June 2002: Volume 44, Number 6
Clamp-on water treatment
A: There's only one standard for testing such equipment, which are said to work on magnetic, electromagnetic or electrophysical properties. It's a German standard by the organization, DVGW. Only one or two devices have earned the standard that we know of, one of which was in dispute for some time based on competitor allegations that what was tested was not what was put out on the market and that the testing had been mishandled. There are now a number of such devices based on that first unit approved, mostly from European companies promising to offer scale prevention while maintaining the "mineral" levels in your water as an added health benefit. The only problem with such marketing is that our bodies get only a very small fraction of the minerals it needs from water. The vast majority of such minerals comes from the food we eat. One would have to drink thousands of glasses of water a day to achieve the same level from water (by the way, you'd drown first before being able to assimilate that much water). While some studies have shown there to be some effect from some of this equipment (primarily the electrophysical devices similar to the one approved by the DVGW), there has yet to be an effective, widely accepted scientific explanation for the physical processes involved. There also are few scientifically accepted studies, if any, to indicate what specific applications are more appropriate than others and under what conditions or variables is that the case. (The Water Quality Association did do a survey of literature in regard to this, but stopped short of providing any scientific analyses of the studies it reviewed; many tended to fall into the category of customer testimonials or advertising jargon.) Conversely, advertising claims of those purveyors of such equipment tend to be rather broad, often claiming to "soften" water without the salt or chemical requirements of conventional water treatment. This is clearly untrue since—even by the claims made—the equipment does not remove scale; it simply holds it in suspension allowing it to pass through without coming out of solution and precipitating on the interior surface of piping in the distribution system or hot water heaters, dishwashers and clothes washers, etc. That, at least, is what is claimed, as we understand it. Since there is no U.S. standard (although an effort was made to enlist the financial support of the equipment manufacturers themselves for one a few years ago to very little effect), there's no way of proving the above claims. Even the German standard simply is a measure of scale prevention; it goes no further in detailing additional properties or under what variable conditions the equipment might be effective. As such, WC&P's position on this is neutral. Whether or not the adage "buyer beware" is appropriate here is anyone's guess. You buy at your own risk.
Postscript: Your response to my questions regarding electronic clamp on water purification systems was the best information I have found anywhere. The general public should read your outstanding report regarding the Clearwave type products before considering a purchase. Feel free to quote me as a consumer advocate. Thanks again for you complete information on this subject. -- Don DiSimone