BSA Lifestructures

Pure Water Systems for Laboratory Processes

Jon Eakes, Senior Plumbing Designer & Kay Townsend, Principal-In-ChargeFebruary 1, 2018

Water covers over 70% of the earth, it comprises almost 60% of an adult human body, and it seems like such a simple thing: mix hydrogen and oxygen atoms and get water:  clean, clear, and with virtually no taste.  

Who would think that water could actually be so complicated, and sometimes so expensive to produce?  

Water systems providing a level of Lab-grade water for the laboratory processes can range from several thousand dollars for a single point-of-use unit to over $100,000 for an entire Facility centralized distribution system.

Water is used within the laboratory environment daily for glassware washing, handwashing, and reagent preparation, just to name a few.  It is one of the most common reagents found in the lab, and yet, when asked what quality or grade of laboratory water needed to perform their processes, many laboratory users aren’t sure.  

Pure water, ultra-pure, RO (reverse osmosis), DI (deionized), ASTM (standards) Type I, II, III, or IV? Which is right for your needs?   

The success of any lab water system is understanding the needs of the users and the quantities needed.   Different laboratory processes require different lab-grade water.  For example, Cell or Tissue Culture processes typically utilize a Type I level of pure water.  Levels of bacteria in the water must be kept to a minimum as bacteria could contaminate a specimen or process.  Other types of applications such as reagent preparation and dilutions also use Type I water.  

Glassware and instrument washing might only require a Type II or III level of water to minimize water residue and is commonly used for rinsing.  Tap water is commonly used in water baths as the water isn’t in direct contact with the specimens.  It is used to only keep a constant and regulated temperature.  However, scaling can occur, so many lab users utilize Type III water for this application.  Higher grades, such as Type I and II have been known to cause rusting effects.

You can see that a “one size fits all” solution is not appropriate for most lab needs.  It isn’t fiscally responsible to provide a whole facility Pure Water System if less expensive alternatives can meet the needs of the Users.  Therefore, consideration for the water requirements for Lab User processes and lab equipment needs must be carefully explored early in the design process to make the best-informed decision for the facility.

BSA LifeStructures practices continuing education programs for its Lab Planners, Architects, Engineers, Designers, and Staff.  A recent presentation on Pure Water Systems, presented by BSA’s Plumbing Engineering Department, condensed these complex lab water criteria into presentable data sheets that can be utilized to facilitate a conversation with User groups.

If you are planning a lab and have questions about lab design or pure water system needs, contact BSA LifeStructures today.