Is Your Water at Home Safe to Drink? Here's How to Know
Water constitutes more than half of your body’s composition, which means that your survival depends largely on the water you drink. As such, most of us focus on the quantity of water we drink, trying to fulfill our daily needs with 8 eight-ounce glasses per day on average. Meanwhile, most of us fail to give any thought or to the quality of the water we drink. After all, how hard can drinking be? You just open the tap, pour water, and drink. As it turns out, this water that you trust unconditionally may contain many contaminants that can have several adverse effects on your health.
So how can you tell whether your tap water is safe to drink? Read on to find out.
Assessing Your Tap Water
Generally speaking, if you live in an area in which governmental authorities monitor municipal water, then the water you’re getting should be of good quality for drinking— unless announced otherwise.
However, in case you’re not sure or you haven’t paid any attention to this issue before, here are a few ways to assess the quality of your tap water.
Consumer Confidence Report
Public water suppliers across the US are required by law to mail consumer confidence reports to all consumers by the first of July every year. This report includes the sources from which your household water comes and what exactly lurks in this water. You can request another copy if you’ve lost your own or log in to the online database of your supplier and download a copy.
Check with Your Water Company
On the other hand, your water may be provided by private water suppliers in which case, you can directly contact your private supplier and ask them about your water quality. Similar to public water suppliers, you should be able to get access to a report that includes the water sources and contaminants.
Search EPA’s Database
If you’re unable to identify or reach your water supplier, you can search the EPA’s online database for the information you’re looking for. This option will require some digging, but you should be able to narrow down the suppliers in your area and search through an alphabetical list until you find your supplier.
Test Your Tap Water
In case you’re living in an area where access to water quality reports is unavailable for any reason, you can carry out your own water testing. In this case, you can contact a water testing company and inquire about what lurks in your tap water.
Water Filtration Options
While you can rest assured knowing that your water is carefully monitored and regulated, sometimes contaminants will still find their way into the main water supply. The chances of contamination become even greater when you’re living in rural areas, the water system that supplies your house is old, or if your water comes from wells. In these cases, and after identifying your water contaminants through testing, finding a suitable water filter can be your best option for getting clean and healthy water.
However, knowing what lurks in your water is an essential step to choosing the right filter. If you’re suffering from a heavy metal problem, then your best bet would be to choose from these options: reverse osmosis filters, activated alumina filters, activated carbon filters, ceramic filters, or a water distillation system. While every type has its pros and cons, they can all filter out heavy metals effectively. However, you should keep in mind that an activated carbon filter won’t remove minerals, salts, and dissolved compounds. Filtering out microorganisms will also need specific filters so before choosing one, you should make sure it’ll work in the way you expect it to.
In addition to the multiple filtration techniques, you can choose from a variety of filters based on the method of operation. You can start by choosing a pitcher in which to store a limited amount of water or go for more comprehensive options, from countertop filters to under-sink and whole-house filters. For our heavy-metal filtration example, you can even find water bottles to give you instant, pure water, which is an excellent option for filtering water on the go or while traveling.
Signs to Watch Out For
Sometimes, you may be able to notice the signs of unclean water before you order a test. If you notice any of the following signs, this means you should lay off drinking from your tap water until you get it tested and fixed:
Obviously, your tap water should be clear. Any turbidity or cloudiness can indicate the presence of uninvited contaminants. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s dangerous to drink, but it means that it may contain some chemicals and pathogens. On the other hand, yellow to brown water indicates the presence of carcinogenic chromium-6, iron, magnesium, lead, or rust, while green water indicates copper, all of which are dangerous to ingest.
You may get clear water, but if it smells funny then it’s definitely not clean either. For instance, if your water smells of chlorine (bleach), then it shouldn’t be ingested. If it smells of rotten eggs, this indicates the presence of hydrogen sulfide, which can cause diarrhea or dehydration.
Altered Taste or Feel
If your water has a metallic taste, even if it’s clear in color, then this can indicate rusty pipes. Rusty pipes can leak several metals into your water such as iron, magnesium, copper, and lead. Water that’s rich in calcium and magnesium becomes hard, leaving white spots on utensils and a greasy feeling on your hands— even after washing them with soap.
Unfortunately, even if your water is devoid of all contamination signs, it may still be unsafe to drink. Many chemicals can leak into your drinking water from drainage pipes, which makes assessing your water essential for your safety.
There’s a huge difference between clean and clear water. While some signs can indicate contamination, many contaminants can be invisible to the naked eye and only identifiable through professional testing. In order to ensure the safety of your drinking water, you should first assess its quality. After identifying the present contaminants, you’ll be able to choose the water filtration method that best suits your needs.