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Seeking Clean Drinking Water
Consumer concern over quality is growing
- Photo: Flickr
We can live for weeks without food but only days without water. Since water is such an essential part of our health and well-being, many people are becoming more and more concerned about the quality of drinking water.
According to a 2008 survey commissioned by the Water Quality Association (WQA), 67 percent of respondents have concerns about their home water supply and half believe federal laws governing the quality of drinking water are not strict enough.
Media reports have done much to heighten awareness about water quality issues, including reports about pharmaceuticals being found in water. Even Hollywood has contributed by producing movies such as Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action, both of which dramatically detail real-life results of water contamination.
It's no wonder that many savvy consumers are choosing drinking water alternatives, such as bottled water and home water filtration systems.
Determining the Quality of Drinking Water
There are a number of problems that can affect the quality of the water you drink. The only way to be certain what's in your water is to have it tested.
Water treatment professionals can have your water tested by certified laboratories and help you decipher the results. If you are supplied with water by a local water utility, you can obtain an annual Consumer Confidence Report that shows the levels of various contaminants found in your water supply.
Some people judge the quality of their water by its taste or appearance. Unfortunately, our senses aren't the best contaminant detection devices. While bad odors, unusual colors, or metallic tastes usually indicate a drinking water problem, some go undetected. Lead, for example, is tasteless, odorless, and colorless and can find its way into your water via soldered pipe connections , which were used in homes built as recently as the late 1980s.
And even though cities generally use chlorine to disinfect water to prevent illness and disease, chlorination is not a foolproof disinfection method. Unexpected outbreaks of certain microorganisms can still occur. Cryptosporidium, a waterborne parasite, caused several hundred thousand people to become ill in Milwaukee in 1993. Although it's disinfected, city water may encounter contaminants once it leaves the treatment plant and travels through miles of distribution lines before it reaches your home.
What You Can Find in Drinking Water
The most common drinking water quality complaints, because they are easily identifiable and often leave water aesthetically unappealing, include:
- Chlorine Taste/Odor - generally caused by chlorine used by municipalities to disinfect their water supplies.
- Musty, Earthy, Fishy Tastes/Odors - caused by algae, molds and bacteria that live in water and can multiply within a home's plumbing system.
- Cloudiness/Turbidity - results from suspended particles of sediment.
- "Rotten Egg" Smell - comes from hydrogen sulfide in water.
- Color - linked to decaying organic matter (tannins) and metals such as iron.
- Metallic Taste or Odor - caused by elevated levels of iron and other metals.
- "Lighter Fluid" Taste or Odor - can be caused by methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive that's recently come under public scrutiny may be phased out.
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