The Vital Role RO Water Plays in Cannabis Cultivation

Posted on December 6, 2018

Most people are familiar with the fact that Reverse Osmosis (RO) high purity water plays a vital role as a natural resource ingredient in the pharmaceutical industry for the production, preparation and the formulation of medicinal products and intermediates. For those unfamiliar with the RO process, a concise explanation can be found on Wikipedia: “ Reverse osmosis (RO) is a water purification technology that uses a semipermeable membrane to remove ions, molecules and larger particles from water. The result is that the solute is retained on the pressurized side of the membrane and the pure solvent is allowed to pass to the other side”. RO Water is also necessary for the composition of drug products such as:

  • Filtered water or purified water
  • Sterile water for injection and irrigation (to remove potentially harmful salts)
  • Bacteriostatic water for injection used in parenteral (injection) preparation as a diluent
  • Water for hemodialysis (to dilute hemodializing concentrate solution)
  • Pure Steam (steam sterilization)

As established as high purity water use is in the pharmaceutical industry it is quickly gaining importance in the production of the expanding cannabis business.

The development of cannabis from medicinal production to innovative product solutions

Although we are witnessing a multitude of new customers lining up to purchase recently legalized cannabis products, it is doubtful that these customers are aware of the value that RO water plays in increasing plant quality. Cannabis products and scores of resulting derivatives are now marketed and sold under various labels. Popular derivatives of the marijuana flower include indica, sativa, (the two primary types of marijuana) and hybrids strains, along with cannabis-infused edibles ranging from baked goods, candies, drinks, and cooking oil to ice cream. More uses are being developed daily in an intense research rivalry to introduce new beneficial products to market based on the properties of this ancient plant.

Improving plant quality through RO water irrigation

So why would cannabis plants require tap water filtered through the reverse osmosis process, when city water is fine for human consumption? In the most obvious circumstances choosing RO filtered water would be determined by your geographical location where the water is not potable. It stands to reason that if your water source is not drinkable it is not suitable for growing medicinal plants. As a cannabis grower, your first step in setting up shop should include contacting the local water provider for a mineral profile. If it is discovered that the local water source is being fluoridated or chlorinated, the carbon filters used in the RO system will remove these heavy elements along with heavy metals.

The cannabis plant grower, however, will now be responsible for the entire mineral profile of the water that is going to nourish the plants, as the RO process results in ultra-filtered water that has had all minerals eliminated.

High tech growing methods

According to a lucrative grower in Boston, MA, this can be handled and counterbalanced in a secure state-of-the-art hydroponic nursery that features automated nutrient systems. In this approach, the only nutrients added to the water are those that are advantageous to plant quality. In addition, water that is pure will not conduct electricity so an important part of the irrigation process will include dissolved mineral salts to restore conductivity.

Good for plants, but bad for the environment?

RO systems have gotten a bad rap in the past with environmentalist who looked at the process as a major waste of water resources. Anyone relating that information today is sadly misinformed or lacking knowledge of recent innovations. Reclaimed water processes are now part of the RO equation, with reclamation especially popular in dry, arid regions with limited resources. Condensate vapor water (water collected from air conditioning and dehumidification units) is now being reclaimed and can account for 1/2 to 2/3 of the water use with the balance derived from municipal water or other backup sources. As a matter fact this reclaim procedure can cut cannabis growers water irrigation totals by 50% to 85%.

It isn’t just the arid States that have water resource issues. In the cold months of the New England states, there were concerns with disposing of the wastewater. In an article posted in the July 2018 issue by the Cannabis Business Times, the director of facilities for Garden Remedies in Fitchburg, MA explained that New England cold winters presented wastewater disposal problems.

Heavy water usage and weather issues require innovative solutions

(The following is quoted directly from the director of facilities for Garden Remedies and the article titled: ‘Cannabis Cultivation: Slash Your Water Use by 50 Percent or More’ as printed in the July 2018 issue of the Cannabis Business Times).

“Faced with a potential exterior ice problem from water created by the normal operation of HVAC units, the company decided to pipe the water to tanks and its reverse osmosis systems instead of directing it down city drains. That decision continues to work to limit the operation’s wastewater and overall water use.”

“Now in Phase II of a planned 80,000-square-foot indoor grow, Garden Remedies’ grow rooms total about 17,000 square feet. All water passes through a custom-built reverse osmosis system. “That’s fed out to the grow rooms, then our environmental systems re-condense humidity from transpiration and feed it back into the RO system,” the director explained.” “For every 500 gallons of water used, the system reclaims roughly 425 gallons of condensate. The remaining 75 gallons comes from the municipal water supply. Reduced water bills aren’t a major motivator for the grow. “Our [city] water is not very expensive. The important thing is being environmentally sound,” the director of facilities shared. “We also test our water frequently. The condensate is extremely pure compared to the city water. The reclaimed water has no chlorine and almost no dissolved metals that RO would have to remove from city water. It’s much easier for the reverse osmosis system to do what it needs to do.”

“I advise all facilities directors and managers to look at their facility now and start getting plans on the table to reduce their consumption of power, gas, and water,” he says. “The writing is on the wall.”
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From clean clones or from seed to flower, reverse osmosis irrigation puts the grower entirely in charge of the water that will help determine their plants’ growth and quality.
Call PPT at 603-598-0691 for a competitive quote on your RO system today. It’s a smart move for improved product quality, a stronger marketing position, and if reclaiming the wastewater and vapors, friendlier to the environment.