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What is Reverse Osmosis?

Clean water through pressure and semi-permeable membranes

Posted 07:48 June 11, 2022
Last Updated 07:48 June 11, 2022

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Reverse Osmosis, sometimes abbreviated RO, is a water purification technology. A semi-permeable membrane (a filter) is used to remove larger particles, molecules, and ions. Pressure is applied to one side of the membrane, forcing water through it. Clean and purified water comes out of the other side of the membrane. Reverse osmosis will remove anything that is larger than a single water molecule. Reverse osmosis can remove bacteria, fluoride, iron, zinc, lead, mercury, arsenic, chlorine, salts, and many other types of dissolved elements and compounds from water.

Reverse osmosis is similar to other water filtration technologies, but there are key differences. Whereas filtration works by straining water, reverse osmosis depends upon pressure, water flow rate, diffusion, and other conditions. Most filters use carbon filtration technology. Contaminated water comes into contact with carbon and contaminants stick to the carbon an do no pass through the filter.

Semi-permeable Membranes vs Filters

Carbon filters need to be changed every three to six months. Reverse osmosis membranes need to be changed between two and five years, depending on the quality of your incoming water. If your water is very dirty, your filter or membrane will need to be changed more often. If your water is cleaner (like city or well water), your filter or membrane will need to be changed less often.

Clean Water Applications

Most commonly, reverse osmosis is used to clean home drinking water. It is very effective at removing bacteria, contaminants, salts, and minerals from water. Portable units are available for traveling, boating, camping, or visits to remote locations.

Some bottled water production companies use reverse osmosis to clean their product.

The US military uses a device called the ROWPU (reverse osmosis water purification unit). It is a portable, self-contained, water treatment plant that produces clean water from any water source. Each branch of the military has its own unique design. Some are trailers while others are complete motorized units. The United States Marine Corps has a smaller unit that is transported by a Humvee and can produce 125 gallons of clean water per hour. Their larger unit is carried on a MTVR (large military truck) and can produce up to 1,500 gallons per hour.


Recent advancements is reverse osmosis technology have resulted in lower amounts of energy required to clean water. This has led to more widespread use in desalination operations. Commercially available since the early 1970s, it wasn't until around 2010 that reverse osmosis became the predominant water cleaning technology world-wide.

The largest reverse osmosis desalination plant in the world is in Sorek, Israel. Built in 2013, it can output 165 million gallons of clean water per day. The plant profitably sells water to the Israeli government for 58 cents per 1,000 liters (roughly the amount of water the average Israeli person uses in a week).


plumbing Reverse osmosis systems are extremely efficient at cleaning and purifying water. RO can remove bacteria, salts, fluoride, chlorine, iron, and other undesirable contaminants from your drinking water. It turns hard water into soft water, dirty water into clean water.

All Trades in Las Vegas, Nevada can help you choose the reverse osmosis system that is right for you. We are your local professional plumbing contractor. We have decades of experience and are here to serve you.

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