DENVER — A small, but important change is on the way for those who use Denver water: the pH level is being adjusted.
“We’re going to be going up to 8.8. We’re currently at 7.8 on the scale,” Travis Thompson of Denver Water said.
The adjustment, coming in March of this year, will make the entire water system less acidic, in order to protect the thousands of customers across the city who still have lead pipes or water service lines.
“It’s building a protective coating and also reducing the corrosivity in the water supply, ultimately reducing the risk of lead or other metals from their indoor pipes from leeching into the water system,” Thompson said.
Denver Water is currently undergoing a multi-year project to replace thousands of lead service lines throughout Denver. This increase in pH is part of the “wholesale” approach to that project. A spokesperson said the process will include the addition of more lye, which is already used to adjust the pH.
“We’re not anticipating any change in taste or odor,” Thompson said.
One place that Denver Water customers may see a difference is when it comes to taking a shower.
“The one thing you might notice it might feel a little more slippery,” Thompson said.
“Eight point eight would lie closer to harder water,” Metro State University chemistry professor Michael Jacobs told Denver7.
Jacobs says 8.8 is very close to the standard range for drinking water (7 is neutral, non acidic nor basic), it might just come with a little more soap scum.
“A little more calcium and magnesium ions present in the water,” he said. “The water would feel that much harder if you’re sensitive to it.”
As for plants, one professional gardening company told Denver7 the increase in pH is “concerning” since most plants grow best under 8.5 pH.
The Farmer’s Almanac has a list of plants and vegetables along with their “optimum” pH range. Most are under 8.0.
The pH level of a water supply is also important when brewing beer.
“The higher the pH — we get a different set of flavor and aroma, compounds, the mouthfeel of the beer changes. If pH drops, we have a complete different set of aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel,” Ethan Tsai, Director of Quality Control for Tivoli Brewing Company, said.
Tivoli used Denver Water, but Tsai said that will mean his company, and many other brewers across the city, will just have to tweak their water to get it to the exact pH they want before and during brewing. He added that is something that most brewers already do to ensure a consistent product.
“Now it’s just one more thing to tweak just a little to make sure the beer is exactly the same as it always was,” he said.
For more information on Denver Water’s decision to adjust the pH, along with frequently asked questions, head to https://www.denverwater.org/your-water/water-quality/lead/lead-reduction-program/ph.