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Glossary of Water Terms

Activated Carbon

Activated carbon, also called activated charcoal, is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions.


Aerators are often found at the tip of the modern indoor water faucets, or can be simply screwed onto the faucet head creating a no-splashing stream, and often delivering a mixture of water and air for an energy efficient flow.

Algae Bloom

An algae bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of microscopic plants in freshwater or marine water systems, and are recognized by the discoloration in the water from their pigments.


Back-siphonage is caused by negative or reduced pressure in the supply piping. When pressure in a distribution system drops to atmospheric or below, a vacuum is created allowing water to siphon in the reverse flow. This is similar to what happens when drinking through a straw.

Cast-Iron Pipe

Cast-iron pipe is a pipe which has had historic use as a pressure pipe for transmission of water, gas and sewage, and as a water drainage pipe during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Many utilities have cast-iron water mains over 100 years old. Cast-iron pipes used for waste piping; however, are subject to corrosive action that pipes carrying drinking water are not. The external rust, unless showing deep pitting, is common and not a concern.

Copper Piping

Copper piping/tubing is most often used for supply of hot and cold tap water, and as refrigerant line in HVAC systems. Copper piping/tubing is joined using flare connection, compression connection, or solder. Copper offers a high level of corrosion resistance, but has become very costly. Most new homes have plastic water lines known as PEX.

Galvanized (Iron) Pipe

Galvanized iron pipes are actually steel pipes that are covered with a protective layer of zinc. Galvanized pipes were installed in many homes built before the 1960s. Corrosion in galvanized pipes can lead to lower water pressure and water quality issues.


Grounding is the process used to eliminate unwanted voltage, and is a physical electrical connection to the earth. Electrical equipment must be properly grounded as it reduces the risk of being shocked or electrocuted.

Improper grounding

Improper grounding occurs when the ground pin, a safety feature which serves to safely return leakage current to the ground, is removed. Removal of the ground pin can result in shock.


White particles are naturally occurring dissolved minerals (largely calcium and magnesium carbonates) in water due to the limestone bedrock in Indiana water, and are commonly referred to as hardness.


Leaching is the loss or extraction of certain materials from a carrier into a liquid.

Point-of-Use Filter

A water filter removes impurities from water by means of a fine physical barrier, a chemical process or a biological process. The term “point of use” is applied because water is treated very near the sink or appliance where the water is used. Many new refrigerators are equipped with a point-of-use filter.

Pressure Reducing Valve

A pressure regulator is a control valve that reduces the input pressure of a fluid to a desired value at its output. Regulators are used for gases and liquids, and can be an integral device with an output pressure setting, a restrictor and a sensor all in the one body, or consist of a separate pressure sensor, controller and flow valve.


In most homes, a P-trap is installed under the sinks in the bathroom and kitchens. A P-trap is a plumbing fixture that has several purposes. It traps debris that has drained from the sink and prevents it from forming a clog deep within the plumbing system. It also prevents sewer gases from passing back into the home.

Water Softener

A water softener is a unit that is used to soften water by removing the minerals causing water to be hard, in most cases, calcium and magnesium ions.

Whole-House Filter

A water filter removes impurities from water by means of a fine physical barrier, a chemical process or a biological process. A “whole house filter” connects to the main water line entering your house so that all of the water dispensers in your house – faucets, toilets, showers, baths, kitchen, laundry – dispense treated water. Typically the whole house water filter is connected to the main water line before it splits into the hot water heater.