The Waterside - Part 1: Who Are Water Treatment’s Unsung Heroes?

By Mike Henley



Quiet champions. Every segment of life, including water treatment, has its heroes. For many of us, our early champs were one or both of our parents, another family member, or a teacher. They achieved such status because of quiet, consistent behavior that your wellbeing ahead of themselves.

Likewise, professions have their heroic figures. For the balance of our discussion, we will consider the water treatment profession’s unsung heroes. Our purpose is not to single out one or two people, but, instead to ponder some areas in which humble and giving men and women have advanced water treatment.

There are several areas to consider for our “Ring of Fame of Water Treatment’s Unsung Heroes”, but to begin, we will first honor those who work in the development of water quality standards.

Water quality standards provide the basis for treatment. Their development involves water experts, who give countless hours to share their findings from research and/or experience to help committees collaborate and write guidelines and standards for safe and successful treatment.

“Safe” touches on public health and plant operation. For instance, a drinking water standard is “safe” when it means the general public can consume water purified by the treatment requirements without fear of dying or becoming ill. For plants using high-purity and industrial water, the term implies that products manufactured using treated water should be free of defects. Additionally, as in the case of boilers, “safe” also means that facility workers need not fear the boiler feedwater will contribute to explosions or other unsafe conditions because of undue scaling or corrosion.

The term “successful” essentially describes a condition where if the treatment standards are followed that purified water use should not cause problems.

In order to reach this status, there have been water treatment guidelines that industry experts have worked together to develop over the years that have undergone adjustments to reflect manufacturing and treatment technology changes.

If you wonder about specific TOC, conductivity, resistivity, cfu/mL, pH, and other limits, look no further than the treatment guidelines developed by these unsung heroes.

The table at the bottom provides a simple overview of the organizations with committees and water experts groups actively developing and updating treatment standards for the industries listed in the chart. Examples include the United State Pharmacopeia (USP), SEMI, and American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTMI). Each may have their professional staff, but the bulk of the treatment guideline work is done by committee members. One example is the ASTMI’s Committee D19 on Water. A second is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ “Research Committee on Water & Steam in Thermal Systems”, which has a Subcommittee on Water Technology. The table focuses on high-purity water, but in the bigger picture, it extends to cooling water (Cooling Technology Institute) and wastewater.

It should be noted that while the table’s focus is on the organizations that develop and publish guidelines, that it is important to also recognize professional organizations such as the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers (ISPE), which has published books on the practical aspects of water treatment in the pharmaceutical industry. One example is the “ISPE Good Practice Guide: Sampling for Pharmaceutical Water, Steam, and Process Gases”, which was issued in January.

The point? Water experts in these different volunteer groups selflessly share their time, and the beneficiary is the overall water treatment profession, and ultimately the general public.

In our UPW conferences we have heard firsthand reports about the work of those who volunteer and collaborate with fellow water treatment experts in this important work. In several UPW Micro conferences, we have heard about work through the International Roadmap for Devices and Semiconductors (IRDS), formerly the ITRS, to provide guidance to SEMI for guidelines that are important for the treatment of UPW used in microelectronics plants. Likewise, in our UPW Pharma meetings, we have received reports from water experts involved with the USP about their important work that has developed past and current standards for pharmaceutical water.

In our next commentary, we will highlight and highlight and add another category to the water industry’s “Ring of Fame for the Unsung Heroes”.


— Mike Henley

  Compiled by M. Henley, Media Analytics Ltd. (©2017). 



*These are examples of the principal sources for high-purity water treatment standards and guidelines in the industries covered in this chart.  It should be noted that companies within an industry will develop specific standards and protocols that they follow, and that service companies serving an industry have developed guidelines that become widely recognized standards and followed in the treatment of high-purity water.  Examples would include Balazs Laboratories (now known as Air Liquide-Balazs NanoAnalysis) for the semiconductor industry (Balazs Ultrapure Water Monitoring Guidelines), and the Babcock & Wilcox steam handbook for power generation. In the case of semiconductor water, Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN), ASME, and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are viewed as reference sources for particular water treatment concerns. 



ASME = American Society of Mechanical Engineers

ASTM = American Society for Testing and Materials, also known as ASTM International (ASTMI)

EP = European Pharmacopeia

EPRI = Electric Power Research Institute

IAPWS = International Association for the Properties of Water and Steam

JP = Japanese Pharmacopeia

SEMI = Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International.  Note:  The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) develops materials that serve as a basis for SEMI standards.

USP = United States Pharmacopeial Convention Inc.  Note:  USP guidelines call for using a water source that meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration uses the USP standards as a part of its inspection and validation process at pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and other facilities producing products requiring pharmaceutical quality water. 

WHO = World Health Organization

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