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Water Filtration Basics


This video and webpage are designed to show you all of what you need to filter your water to perfection. The video is less than 4 minutes long and very informative.


The main contaminants that are generally accepted as "bad" and need to be filtered out of water are:

  • Heavy Metals: Arsenic, lead, copper, cadmium, chromium, mercury and nickel.  Heavy metals are poisons to drink, and so it is best to try to remove all traces, if you can, from your drinking water. To filter these one needs to use one of the following filters (in order effectiveness, starting with the best): UltraWater, KDF, supercarbon, activated carbon. The most economical way to do this is to use a special filter at the sink and a flow-rate of 2 liters/min or slower. All of these filters and more can be found on my Water Filters Page.
  • Disinfectants: Chlorine & Chloramines.
  • Disinfectant Byproducts: In order to treat the water for microbial contaminants, disinfectants are used, i.e., chlorine and chloramine. In small amounts chlorine isn't toxic to the body, but its byproducts are. To remove chlorine, chloramine and the disinfectant byproducts one needs to use one of the following filters: UltraWater, KDF, supercarbon, activated carbon and it's best to use a flow-rate of 2 liters/min or slower.
  • Inorganic and Organic Chemicals: See full list, below. Examples: Industrial wastes, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals. These are very toxic and associated with many diseases. I tell you how to filter them out below.
  • Microorganisms: These are usually not a concern, because municipalities kill them with their treatment chemicals. But if you periodically have a boil-water advisory, then see below for the right filtration to handle this issue.

"Good" Minerals

There are good minerals in water that the body needs. These are called electrolytes, and you should keep them in your water. 

The following chart shows the main contaminants in St. Louis city & county water and how to filter them out.

St. Louis City & County Water Main Contaminants

  • Fluoride: Fluoride is one of those ongoing, debated, toxins in water. Though it is agreed to be a toxin it is debated that the body needs some added to the water for healthy teeth. Fluoride is so tiny it can pass through the blood/brain barrier and get into the brain and nervous system (where it doesn't belong and can do harm). Its tiny size makes it impossible to remove with normal filtration. Because it is acidic, most of it will be eliminated into the acidic water stream of a water ionizer. But to eliminate all of the fluoride from water one must use a special filter that attracts the fluoride to the media and when the fluoride bonds to the media it becomes too large to pass through the filter and in that way is removed. The best of these filters is the Fluoride Shield, which uses a blend of the best filter media for removing fluoride. The media is formed into a solid block, which prohibits channeling, so all water will contact the filter media and none will escape.
  • Other Water Contaminants: Municipalities don't test for everything that's in the water. There are many contaminants, such as: pharmaceuticals, herbicides, pesticides, and industrial wastes that may or may not be in your water to varying degrees. It is unlikely that your municipality reports the contaminants which are not specifically regulated and ordered to report. The UltraWater is the most reliable filter to remove pretty much all of the "other contaminants", even the hundreds which are not yet regulated or reported.


Best Water Filters

On the charts, above, you can see that the two best filters for removing all of the bad elements in water are the UltraWater filter and the Fluoride Shield. Using this two-filter combination you can remove up to 99.999% of all contaminants in water, more effectively than any other method of filtration. UltraWater filters come in a variety of forms. For general purposes I have provided links for the standard-sized 10" filters to put into housings under your sink. Learn more about UltraWater Filters. There is also a link for the Bacteria Filter, for well water users or others with concerns about microbes in their water.

  • UltraWater Filters: These are best at removing most water contaminants. They are scientifically designed to use a blend of the best filter media, formed into a solid block to disallow channeling. 
  • Fluoride Shield Filters: These use UltraWater filter technology for the specific reduction of Fluoride, Arsenic and Lead, and because of the UltraWater technology are the best at removing arsenic, lead and fluoride.
  • Bacteria Filter: If you have any concerns about bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms in your water, this fitler is our best one for that.


Out of all the choices: bottled water, filtered water, ionized water, reverse osmosis, distilled, soda and various tap waters...filtering your own water is actually the best way to make sure the bad elements are removed and the good ones are kept in. Bottled water is over-filtered and oxidized. There are many issues surrounding bottled water.

