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Application of buffer in water treatment

Water bodies like lakes, streams, rivers are important habitat for aquatic life forms
like fish and amphibians. Like all other living organisms aquatic life also need stable
pH to survive in the water bodies(Latif,2002). But there are many external factors
which tend to destabilize the pH of water bodies making them unfit for the survival of
aquatic life forms. One of the major threats that play its part to disturb the pH of water
is acid rain. We all know that acid rain is produced due to the mixing of coming down
rain water with atmospheric sulphur dioxide to form sulphuric acid(Latif, 2002). The
amount of basic buffer solutions in the water is termed the "alkalinity" of the water.
When the pH of a specific water body drops down due to the addition of acidic water
in the form of acid rain the basic buffer solutions like dissolved CaCO 3 react with
acidic water to neutralize its effects. In this way the pH of water bodies is maintained
which is necessary for the survival of aquatic species. Otherwise extreme pH like 2 or
13 may cause physical damage to gills, exoskeleton and fins of fish.(Latif,
2002) Apart from this a decreased pH in water increases the dissolved mercury
content in water and an increased pH causes the production of toxic ammonia in water
bodies(Latif ,2002). Therefore buffer agent such as ( sodium acetate + acetic acid) or (
sodium citrate + citric acid) can be used to resisted pH of water without rely on nature
buffer. The advantages of chemical buffer is can be adjusted to a required pH to make
sure pH water not change and suitable for aquatic life and humans.
Sources of basic buffer solutions or materials to the water bodies may include:
i.

Soils in the surrounding areas

ii. Mineral and rocks in the surrounding of water body


In order to explain the properties of a buffer, it is useful to consider a specific
example, the acetic acid/acetate buffer system. When acid (e.g.,rain acid form
sulphuric acid) is drop down to river that contain buffer solution, the added
hydronium ion (H +) reacts with the strongest base in the medium, namely the acetate
ion, to form more acetic acid. This reaction uses up the added hydronium ion,

preventing the pH from rising drastically, and is responsible for the buffering effect.
(Buffer, 2003). As a result of adding acid to the buffer, the concentration of acetate
decreases and the concentration of acetic acid increases. The solution acts as a buffer
because nearly all of the added hydronium ion is consumed by reaction with
acetate(Buffer, 2003). As the hydrogen ion concentration increases, the acetate
concentration and acetic acid concentration must adjust. The pH changes slightly to
reflect the shift in the concentrations, but the change is much smaller than in the
absence of the buffer because most of the added acid is consumed by its reaction with
the acetate ion(Buffer, 2003).

"Buffer." World of Microbiology and Immunology. 2003. Retrieved May 03, 2016
from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3409800107.html
Waqas Latif (2003). Importance of Buffers in Physiological, Natural and Industrial
Systems. Retrieved May 03, 2016 from
http://environmental-realm.blogspot.my/2012/04/importance-of-buffers-inphysiological.html