pH vs. Alkalinity
It’s important to understand pH and alkalinity are not the same things.
Alkalinity is a measurement of the concentration of minerals in a solution (buffering material) while pH is measuring the hydrogen potential. Alkalinity requires a change in mineral content, pH can be increased by chemical reaction.
You can have water with high pH and low alkalinity as well as water with low pH and high alkalinity.
Unfortunately, these 2 properties are used interchangeably in the majority of marketing messaging and FAQ answers. Doing so has created all sorts of confusion. Ultimately, the disconnect between what testing strips indicate vs. the reagent drops test is the difference between pH and alkalinity. The strips measure alkalinity and the drops measure pH.
Buffered vs. Unbuffered
To start with, we have to understand there are 2 kinds of solutions.
The first is buffered. The human body is buffered, so is pool water and aquariums.
Buffered means there are mineral concentrations (buffering material) that matches and affects the pH level.
The human body needs actual alkaline minerals to negate acid. That’s why it’s important to eat nutrient and mineral-rich foods. These add to our internal alkaline buffer.
Pools and aquariums, on the other hand, need their pH and alkaline levels to be in synch. If not, there can be algae blooms, unsanitary conditions, floating fish and all kinds of other problems. The 2 properties are monitored regularly and can be adjusted using additives, salts, minerals, etc.
Buffering / Alkalinity / pH strips
The purpose of alkaline water is to help keep the body pH balanced.
This ability is determined by how buffered or unbuffered the solution of water is. Buffered, as mentioned above, means the amount of minerals present in the water. How buffered the water is, = how well it can resist the changes in pH. The human body runs on a series of buffering systems to regulate the balance of pH. These systems establish the regulations of acid vs alkalinity within the body.
Alkalinity is determined in the concentration of minerals found in a solution (bicarbonates, carbonates, and hydroxides) with the ability to buffer acidic conditions. This is why a regular supply of nutrients and minerals are so important because it keeps the buffering systems from pulling minerals deposited in the bones.
The measure of alkalinity is determined by pH strips. These indicator strips reveal the buffering ability of the solution in regards to the minerals found in the water.
Chemical Reaction / pH drops
The pH drops, on the other hand, tell the story of hydrogen ions and how they are present in a solution.
This is where the story really gets complicated. Hydrogen ions represent how acidic a solution is and the freer the hydrogen ions the more acidic the solution of water. This is calculated by the molar concentration and measures the amount of solute (minerals) or chemical species in a volume of water. The molar concentration is a determining factor for both tests.
The pH strips check the amount of solute in water and identify its ability to resists changes in the pH of the body.
The pH drops are shaped by the chemical reaction taking place in the solution and through a chemical exchange, it is how to raise the pH level of the water.
Alkalinity represents the mineral content of the water and its ability to buffer acidic changes of the body and the pH (potential hydrogen) is the chemical reaction that takes place within the water solution to decide how acidic it is. The color indicates the pH. Having a high pH number can means nothing without the minerals to go with it. It is the same as eating food with no nutritional value. Empty calories serve no purpose for the human body. The objective is to replace what is lost and prevent our body from depleting the reserves.
Finally: Why is this important?
Because in the world of water ionizer sales, many products are sold as water alkalizers when all they really do is to concentrate the existing alkaline minerals in the input water into a single output stream. The high pH that you may see when a salesman uses pH reagent drops is not measuring the amount of alkaline minerals, as described above. Electrolysed water is only alkaline to the extent of the alkaline minerals already in the water, and the high pH reading when using reagent disguises the fact that this form of water actually has very little ability to contribute to our body’s alkaline buffer, or storehouse.