Even better than just filtering your own water is ionizing your water. With a water ionizer you can get the best filtration by selecting a model that uses UltraWater filters, plus the process of ionization helps you get additional health advantages. Over the past 20 years of using alkaline ionized water for myself and family, I have found that it is the healthiest water to drink. The alkalinity helps the body get rid of toxins and hydrogen (antioxidant quality of ionized water) helps to fight free radicals and disease. Several of our water ionizers are capable of using UltraWater filters. You can find them on the UltraWater Filters page.

Water Can Be Complicated

We originally established this water filtration basics page to assist our water ionizer customers to find suitable and proper filtration when their source water had issues. Water can be complicated. It varies from place to place, pretty widely.

Source Water Issues for Water Ionizers

You will occasionally see a mention of pre-filters on this or other pages on the AlkalineWaterPlus site. We call it "pre-filtration" when someone has minerals or other elements in their water they want removed prior to putting it through a water ionizer.  

There are some issues a water ionizer owner can have with their source water, which would affect how well their water ionizer will work. These are not issues of "contamination". They are issues of the water being too hard or soft for best results. Water ionizers do best with medium-hardness. See these pages if they apply to you.  

How Can You Find Out What's in Your Water?

You can find out what's in your water by calling your municipal water company. They can tell you where to find their water quality report online and also answer questions about water hardness and TDS as well. Check out our Free Water Analysis page as well.

How to Interpret Your Water Quality Report

When you are looking at any water quality report you'll need to know these two definitions.

MCLG: Maximum Contaminant Level Goal. This is the level, of a contaminant, below which there is no expected health-risk.
MCL: Maximum Contaminant Level. This is the highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in the water.

The municipal water companies have a goal (the MCLG) to remove all or most potentially harmful contaminants from the drinking water. Some elements are toxic in large enough quantities, but are not known to be harmful or it's very rare to be harmful in small amounts. They may even be needed by the body as trace-minerals in small amounts. It's a huge job that the water companies take on, to constantly analyze and clean up your water, but most municipalities are able to do a very good job of cleaning up the water that comes to your tap at a pretty reasonable price.

It is likely that your water quality exceeds the MCLG in several contaminants, but does not exceed the MCL. It is punishable for the water district to not meet the MCL and the MCLG is put there as a goal, but not enforced. The reason the MGLG is not enforced it that there are many things to consider, including costs and the environment.

  • The risks are very rare provided the MCL of each contaminant is not exceeded.
  • The water you drink is only a small portion of the water that comes into your house, most goes literally down the toilet.
  • You as a consumer can filter the contaminants out of your drinking water for pennies on the dollar.
  • For the municipalities to spend the millions of extra dollars purifying the water better may do more harm than good for both the environment and for you.

All things considered, to get you the highest quality of drinking water, it is without a doubt the best idea for YOU to filter your municipal water, which is already almost perfect. 

Shower and Bath Filters

Filtering bath and shower water is a worthy venture. Many contaminants, especially chlorine, can be breathed in or absorbed into the skin while bathing or showering. Chlorine on your skin and hair can cause them to dry out. and it would be great to filter it out. If you have a whole-house KDF filter system that will also do the same thing, but at a much greater cost than the point-of-use shower filter.

Water Ionizers

There are two types of alkalizing/ionizing devices which will make your water pH perfect for drinking:

  • Electric Water Ionizers One big advantage of electric water ionizers is that they are continuous-flow filtration devices. In other words they are always ready to give you the same level of ionized water all day long. There is no "wait time". Also, electric water ionizers filter fluoride, because fluoride is acidic and will be removed out of the acidic stream for the most part. This is a great feature in my opinion!
  • Filtering/Ionizing/Alkalizing [non-electric] devices, such as the pH Pitcher and the Elita Pure  Non-electric alkaline water ionizers are basically filter-systems which use the principles that were discovered and developed by Dr. Hayashi [of adding magnesium to water in the presence of magnetized ceramics to spontaneously ionize the water.] Non-electric water ionizers are usually cheaper than electric ones. They do have to re-charge themselves between uses, because the time-release magnesium is only available in limited quantities. After filtering a couple of quarts, you would typically need to wait about a half-hour for the outer layer of the magnesium time-release balls to soften up. This is called re-charging.

