water, don't do this because minerals will not evaporate out. Your best bet would be to go to wal-mart or the grocery store and buy a gallon of distilled water)

Hope this helped explain some things! Goodluck!

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Old 07-19-2008, 03:53 AM
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watering methods

Since necessity is the mother of invention, and since I have no convenient sink area in my new flat (unless I carry every orchid up and down the stairs), it was necessary for me to get inventive in coming up with an easy fast way to water a large number of orchids reasonably quickly. It occurred to me that solution just might lie with one of the methods mother nature frequently uses. So now, I "rain" on all my orchids.

I should note that using this watering method, I do it first thing in the morning and I make sure the leaves and crowns are all dry by nightfall.
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Old 07-19-2008, 06:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmarch View Post
Since necessity is the mother of invention, and since I have no convenient sink area in my new flat (unless I carry every orchid up and down the stairs), it was necessary for me to get inventive in coming up with an easy fast way to water a large number of orchids reasonably quickly. It occurred to me that solution just might lie with one of the methods mother nature frequently uses. So now, I "rain" on all my orchids.

I should note that using this watering method, I do it first thing in the morning and I make sure the leaves and crowns are all dry by nightfall.
Pass the soap, please?

How creative, Kevin! I have no basement water available except the washing machine, so I still have to bring the chids upstairs for their "flushing". Only about half of my orchids are in the basement, but it's still a drag. I put 5-6 in an empty plastic dishpan at a time, and haul them up to my kitchen sink. I would love a greenhouse where I could just hose them!
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Old 07-25-2008, 02:35 AM
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I use water from a Brita filter. Does anyone know of any problems occurring with this, or is it ok?
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Old 07-25-2008, 06:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brassavola View Post
Am I the only one who waters orchids with rain?

Nope. always use rainwater, (collected in numerous water butts (barrels)), all year round, but stand a few gallons inside overnight to bring up to room temp.
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Old 07-25-2008, 02:30 PM
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Sorry but We only get rain here a few times per year, and not enough that I could really collect it. I don't trust the tap water and I think buying bottled water is wasteful so ..... Would the Brita filter cause harm or make the tap water better for them? (as far as I know it's just an activated carbon filter, but not sure)
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