Today’s inquiry came to us from a gentleman by the name of ‘Chris’ who asked a very simple question: “Do You Have a Test for Copper, pH and Total Alkalinity?”
For those curious as to WHY a person would have interest in a fast, easy-to-use and accurate test strip for dissolved copper, pH and total alkalinity, the answer lies with pools, spas and water features (i.e. decorative ponds, coy ponds, fountains, etc.). In water samples from each of those three water environments a person could very easily expect to find traces of dissolved copper.
- Copper in Swimming Pools – Dissolved copper in swimming pools may come from a number of sources including, but not limited to, copper based algaecides and algistats, normal wear and tear on a heated pool’s heating element, and/or from source water used to replace water lost due to intentional draining and evaporation.
- Copper in Hot Tubs & Spas – One could expect to find dissolved copper in a hot tub or spa due to the natural wear and tear on its heating element. Also, in the case of outdoor spas and hot tubs we have heard that some, but not a whole lot, of people employ the use of copper based algaecides to ward off algae attacks in tubs that do not get used on a regular basis.
- Copper in Water Features – In an effort to retard and or prevent the growth of algae in water features — many of which do not have the protective benefit of sanitizing or disinfecting chemicals due to the presence of organics (plants, fish, etc.) — owners of water features will often use small amounts of copper based algaecides/algistats. Not keeping a watchful eye on the dissolved copper could have a seriously detrimental effect on plant and animal life if levels get too high.
Now that we know why people would want to test for copper in water, some of you probably want to know why anyone would find it desirable to also test for pH and total alkalinity at the same time. The answer to that question lies in the relationship between copper as a solid metal and the effects of pH & alkalinity on that solid metal when either parameter drifts out of the acceptable range.
Water with incorrect pH and/or alkalinity becomes more corrosive than properly balanced water and will eat away at (dissolve) most metals at a much faster rate. In pools, spas and hot tubs corrosive water will target the copper heating elements of water heaters and pull copper metal ions out of them.
If not watched closely water with improper pH and/or total alkalinity can very easily shorten the lifespan of copper heating elements in swimming pools and hot tubs to a mere fraction of what one would normally expect… and if they go bad unannounced, well, the cleanup & repair — especially for indoor hot tub owners — could very easily wind up costing a whole heck of a lot more than monitoring and balancing the dissolved copper, pH and total alkalinity levels in the first place!
Other reasons to monitor copper, pH and alkalinity levels?
While the untimely and expensive demise of heater elements certainly should make a good enough case to encourage folks like us to perform regular testing for dissolved copper, pH and total alkalinity, other folks out there may need a bit more convincing… so try THIS on for size: Dissolved metals (i.e. and especially copper) will drop out of solution and stain pool/spa/feature surfaces if the pH and/or alkalinity strays too far out of range!
To make matters worse, getting those stains off surfaces typically takes a good amount of time, physical labor (elbow grease!), and metal stain removal chemicals.
Testing for copper in source water?
Earlier we mentioned that water used to fill a swimming pool, hot tub or water feature may contain dissolved copper… and we meant what we said. Some well water and even some municipal/city/tap water may contain dissolved copper so it makes sense to always test your source water for quality before blindly adding to your pool, spa or water feature.
AND it REALLY makes sense to make sure you test for the presence of heavy metals (i.e. copper, iron, etc.) before adding strong oxidizers like chlorine or bromine because the addition of those chemicals causes a sharp change in the water’s pH and alkalinity levels… and as stated earlier this could cause the metals to fall out of solution (form precipitates) and potentially stain surfaces.