Everybody’s aware of the importance of regularly drinking water throughout the day, especially when exercising or facing high temperatures. The NASEM (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) concluded that to maintain optimal hydration, men should consume approximately 3.7 liters of fluids while women only need about 2,7 liters. 20% of that should come from foods that contain water, and the other 80% should be water itself (of course, it can be obtained from other beverages, but water is by far the healthiest option in everyday life). Since you are supposed to drink that much water, obtaining it from your tap is the most practical way to do it. But is it completely safe?
1. How safe is Tap Water?
If you recently moved to a new house, don’t assume its tap water is safe to drink just because it has an ordinary taste. The first thing you should do is try to find out where your water is coming from. If it comes from a public water system, there should be no problems as the municipal sites responsible for your water’s treatment are subject to rigorous control and frequent inspections to make sure they meet a series of safety standards. But even then, problems can happen. Some kind of malfunction in the water supply system could rapidly endanger your water’s quality.
By law, you must be informed of any issue that could impact your health following short-term exposure to contaminated water within 24 hours. But even after the water is properly treated, it still has contaminants – in such low levels that they pose no kind of threat for a healthy person.
However, for people with HIV, pregnant women, transplant patients, children, and people undergoing chemotherapy, tap water is not recommended because even in low amounts, the contaminants still pose a serious threat to them. If, on the other hand, your tap water comes from a private well, you should definitely have it tested. Logically, private wells are not regulated by any official entity.
Thus, if you want to make sure your water is good for human consumption, you must test it and seek a local expert so that he can give you his opinion on the state of your well. The quality of your water will depend on several factors such as the well’s location, how often its maintenance is done, its build quality, and the human activities around your neighborhood (pollution, agriculture, etc.).
If you tested your water once and the results showed that it is perfectly safe, don’t think you are set for life. You should regularly test the water to make sure that it stays that way because the use of pesticides and other chemicals could start contaminating your tap water from one year to the next. If the results show some kind of concern, you should ask the expert what your options are.
Know that there are some excellent well water filter systems like the “reverse osmosis system”, that removes a great number of toxins (among which are nitrates, arsenic, and heavy metals). In some cases, a simpler carbon filter should be enough as it can filtrate lead and chlorine.
2. Tap water vs. bottled water
People intuitively assume bottled water to be safer than tap water. And for many, that is the reason behind their preference for bottled water. But that is not necessarily true.
Bottled water is regulated by the FDA, and although the requirements are a high standard, the FDA doesn’t have the means nor the power to do as much testing and control as the entity that regulates public water suppliers – the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Besides, by consuming bottled water, you are increasing your ecological footprint unnecessarily.
Every year, 38 billion plastic water bottles end up in landfills. That’s over 2 million tons of plastic that will remain polluting our planet for centuries before it decomposes (not to mention the amount of water bottles that will end up in the oceans). And this is data for the United States alone.
If your tap water is safe but you don’t like its taste, you can buy a home water filtration system like the Aqua Pura AP-DWS1000 to make it as tasteless as possible. This is one of the most common reasons to install a water filter because, in some states, water needs to be treated with chlorine (known as “hard-water”), which can make it taste a bit weird.
Please note that a filtering system requires maintenance. If you don’t do it, it will not only protect you from contaminated water but will actually make things worse by accumulating contaminants in the filter and pushing them in high amounts into the water.
3. Dangers of drinking unfiltered water
Contaminated water health effects depend on the type of impurities present in it. High amounts of nitrates in water can put children in immediate danger because once in the intestines, nitrates are transformed in nitrites, which in turn prevent blood from carrying oxygen. Kidney problems and high blood pressure could be signs of prolonged exposure to lead-tainted water.
One of the most threatening water contaminants is cryptosporidium, a pathogen that could make you develop a fatal gastrointestinal disease. Some people think that boiling water removes all the contaminants present in it, but that’s absolutely not true.
While there are some benefits of boiling tap water, like killing all the germs, there are some noteworthy downsides.
Boiling reduces the total volume of water, so that means that the nitrates, lead, and pesticides will still be there and in more concentration – making them more dangerous.
Don’t confuse boiling water with distillation units —the later function by boiling water and condense the steam, a process used to create distilled water. In short, it is highly recommended that you test your tap water to understand its composition and act accordingly.
Just because it has some specific contaminants, that doesn’t mean you should immediately switch to bottled water. Inform yourself and try to find a solution that suits you best. We’re sure there will be a water filter system that fits your needs. The environment will thank you.