Having tap water in your home is something you might not even think about. However, about two billion people in the world don’t have pure, accessible drinking water. And even if you do have it… have you realized that it might not be safe to drink?
Your running water might be within reach, but before you turn on the tap, be sure you know what you’re getting.
What’s Happening in the Pipes?
Before we talk about tap water, let’s talk about the medium through which you receive it: the pipes.
You might never think about the cleanliness of your pipes, but you should. Pipes are generally made of tough metals like steel, copper, iron, and aluminum. And they have a big job to do.
Over time, the force of water gushing through pipes causes them to become weak and eventually start to erode. The soil, environmental conditions, and the water’s chemistry can also cause pipes to break down.
Ironically, water treatment meant to make the water safer can contribute to corrosion, too! That’s because some chemicals used to treat water are very acidic.
As time goes on and the pipes become weaker, they begin to release heavy metals into the water. Those heavy metals can end up in your home’s tap water.
And if your home was built before the 1980s — and the plumbing hasn’t been replaced since then — you might be at greater risk. During this time, pipes weren’t built with materials that were proven to be safe. It’s kind of like how paint used to contain lead. (Lead-based paint was banned in 1978.)
What Else is in Your Tap Water?
It’s not just the corrosion of the pipes that we have to worry about. Other contaminants can make their way into your drinking water, too.
For instance, your tap water might be contaminated thanks to land use practices in your area — we’re talking fertilizers, pesticides, and livestock. Sewers sometimes overflow, which can compromise the quality of your tap water.
And wastewater treatment systems (like septic systems), which are meant to help us, can sometimes malfunction.
You might not live right next to a farm, but bear in mind that these contaminants can still make their way to your water system.
So, while turning on the tap is an easy way to quench your thirst, you might be getting a lot more than you asked for.
How Can Dirty Tap Water Impact Your Health?
Water seems harmless (and it should be). However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and even neurological disorders.
If you want to know how dangerous tap water can be for your health, look no further than the Flint water crisis. This was human-made and involved the city’s municipal water supply system.
The system ended up exposing thousands of residents to threatening levels of lead. This spiraled into Legionnaires' disease — a type of pneumonia. At least a dozen people died and many more became sick.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Erin Brockovich, you have another prominent example of water contamination. Pacific Gas & Electric operates a natural gas pumping station. Up until 1966, they used chromium 6 — a chemical — to prevent rust. The chromium 6 ended up seeping into the water supply in the town of Hinkley, California. To this day, residents are still dealing with health complications.
How Do I Know if My Drinking Water is Dirty?
If something seems off about your faucet water, don’t ignore it! Specifically, pay attention to how it looks, tastes, and smells.
Is your water a shade of red, orange, black, or brown? It could be due to iron or copper from the pipes. Does it taste metallic? Do you see tiny particles floating around in it? Dangerous microbes in your tap water could also lead to it smelling or tasting funny.
What About Well Water?
What is well water, exactly?
In a nutshell, it means that on your private property, there’s an underground aquifer. Wells are drilled into the ground, and the water is pumped into your house.
If it’s properly sourced, well water can be fresher and higher in nutrients and minerals compared to city water. It might even taste better. Additionally, if there’s a natural disaster, well water stands a much better chance of surviving it than city water.
But there are downsides.
You, the homeowner, are responsible for the quality. You need to get it regularly tested to make sure it’s safe and pure.
Furthermore, well water can still get contaminated by chemicals, sewage, dead animals, and other pollutants — like fertilizer, detergents, cars, and pet waste. If you live near farms, septic systems, or nuclear power plants, runoff is a potential issue.
So, can well water be safe to drink? Just like city water, sure, it can be. However, because this water isn’t regulated for safety by the federal or state governments (like city water is), it’s all up to the homeowner.
There’s still no guarantee that you and your family are drinking clean, pure tap water.
How to Control the Quality of Your Tap Water
It might feel nerve-wracking that you can’t even trust the water in your home. But there’s good news: In the time between when the water leaves your pipes and enters your mouth, you have control.
A four-layer reverse osmosis water filter will give you peace of mind. In the process of reverse osmosis, water is forced through a membrane, and the “rejected” water is separated. By doing this, a reverse osmosis water filter helps to remove all sorts of contaminants, from lead and arsenic to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), bacteria, and even viruses.
Add to that UV-C purification. This exposes any remaining contaminants to ultraviolet light, therefore cleansing the water.
We need water to survive. Hydrate your body right and explore the world of water purification. Your drinking water will taste better, smell better, and save you money — no more high-priced bottled water, and you can cut back on single-use plastics. We call that a win.
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