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What is Brackish Water & How is it Treated?

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

The simplest explanation for brackish water is that it’s water that’s saltier than fresh water but not as salty as seawater.

As you keep reading, you’ll learn more about the characteristics of brackish water and how to treat it effectively. But first, let’s cover the basics and explain the concept better.

What Is Brackish Water?

Brackish water is essentially salty water. So while the sodium content of brackish water isn’t as high as what you might find in large bodies of water like seas or oceans, at the same time, it’s significantly higher than what you might find in a freshwater stream.

Brackish water contains anything between 500 and 30.000 ppm (parts per million) of sodium. Anything below that is classified as fresh water, and anything above is considered salt water.

Where Is Brackish Water Found?


You can find brackish water in areas known as estuaries. Estuaries are areas where freshwater meets saltwater. This usually happens when a freshwater stream leads out to sea.

However, estuaries can also be man made since people need them to create prawn farms. Man made estuaries are created by flooding marshlands.

Is Brackish Water Drinkable?

While brackish water doesn’t contain as much salt as ocean water, it has enough to dehydrate your body. More precisely, your body detects that you’re taking in too much sodium and your kidneys overproduce urine to flush it out.

In essence, your body is forced to try and purge more liquids than it’s taking in, leading to dehydration.

Of course, this only applies to brackish water that you find in nature. It’s entirely possible to treat the water and make it safe to drink.

Brackish Water Treatment

Why Is My Reverse Osmosis Water Flow Slow
reverse osmosis

It’s effortless to make brackish water drinkable. All you need to do is remove the salt. While this might sound impossible, there are two reliable methods with which you can accomplish this – reverse osmosis (RO) and distillation.

The first method is called reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis systems funnel water through a membrane that has very small holes in it. The holes are large enough to let hydrogen and oxygen molecules through, but mineral molecules like sodium are caught. In simpler terms, water can pass through the screen, but salt can’t.

The second method is distillation. Distillation is a much simpler method that involves heating the water and turning it into vapor.

The minerals are much heavier than the water itself, so they stay on the bottom of the distiller even when the water is heated up. On the other hand, the heat causes the water to turn into vapor, which rises to the top of the distiller, where it condenses and gets transferred into a separate clean water container.

If you live in an area with brackish water and you’re wondering which treatment method might be the better choice, we recommend reverse osmosis.

Distilling water isn’t all that difficult, and devices like the Vevor simplify the process to the point where all you need to do is fill up the container and press the ON button. Distillers are also relatively cheap and don’t take up much space on the countertop.

However, reverse osmosis takes far less time, and you can choose from a much more extensive selection of different RO systems compared to distillation units. Depending on your need, you can find an RO system that won’t require manual loading and can take on much larger quantities of water than any distiller.

This isn’t to say that distillers aren’t helpful – quite the contrary. But it’s true that RO systems are much more popular, and there are many more models you can pick from.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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