What You Don't Know About the Water You Are Drinking

What's in your drinking water? It depends. Learn about what factors to consider and how water purification can help water taste better and be safer.

Drinking Water: Does It Need Purification?

Did you know that the amount of water on the earth today is exactly the same as when the earth was formed? The overall amount of water on earth has remained the same for two billion years. The water we use is continuously recycled through the natural water cycle and reused. The tap water you drink in your home could contain molecules from the same river that dinosaurs drank from. You could take a shower with water that once washed a Neanderthal.

The average person could live without food for nearly a month but would die after about a week with no water. About 80 percent of brain tissue is made of water, making our intake of clean, safe water critical to both our survival and our ability to function at our fullest potential.

What to Know About Bacteria In Well Water

Public drinking water sources are regulated according to federal guidelines which require them to be free of microbial pathogens. But if your household is one of the over 15 million U.S. homes using well water, you should know that you are entirely responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of your water. It is recommended that well owners should have their water tested every two years, and frequently inspect the visible parts of their well, ensuring that the well cap is not cracked or broken and that the well casing has not become corroded. These damages can result in the seepage of dangerous bacteria and chemicals into your well water.

According to studies by the CDC, well water may be contaminated with such illness-causing bacteria as Giardia, Campylobacter E.Coli, Shigella, and Cryptosporidium Salmonella. These contaminants can cause illnesses such as gastrointestinal disorders with diarrhea and nausea, flu-like symptoms, fever, fatigue, and loss of energy. Problems may be more serious with young children, the elderly, and those whose immune systems are compromised by chemotherapy, transplant medications, and other illnesses.

Also found in some well water samples are hazardous chemicals such as nitrates and nitrites from chemical fertilizers, organic chemicals from household products, and pesticides which enter wells through run-off and surface water seepage. Even naturally occurring minerals such as arsenic and radon can cause illness, reproductive disorders, and neurological problems.

Testing For and Treating Contamination In Well Water

Well water should be tested and treated if any of these contaminants are found to be present. Your local health department or well systems professional can test and treat your well water as needed, or even recommend locating your well in a new area if the local runoff is contributing to your water issues.

Water filters which use reverse osmosis can remove some contaminants, and chemical filters are helpful to remove harmful chemicals from water supplies. Water softeners are capable of removing hard minerals, some radioactivity, nitrates, arsenic, chromium, and sulfates.

City or Public Water: Do we need water softeners or filters?

Thanks to the strict safety standards imposed by the EPA after the Safe Drinking Water Act was passed by Congress in 1974, any contaminants proven to be harmful to people are mandated to be removed from public drinking water. However, there are no requirements to remove hard water minerals which are safe to drink, but which can be damaging to your home, laundry, skin, and hair.

If you find you have dingy laundry, limescale buildup or orange or rust-colored staining in your appliances, you probably have hard water or high mineral content. In this case, a water softener can be beneficial. If you aren’t certain if you have hard water you can easily request a copy of your city’s water report. Also, home water test kits are now widely available, or you can hire a local agency to perform a test. Some agencies test your water free of cost, but then are likely to attempt to sell you a water system.

Water filters for city water are primarily used to remove excess chlorine and fluoride, both of which can be harmful if consumed in large amounts.

How Can You Make Your Water Taste Better?

While making sure your water is safe to drink is critical, it’s also worth noting that we also want our drinking water to taste good. The presence of heavy minerals can give water a metallic taste, and chlorine has a distinctive taste and odor. Even if your water has been deemed safe from contaminants, purifying your water can improve its flavor.

While such treatments as water softeners and filters can’t promise you that you aren’t drinking water that was once ingested by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, it can vastly improve the safety and flavor of the water your family drinks.

Resources— EPA, DenGarden