Last week after my weekend hike, I came inside and went to the kitchen. I opened the cabinet above the sink, and pulled out a cup. After filling it with water from the kitchen sink, I took a long, cool drink. Looking closer at the water in the cup, I saw tiny particles floating around the inside of the cup. This led me to wonder what is actually in the water from my sink. How does water get from treatment facilities to my home? Where does it come from? What risks am I facing by drinking this water? I decided to do some personal research of my own to learn more about water quality and contamination.
How Does Water Become Contaminated?
From the water source all the way to your faucet at home, water is susceptible to contamination at every stage of the process. Water sourced from rivers and lakes is vulnerable to contamination by means of acid rain, pesticide runoff, stormwater runoff, and industrial waste. Additionally, groundwater found in wells and other natural sources can be contaminated by natural disease producing pathogens from underground chemical storage and landfill runoff.
Although water treatment facilities are designed to clean and decontaminate water from natural sources, sometimes this is not enough to create clean, clear water. Oftentimes, the chemical chlorine is added to water to kill and reduce bacteria before distribution. Chlorine can react with naturally occurring chemicals to produce hazardous byproducts such as trihalomethanes and halogenic acetic acids. If chlorine itself makes its way into your tap water, this can also have undesirable side effects. On its journey to your faucets, water undergoes the risk of pressure breaks and growth of microorganisms in old, rusty pipes. All of these different factors can make the distribution of water from its sources to your home a hazardous route to travel.
What are the Risks of Consuming Unfiltered Water?
While local water suppliers follow their own set of regulations and rules, this does not mean that our tap water is 100% free of harmful contaminants. Human contact with some of the dangerous chemicals and contaminants mentioned above can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and skin irritation. Along with the undesirable short-term health effects, unfiltered water can lead to some hazardous chronic health problems. Perchlorate found in tap water has been shown to cause long-term thyroid issues. Radium that can potentially seep into the water leads to significantly higher rates of bone, liver, and breast cancer. The chemical element arsenic can appear naturally in untreated water from a variety of sources. Arsenic has been shown to accelerate or cause the onset of Type II Diabetes, lung cancer, liver cancer and lymphatic cancer. When drinking tap water we most likely will not get acutely ill from dangerous microorganisms. However, the long-term and cumulative effects of contaminants in tap water are significant.
How to Reduce the Risk
If you want to mitigate the risks of unfiltered tap water, there is a simple solution. Protecting your home and family from the hazards of unfiltered water can be accomplished by the use of a water filtration system. This is one of the most foolproof and cost-efficient systems of making sure your drinking water is clean and safe to use. Whether you are using a whole-house system or a drinking water system (countertop or under sink), this is perhaps the most reliable way to protect your home water supply.
For suggestions and recommendations of water filtration systems, check out our filtration options.
Benefits of Filtration
Along with providing clean, safe water to your home and family, there are a number of other benefits which a water filter can bring. Proper water filtration has been shown to reduce costs at a number of levels. As an alternative to bottled water, using filtered tap water reduces the amount of waste being created and less plastic being consumed. Water filters are available to address specific contaminants that may be present in your municipal or well water. By installing a water filter in your household, you are not only improving your water quality, you are receiving peace of mind.