Both kinds of water ionizers that I sell are also considered filter systems, because they remove contaminants from the water prior to ionizing the water. Non-electric and portable water ionizers are very popular, because they can be taken anywhere and there is little start-up cost involved. Electric water ionizers are my favorite, because they ionize all of the healthy, alkaline minerals in the water (making them more bio-available) and they create an abundance of antioxidants in the water (more than non-electric water ionizers). They can usually be transported, but it's better and easier to just install them by your sink and leave them there.

There are large differences between the various water ionizers, and for the purposes of filtration and getting the best water quality, I suggest you visit my Water Ionizer Comparisons page and look in the chart (column #35 and 36) and on the individual product pages for this information.

Water Quality & Filtering Water

Water filtration isn't difficult. We are happy to help you to discover what you need to know about your tap water so that you have confidence in knowing what needs to be filtered out of it. The easiest way to do this is to have Alkaline Water Plus provide you with a free Water Quality Report for your area. Simply, click this link for us to send you the information you need to determine your water quality.

Once you understand your water quality and have decided what you want to remove from your water, we will continue to support you by sending you links to the filters or filter-systems that will help you with those issues. We are happy to help you learn how to clean up your water to YOUR standards.

If you have a filtration system or a water ionizer already, you will next want to analyze whether or not all of the contaminants in your water will be effectively filtered with your water system. I will gladly help you evaluate this, but if you go further down on this page you can see all of the most common contaminants that you will find in water supplies and how to filter them out.

Water Test Kits (available at Home Depot) With this product, you can do-it-yourself to discover if your water contains excessive quantities of the most common water contaminants. We recommend to use this when you have well-water, live in an older home or neighborhood, or are otherwise unsure of your water quality.

Whole House Water Filter Systems

Most people don't need to use a whole house water filter system, but it is one of your water filtration choices. There are a variety of whole house water filter systems available:

  • Whole house fiber sediment filters are only sometimes needed, and are pretty inexpensive. If you live in an older home or neighborhood, or use well-water a whole house sediment filter would be helpful. 
  • KDF whole-house filters: KDF filters are the best for removal of iron, copper, Sulphur and heavy-metals. They also remove free chlorine. 
  • Whole house water softeners and ion-exchange units: We don't usually recommend these, but some people can't avoid it. If you use a sodium or potassium based water softener you will need to read our page about Sodium Water Softeners.

We recommend that you contact a local filtration company or hardware store to help you with your whole house filtration. They will probably understand the water quality issues for your area better and my experience is that they can also get you cheaper pricing than I can for whole house filters.

Regulated Contaminants & Filter-Suggestions

For the most part in the US our drinking water quality is good, better than most other countries. Being industrialized and modernized makes it challenging sometimes for us to get really good water, but that's why so much attention is given to controlling your water supply. There is an ever-growing problem that the water companies have to face with industrial and agricultural chemicals, not to mention pharmaceuticals. The municipalities can only do so much with the funds they have. It is up to us to monitor and further enhance the quality of the water we drink ourselves if we want to live the longest and healthiest lives possible. Do not think for a minute that bottled water is a good solution. Please read the page on bottled water if you have any doubts about why it's not good. The very best quality of drinking water you can get is when you filter it yourself. Filtering water is not difficult, and at Alkaline Water Plus we are happy to help you.

Below you can find is a Summary of the Drinking Water Contaminants that are regulated by the EPA. Because they are known to be associated with diseases, it's good to try to remove them from your water if your water has in excess of the EPA guidelines for that contaminant. The list is organized by the EPA's categories.


  • Chlorine [associated with eye/nose irritation]
  • Chloramines [associated with eye/nose irritation and anemia]
  • Chlorine Dioxide [associated with anemia and nervous system disorders]

How to Remove: Active carbon filters are very effective, but Supercarbon filters [catalytic carbon] are better. A combination of Supercarbon and KDF filters are even better yet. UltraWater filters are the best, because they will remove all three up to 99.99%.  

Disinfection Byproducts

  • Bromate [associated with cancer]
  • chlorite [associated with nervous system disorders]
  • halo acetic acids [associated with cancer]
  • Trihalomethanes [associated with cancer, nervous system disorders, liver and kidney disorders]

How to Remove: Active carbon filters are very effective, but Supercarbon filters [catalytic carbon] are better. A combination of Supercarbon and KDF filters are even better yet. UltraWater filters are the best, because they will remove all three up to 99.99%.  

