When tap water is safe for drinking it is the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly and convenient way to stay hydrated. The environmental impact of plastic for bottled water is huge because plastic takes a very long time to degrade, not to mention the massive amount of greenhouse gasses emitted from plastic bottle manufacturers. The quality of tap water will vary by location. However, most cities and countries in the first world have drinkable tap water that is often taken for granted. Most tap water comes from lakes, rivers, and groundwater. Usually, this water is sent to a treatment plant and then stored accordingly before transmitting to homes through various pipes.
Steps A City Takes To Treat Water
The general process of making drinking water safe at the treatment plant involves four main steps:
1. Coagulation and flocculation: This is the first step where chemicals such as iron or aluminum salts are added to the water. These chemicals have a positive charge that neutralizes and dissolves negatively charged impurities causing them to bind together.
2. Sedimentation: These heavy particles settle to the bottom of the water tank.
3. Filtration: The clearest water on top passes through different filters made of sand, gravel, and charcoal to remove impurities like dust, chemicals, and bacteria.
4. Disinfection: Chlorine or chloramine are added to kill other smaller germs or bacteria that are not filtered in step 3. Similarly, fluorine is added for the prevention of tooth decay. Other chemicals as needed are added to adjust the water hardness or pH levels to prevent corrosion on the pipes.
What Can Make Tap Water Unsafe
Depending on the location the EPA claims that all water that is considered safe does contain some small traces of contaminants, but this does not mean that a human will be at risk from tap water consumption. However, in some locations drinking water can be severely contaminated and people can become seriously ill and even die from drinking contaminated tap water. In the United States, the EPA publishes resources to figure out the tap water quality level in your specific city. It is important that people read and know the water toxicity levels of their city. However, this still does not mean that drinking water might be safe for your specific location.
Common Culprits of Contaminated Water
Some of the most common culprits of bad water are lead pipes which are very common all over the Northeast and Midwest United States. These lead pipes become degraded over time and need replacement. Unfortunately, because they are buried underground, they are out of sight and out of mind. Most cities do not budget accordingly for their replacement, which can be quite expensive. Lead pipes are said to be the cause of the water crisis in cities like Baltimore and Flint. According to the EPA low levels of lead can cause behavior problems in kids and affect their brain growth. Many cities might opt to add phosphate to their water so that these lead pipes are coated with it. Water can also be contaminated from nitrate runoff in rivers or groundwater in cities located near agricultural industries. High levels of nitrites can cause shortness of breath in babies, which can lead to death. Some other places have water with high salinity which can lead to high rates of heart disease. Additionally, any water source has the potential to be contaminated with waterborne diseases.
Solutions To Unsafe Tap Water
For those homes that have moderate levels of contaminants in their drinking water. According to experts a proper over the counter filtration system, such as an activated carbon blocking system or reverse osmosis system have an easy and quick installation and is relatively inexpensive. These filtration systems make a good option for getting rid of most contaminants, sediments, and pathogens that are unsafe for humans. However, if the water contamination levels from the EPA are high to extreme, more complex and expensive systems such as distillation units are recommended. For extreme measures boiling or bottled water is recommended.
The EPA website should be checked all the time to determine the water quality of your city. However, even if they are good it might still be a good idea to have some sort of inexpensive filtration system for additional measures. At times it is common for water to get contaminated once it leaves the treatment plant from things such as lead pipes and rusted pipes that are corroded with sediments that can lead to hard water. Thus, homeowners must do their due diligence when it comes to determining if their tap water is safe for consumption and what steps they can take to make it safer for their families.