When you think of it, we’re pretty spoiled here in the United States. We typically don’t give much thought to our drinking water other than to turn on the tap and fill up a glass. The U.S. has one of the safest and reliable water supplies in the world, yet according to the Water Quality Association, Americans spend billions of dollars each year on home water treatment. More than 40% of the American population uses some form of home water treatment – and that doesn’t even include the people who choose to drink bottled water and avoid the tap all together. But is it really worth it – both from a financial and a health perspective?
While the quality of the water supply on a national scale might be superior to the rest of the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the water that comes out of your tap is tasty, let alone healthy. The reason is that water quality in the U.S. can vary widely from region to region around the nation based on the the source of the water and the treatment it receives.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set maximum standards for the levels of contaminants that drinking water from a water supplier can contain. While the EPA doesn’t regulate private wells, they have published guidelines for well owners. So before you consider investing in a home water treatment system, first learn what’s in your water.
The EPA requires both municipal and private water suppliers to publish an annual water quality report called a consumer confidence report. In it, you’ll find contaminants listed that have been found in that water supply and the levels at which they’ve been found. Those levels will also be compared to the acceptable levels as established by the EPA.
While your water supplier might go to great lengths to ensure the quality of the water they push through the water lines to your curb, the quality of the plumbing in your house can greatly alter what’s in your water. For example, lead, common in the pipes and soldered joints of older homes, can leach into your tap water. That’s why Andrew Weil, MD recommends having your water tested by an independent lab. He also recommends avoiding the free tests provided by companies that sell home filtering systems for the obvious reasons that they want to sell you a filtering system.
A complete test will look for microorganisms like bacteria and viruses; inorganic chemicals like arsenic, copper and lead that might be naturally occurring or man made; organic chemicals that are usually the result of agricultural runoff or discharge from nearby industrial sites; radionuclides; and even byproducts from the water treatment itself.
Once armed with the knowledge of what is actually in your water, you can then make the choice to filter or not to filter. If you choose to filter, what’s actually in your water will help you determine what method of filtration will be the most effective on those contaminants – because not all filtration methods are effective on all contaminants.
Your first major decision is to filter at the point of use or at the point of entry. Point of use filtration can be as simple as the $20 pitcher filter on up to distillers and reverse osmosis systems that connect to the plumbing under your sink. Point of entry filtering systems are typically located at the place where the water line enters into your house and filters the water before it travels through the rest of the plumbing. These filters include aerators, water softeners and adsorption media type systems.
Depending on your circumstances, you might find that a combination of filtration methods is necessary or you might be lucky enough to avoid filtering all together and turn on the tap to fill up your glass without giving it much thought. Either way, the most important point is that you drink enough good quality plain water to stay hydrated so that your urine runs pale to clear. When you maintain a proper balance of hydration, your body will reward you with good health a vitality for many years.
– Paul Kulpinski