Inorganic Chemicals

  • Antimony [petroleum byproduct…associated with cholesterol  disorders]
  • Arsenic [skin damage, circulatory issues, associated with cancer]
  • Barium [blood pressure disorders]
  • Beryllium [intestinal disorders]
  • Cadmium [kidney disorders]
  • Chromium [allergic dermatitis]
  • Copper [gastrointestinal disorders]
  • Cyanide [nervous system and thyroid disorders]
  • Fluoride [bone disease and memory disorders] - Needs a special filter (see below)
  • Lead [mental/physical development disorders, kidney and blood pressure disorders]
  • Mercury [Kidney damage]
  • Nitrates and/or Nitrites [serious illness or death in children] - Caution: These can only be removed by RO or distillation.
  • Selenium [Hair or fingernail loss, numbness in fingers/toes, circulatory problems]
  • Thallium [Hair loss, blood, kidney, intestine or liver disorders]

How to Remove: Active carbon filters are very effective for most organic and inorganic elements, but Supercarbon filters [catalytic carbon] are better. A combination of Supercarbon and KDF filters are even better yet. UltraWater filters are the best, because they will remove the majority of elements... up to 99.99%. 

Fluoride presents itself as a problem to remove because of it's tiny size and atomic weight. See the "Filtering Fluoride" section, below for more information about this.

Organic Chemicals

  • Acrylamide [from sewage/wastewater treatment…nervous system or blood disorders, associated with cancer]
  • Alachlor [from herbicide runoff…eye, lover, kidney or spleen disorders, anemia, associated with cancer]
  • Atrazine [from herbicide runoff…Cardiovascular or reproductive disorders. Also known to feminize or demasculinize animals and possibly humans.]
  • Benzene [factory discharge…anemia and blood disorders, associated with cancer]
  • Benzopyrene [leaching from storage tanks…reproductive disorders, associated with cancer]
  • Carbofuran [blood, nervous system and reproductive disorders]
  • Carbon tetrachloride [liver disorders…associated with cancer]
  • Chlordane [liver or nervous system disorders…associated with cancer]
  • Chlorobenzene
  • 2,4-D
  • Dalapon
  • 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane
  • O-Dichlorobenzene
  • TCE (trichloroethylene) ...associated with cancer

How to Remove: Active carbon filters are very effective, but Supercarbon filters [catalytic carbon] are better. A combination of Supercarbon and KDF filters are even better yet. UltraWater filters are the best, because they will remove all of the above - up to 99.99%.  


  • Coliforms
  • cryptosporidium
  • E. Coli
  • Giardia lamblia
  • Legionella
  • viruses

How to Remove: A .02 micron filter or finer will remove all microorganisms. We suggest the PureEasy .01M, patented, dual-ceramic filter to remove all of these in the most cost-effective and reliable way. Bacteria Filter

Radioactive Elements

  • Alpha particles
  • Beta particles and photon emitters
  • Radium
  • Uranium

How to Remove: It used to be that radioactive particles could only be filtered by reverse osmosis, but now the UltraWater filters will also remove these from the water.

Filtering Fluoride

I suggest that you remove fluoride from your municipal water if your water company adds it. In nature one finds small amounts of fluoride, and in very small amounts it is likely to be fine, but many researchers are finding links to learning disabilities and Alzheimer's disease related to fluoridated water. Fluoride toothpaste contains warnings that swallowing the equivalent of as little as one milligram of fluoride should alarm you so much that you go immediately for emergency treatment. Yet, in my St. Louis water I have about a half milligram of fluoride in every liter of water. To me, that is alarming.

