To this day, one of the most telling ways to identify a developed country is by looking at the state of their water. For the most part, the US enjoys a clean and ample supply that is delivered straight to the people’s homes.
However, the state of the world’s climate is changing which has an effect on the natural as well as the processed water delivered by municipality. A lot depends on the potability and usability of the latter as it is also known as tap water and used for everyday living.
The state of the people’s health depends on how well the water treatment plants carry out the collection, storage, and distribution as well. With such a high stake, it is important for the layperson to know what the considerations are for the water used in and around their households and jobs contain.
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The Characteristics of Water
One of the two primary main considerations is water turbidity. It is measure of transparency of the water and is said to relate to the microorganisms found in it. Also an indication of the quality and effectiveness of the water treatment, the idea is the more opaque the water, the more disease causing microorganisms are contained within. Water corrosivity is the second consideration which is determined by the alkalinity and pH of tap water.
Alkalinity is the capacity of the water to resist pH changes. This may happen when water is boiled or cooled. The more alkaline the tap water, the more acidic it is.
The pH range of any solution falls from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Less than that is an acidic solution and more than that is considered a basic solution, neither of which are considered good.
Unprocessed natural water usually has a pH of 6 to 8.5, and tap water pH after processing should be in and around 6.5 to 8.5. This makes the municipally provided water slightly basic or acidic, technically. Water with low pH that ranges from 6.5 to almost 7 is an acidic and alkaline solution. This also makes tap water more corrosive possibly caused by metal piping damage that leaches metal ions like copper and lead. Mostly, this causes a sour or metallic taste to water, staining on sinks and drains as well as clothes. These are the characteristics of what is called soft water.
The softness and hardness of water is a factor that determines metal ion contamination that affects the natural water tap water originally comes from. Hard water is considered that with a pH range of 8.5 to 7, which makes it a basic solution. There is no known health risk besides practical grievances such as decreased efficiency of water heaters, trouble making soap and detergents to foam, and scaling on piping fixtures, dishes, utensils and laundry basins. It must be said that the strength of the slightly acidity or basicity of the tap water solution cannot only be measured by this, however.
There are other considerations that determine the characteristics and limitations of a city water supply. Add to this the pH equilibrium the human body is capable of maintaining on its own. The quality of drinking water as well as its processing is subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They ensure the populace’s protection from contaminants, whether naturally occurring or man made.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink?
There really isn’t a static and final answer to this question. This is because tap water in each state and country varies and it does so according to the weather and a lot of other factors. Generally, unless there is an advisory about the safety of your tap water, it’s all right to drink it if you don’t have a delicate stomach or health problems. Another big part about drink water straight from the tap is the condition of your body and how strong you are against diseases and other free radicals.
If you are quite the health nut and you can withstand the usual bout of illnesses brought on by normal weather changes, here are some benefits you can get from drinking tap water that’s deemed safe:
1. Lower risk for water borne diseases.
One of the benefits of tap water is the reduction of diseases caused by microorganisms that are prevalent in developing countries. Due to the readily available source of water delivered directly to homes and proper sewage system, public health is improved. An additional plus is that it increases life expectancy as water borne diseases are associated historically to a higher mortality rate.
2. Better teeth for everyone.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that comes from rocks and released to the soil, air, as well as water. The addition of fluoride when processing tap water is a common practice as it has no negative effects to the environment.
It was considered by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as the 9th medical achievement of the 20th century. They found that it reduces tooth decay in the general populace by 20%. Children are most susceptible but there is a possibility that adults may contract it too. Water fluoridation saves money for families and the health care system, both.
Most importantly, it is an effective method of delivering fluoride to all community members regardless of age, income level, or educational attainment which makes it one of the major tap water benefits. At all stages of life, the proper amount induced prevent and control teeth decay.
For this reason, it is recommended by almost all medical, dental, and public health organizations including the American Dental Association (AMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
3. No adverse effects to the environment.
There is a general misconception, with no scientific evidence, about the contamination of tap water and the purity of bottled water. What does exist is a study conducted by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in 1999 that concludes that bottled water is not any safer or purer than tap water.
From then to now, there are hardly any differences between in the policies bottled water companies are supposed to follow. A considerable amount of resources are also depleted yearly in the making of bottled water, which includes oil and electricity for bottles, truck fuel and exhaust from diesel, the necessary means for the recycling of bottles, and the 72 billion dollars needed yearly just to make them that have a bad effect to the rapidly depleting environmental and resources.
Not to mention that 2 gallons of water are used to make 1 gallon of bottled water. Both the cost and effects of bottling water can be avoided if more people prescribe to tap water. There is also the risks that come with bottled water. It is not common knowledge that water that have been in the car for too long, for example, should not be drank anymore for there may be an unprecedented change with the chemical composition and the pH of the water when subjected to high temperatures. Another harm may be with the storage as well as the bottle itself.
The EPA only handles the quality of water tests, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests the containers. There have been some oversight with the bottles as which allows for certain chemicals to affect the water. Antimony, for example, develops the longer a water bottle stays untouched and causes vomiting, nausea and even diarrhea. Bottled water is one of the tentative solutions if there is a contamination in the tap water supply. You must also be cautious about the brands of bottled water you consume as some of them are just tap water put in a bottle and marketed at a ridiculous price.
Water bottles with an National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) are safer than those without it as they have standards that are higher than even the FDA’s.
Is Tap Water Bad for You?
