A primer on drinking water, hard water and problem water concerns and solutions.
|Water plays a huge role in our everyday lives. We can live for weeks without food but only days without water. As a matter of fact, there’s a little water in just about everything. Since water is such an important part of our lives, many people are becoming more and more concerned about its quality.
According to the 2001 National Consumer Water Quality Survey commissioned by the Water Quality Association (WQA), 86 percent of respondents have concerns about their home water supply and nearly half believe federal laws governing the quality of drinking water are not strict enough.
Reports from the media have done much to heighten awareness about water quality issues. 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.
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 will receive 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 is tasteless, odorless, and colorless and can find its way into your water via soldered pipe connections. Lead-based solder was used in homes built as recently as the late 1980’s.
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 April 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 Your Drinking Water
• 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
Other problems that cannot be easily identified include:
• Toxic Elements – such as hexavalent chromium, arsenic and lead.
• Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – include commercial chemicals and pesticides.
• Microorganisms – include cysts, bacteria and viruses that can live in water.
The above contaminants are not necessarily in your water. The only way to be certain is to have your water tested.