  • Water Ionizers Remove Fluoride! There are several ways to remove fluoride from your water, but the best of all ways, by actual Fluoride testing, is using a water ionizer. Fluoride is an acidic mineral, and so when you ionize the water you will remove most of it into the acidic stream [which comes out of the bottom hose]. In all of the extensive fluoride testing that I've done, I have learned that a water ionizer even out performs a specially made fluoride filter.
  • Fluoride filters are also good, but a little under the results that ionizing the water has on Fluoride removal. The water flowing through a fluoride filter [Fluoride Shield or Arsenic, Lead & Fluoride Filter] has to be in contact with the media long enough to make a bond. So, if it is a 1-liter filter the first liter you pour from it will be far better filtered than let's say if you were pouring several liters at a time. Just make sure your water has enough contact time with the filter media.
  • Carbon Filters: Another method of removing fluoride is a slow flow through carbon filters. You won't remove it all this way, buy you'll remove some.
  • Reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis removes Fluoride, but it's really the extremely slow-flow through the carbon filters that is doing it. The filtration of reverse osmosis is so extreme that it removes all of the healthy minerals in the water as well. Doing this is not a good trade-off, because the diseases related to  drinking water that is too void in minerals [such as cancer and osteoporosis] are awful as well.

Myself, personally, I like to use both a Fluoride Shield filter and a water ionizer, combined.

Industrial Waste and Herbicide Runoff

Dozens of Chemicals from industrial wastes and herbicide runoff are very harmful to humans [kidney, liver, adrenal gland, circulatory, reproductive disorders, associated with cancer]. These normally fall under either organic chemicals or inorganic chemicals, listed above.  How to Remove Them? Active carbon filters are very effective, but Supercarbon filters [catalytic carbon] are better. A combination of Supercarbon and KDF filters are even better yet. UltraWater filters are the best, because they will remove all three up to 99.99%.  


Pharmaceuticals are now showing up in water supplies in nearly every municipality. These normally fall under either organic chemicals or inorganic chemicals, listed above.  How to Remove Them? Active carbon filters are very effective, but Supercarbon filters [catalytic carbon] are better. A combination of Supercarbon and KDF filters are even better yet. UltraWater filters are the best, because they will remove all three up to 99.99%.  



Water Filters and Filter Media

Water filters, filter media and filter types are like tools. If you understand these tools, you can have much better control of the quality of your drinking water. Even though there are unlimited ways to combine filter media, there only a limited number of filter-media types, so it’s easy enough for anyone to understand.

Be sure to pay attention to the ratings for the filter you plan to buy, so you can see specifically what that filter will handle. Also pay attention to the life-span of the filter, because eventually any good filter will lose its ability to filter. The fewer chemicals and dissolved solids that are present in the source water, the longer actual life a filter has. So, if you live in an extreme-hard-water area, with lots of contaminants in your water, you may have to change your filters more frequently. The #gallons ratings on filters are just averages, and while they are good for most situations, your water source does affect how long the filters are likely to do you good.

Carbon Filter Media

Carbon is a great filter media and will bond with and remove many contaminants. It is an excellent bond-creating element, and is known to be able to bind well with many chemicals. There are a variety of types of carbon filter media [i.e., active carbon, carbon block, super-carbon (catalytic carbon)]. These are each described in its own section, below.

Some carbon filters will only improve taste/odor and remove chlorine, while others will remove heavy metals, asbestos, lead, mercury and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Caution: carbon filter media will not remove arsenic, fluoride, chromium-6, nitrates, nitrites, or radio-active elements.

Carbon is a black mineral and is the main mineral in charcoal. It is non-toxic and is often consumed in tablets to ease acid indigestion or help flush a toxic colon, liver or kidneys. Occasionally with a carbon filter you will see black specs of carbon come through the filter when it's new. The reason for this is that carbon is a porous mineral and is not densely held together like most rocks. When you fill a filter with carbon a certain amount of "dust" is created, due to the friction. This carbon dust is heavier than water and so will sink to the bottom of the glass (usually). It is not a health risk and can be either consumed, ignored or you can run water through the filter until it runs clear.

Carbon Block

Carbon block filters are a good idea. They are usually more efficient than loose granular carbon, because with a block it forces the water to seep through the active carbon versus allowing the possibility of water channeling, avoiding the carbon. A solid-block filter is better at removing some things, such as sediment, than a granular filter. It also is better at removal of anything large enough to not fit through the pores of the block.  

Granular Activated Carbon (GAC)

Activated carbon is specially-treated with oxygen to make it even more porous than regular carbon. Granular activated carbon has hundreds of times greater surface area than regular charcoal carbon. With a greater surface area the activated carbon is able to bond with many more contaminants and remove them more reliably. GAC easily removes many contaminants, such as chlorine.  Granular activated carbon will even remove some chloramine if it flows slowly enough. However a better filter for removing compounds, such as chloramine, would be super-carbon [also known as catalytic carbon].  GAC filters are tested and rated for the contaminants they will remove.