If you are, however, prone to stomach aches and intestinal problems, we suggest you boil and clean your water. Your compromised immune system and risk for complications can make tap water difficult for your body to process.
Before you tip back that glass, make sure that you know the possible dangers and risks you face whenever you drink straight from the faucet.
1. Tap water contamination.
Regardless of the safeguards for tap water, there is still the possibility for biological or chemical contamination. The government issues an advisory regarding the consumption of tap water during these times. Usage and consumption of contaminated water has been a leading cause of death in humans, historically.
What is more dangerous are the unregulated chemicals that may find its way in the drinking water. Perchlorate is a chemical used in fireworks, road flares, explosives, and even rocket fuel. It affects the production of the thyroid hormone that is essential in brain development, and is known to decrease IQ and cause learning disabilities, mental retardation as well as increase the possibility for thyroid cancer.
2. Water fluoridation controversy.
Water fluoridation could also cause problems as the dosage cannot be controlled precisely. When it goes over the 1.5 mg/L limit by WHO, it causes overfluoridation. It means the people may be subject to fluoride poisoning that causes vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. This also makes the water have a higher pH. There may also be undetected measures of arsenic and lead in the fluoride compounds used. The definitive effects of overfluoridized water includes dental fluorosis which changes the teeth’s appearance, and increased probability of bone fractures in adults.
3. Flammable tap water.
Hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as fracking, is a method of accessing natural gas and oil recovery. This is all and good for oil companies that only consider the monetary benefit for themselves, but has an altogether harmful effect to the environment and the people proximal to the sites especially. The process of fracking has wastewater byproducts also known as flowback. It contains pollutants like naturally occurring radioactive material that causes respiratory problems, blood disorders, nervous system impacts, birth defects, as well as cancer.
There is also the depletion of oxygen and causing EPA monitored algal blooms that are caused by cyanobacteria that are able to produce toxins and other noxious chemicals. Methane is a gas substance that leaks during the extraction and processing of oil and gas, a rather significant hazard as it furthers along climate change. It is known to cause the 20 year carbon dioxide allowance to be excreted in a year which warms the climate at least 80 times faster. High levels of this causes water to be flammable.
The destructive effects of hydraulic fracturing that also includes air pollution and the destruction of the natural environment is ignored by federal and state agencies to a great extent. Today, it is known that 4 Americans live within a mile of an oil or gas well.
How to Purify Tap Water
Purification is the process of contaminant removal from raw natural water to produce drinking water pure enough for use. It involves 5 steps that is explained in more detail by this EPA link to water treatment. An important thing to mention is that the third step is water filtration.
So if you are about to ask, is tap water filtered? Yes. Yes it is.
Filtering tap water is the separation of solid matter from water via a filter which in this case includes layers of sand, gravel, and charcoal to remove dirt masses known as floc. There are other methods of water purification, however, which include the process of making distilled bottle water. But that’s another topic for another time.
In the market, there also exists tap water purifiers that can be bought commercially for home use.
How to Filter Tap Water
There is an argument to be made involving filtered water vs tap water. However, as mentioned above, tap water is technically already filtered. If your next question is how to filter tap water at home, then there are ways in which to do that.
There are commercially available tap water filters or your whole home depending on your budget. But first you should consider the most immediate concern in the tap water in your area. For this you can check the EPA website, or the NRDC one that provides them for you. This is necessary because there are different types you can buy to filter tap water that addresses separate issues.
You should also check for NSF certifications. Maintenance is needed which should be done as often as the manufacturer recommendation which you can do yourself or hire out to maintenance companies to do it for you. Just to be extra safe, you should also consult your health care provider for tap water filter advice.
Alternative Methods of Creating Potable Water
There are also alternative methods in terms of how to filter tap water without a filter. Boiling is one of the surest methods of creating potable water in case of emergencies. It kills viruses, bacteria, and parasites that might cause disease. The taste can be easily improved by a pinch of salt for every liter. You just have to bring the raw, clear water to a rolling boil for a minute.
Chloride and iodine tablets are also readily available and will kill the most harmful water borne diseases. It is necessary to remember that filtered tap water is just a temporary fix along with bottled water and the other alternative methods of creating potable water. What is most necessary is to push for better treatment of municipal tap water so the resources aren’t needlessly depleted.
So in the matter of tap water vs filtered water, you should chose tap water in the long run but consider filtering your tap water for now. A threat to the water you use daily means a threat to the quality of life and your good health.
Of the amount of water used yearly, 10% is used for households, 20% for industry use, and 70% is used for agriculture. That means that if the quality of water that is used every day declines, it would affect all the necessary needs that are to be met to continue living a healthy and fulfilled life for you and your family. It is imperative for everyone to know the state of their tap water supply. Get yourself informed now!
5 Tips to Ensure Tap Water Safety
- Check your local water report for any contaminants or bacteria in the water.
- Invest in a water filter to remove any impurities from the tap water.
- Test your tap water regularly for any changes in taste, smell, or color.
- Avoid drinking tap water if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system.
- If you are unsure about the safety of your tap water, opt for bottled or filtered water instead.
ALSO: Boil your tap water before drinking it to ensure that it is safe and free of contaminants!
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About The Author
Carolyn Rodriguez works at AllAboutWaterFilters as a content research writer, specializing in content resources regarding water pollution, contamination, and treatment. She has previously worked as an editing assistant, content production assistant, research assistant, and ghost writer for a range of websites, with a particular concentration on water pollution. She is currently writing regularly for AllAboutWaterFilters as well as her own water safety essays across the web.