Why Total Alkalinity Is The Most Important Chemical In Pool Water

pool water

Unfortunately for homeowners and even some pool techs., when they think about their pool water chemistry they’re mostly concerned about their chlorine and pH reading. And if their water isn’t crystal clear, some automatically assume it’s just their chlorine. While this might very well be the case in some instances, there are other elements crucial to your pools water clarity regardless of your chlorine reading. (For the sake of this post we will rule out circulation and filtration and simply focus on chemicals.)

And while chlorine and pH are two essential factors in maintaining proper water balance, they are both actually dependent on another factor: Total Alkalinity.

Total alkalinity is the measure of the ability of water to resist changes in pH…that is…the ability to “buffer” water from wide pH swings. Essentially the amount of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in pool water, total alkalinity serves two purposes: it is the governor of pH and it is the third and last major factor that affects water balance

A buffer is a chemical system that resists change upon the addition of acids or bases. In water that contains no buffering ability, pH can wander dramatically. This is called pH bounce – a rapid fluctuation of pH levels with the addition of small amounts of acid, base (alkali), or other pH altering agents. The result is highly unbalanced water resulting in damage to light rings, stainless steel ladders, copper heat exchangers, and concrete pool surfaces (etching, scaling, pitting)

This is why Total Alkalinity is crucial. It governs pH, which directly influences the effectiveness of your chlorine.

Chlorine is “ph dependant,” which basically means that the effectiveness of your chlorine is dictated by your pH levels. If your pH is too low, your chlorine dissipates more rapidly which is why pools with lower pH readings often have little or no chlorine readings. If your pH is too high, your chlorine is less effective in the water and may not even work at all.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of your chlorine is dictated by your pH levels, and your pH levels are dictated by your Alkalinity level. This makes Total Alkalinity the most important factor in maintaining balanced pool water and without it, your water will will never be perfectly balanced.

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