Catalytic Carbon [Super-Carbon]

Catalytic carbon is a special proprietary formulation of carbon which will effectively remove everything stated for GAC carbon, above, but will also remove chloramine. Chloramine is a compound of chlorine plus ammonia and is used in many municipalities for disinfection. Because it’s so stable it is very difficult to remove from the water, until Super-carbon, it was only possible to remove chloramine with a slow flow through several activated carbon filters.

Activated Alumina Filter Media [ALF]

Activated alumina is one of the only ways to remove Arsenic and Fluoride from water. It will trap the following hard-to-remove elements in the filter using a strong chemical bonding process.

UltraWater Filter

I’m including the UltraWater filter in this list, because it is so unique. It is a solid block filter created with a proprietary blend of all of the best filter media and because of its block formation the water is forced through the filter media rather than channeled. The trouble with loose filter media is that the water can and does find ways around the media, and so avoids getting full contaminant removal. The UltraWater filter was designed using NASA’s space technology of blending all of the filter ingredients into a solid block. This technology is proven effective even in the removal of difficult compounds, such as chloramine, and elements, such as Fluoride and Chromium 6. For this reason, the UltraWater filter an effective filter for even removal of pharmaceuticals. It was tested and proven to remove up to 99.999% of pharmaceuticals, fluoride, and many other difficult chemicals.

Ceramic Filters

Ceramic filters have microscopic pores that won’t allow microorganisms or sediments through. They do not remove chemicals unless they also contain another filter media, such as active carbon, within them.

Ultra .01 Micron Filter Fibers

Ultra .01 Micron Filter Fibers are sometimes built into special multi-stage filters [such as some water ionizers have .01 filter options. The fibers are so small that they will not allow any microorganisms through, even viruses! So, in their effectiveness, they are similar to ceramic filters, only better.


KDF is short for Kinetic Degradation Fluxion Media, and is a filter media composed of an alloy of zinc and copper used to effectively remove dozens of chemical, organic and heavy metal contaminants from water.

KDF is used in hospitals, restaurants, municipal water treatment and is found in many filters these days. KDF is scientifically formulated to remove more chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals. Not only is KDF effective in removing contaminants, such as chemicals and heavy metals, but it will also kill algae and fungi and will prevent bacterial growth. 

There are two main versions of KDF: KDF 55 and KDF 85. They are similar to each other, but KDF 85 is better. It will remove everything that KDF 55 removes, but also removes Sulphur and iron extremely well. KDF filters are both good for chlorine and chloramine removal [and other man-made compounds, such as found in pharmaceuticals].

KDF works best when it’s used in conjunction with active carbon...or better yet, Supercarbon. You will often see a multi-stage filter which uses KDF 55 or 85 as one of the stages. 

KDF 85 is specially formulated for Sulphur, iron and heavy metal removal. Depending on water flow-rate, KDF 85 will remove up to 99% of lead, iron, Sulphur, mercury, nickel, chromium, and other dissolved metals. If you have any problem whatsoever with taste in your water, I highly suggest getting the KDF 85 filter.

Sediment Filters

Sediment has the ability to fill up and clog or fill more expensive filters prematurely. The easiest thing to filter out of the water, and cheapest, is sediment. If you have a lot of sediment in your water, you would save money by purchasing a cheap sediment filter to place before all other filters. There are whole-house sediment filters as well as point-of-use sediment filters. I would encourage the use of both if your water is coming from a well or for any reason contains a lot of sediment. Sediment filters are often built into multi-layer carbon filters. Carbon block or ceramic filters make good sediment filters as well.


Tourmaline is a semi-precious gem. It has infrared properties and transforms water into mild alkaline water. Tourmaline also is anti-bacterial and deodorant qualities. Treated water applied to the skin gives an excellent effect of moisturizing and absorption. 

Tourmaline researched reports it to activate animal & plant metabolisms. 


Helpful Water Filter Installation Videos:

Related Links:

Blog Post: Filter Housings Demos

Blog Post: Caution - Quick-Connect Fittings

How to Use a Reverse Osmosis System with a Water Ionizer