If you have read the previous post on hydration, you will know that drinking too much water can be as problematic as consuming too little. Nonetheless, our bodies do require the proper amount of fresh water as well as a clean source of water to cook with. We must therefore be as vigilant accessing unpolluted water to drink as we are sourcing unprocessed foods to eat.
Once upon a time, most fresh water was pure and drinkable. Although there exists the risk of a water-born infection (such as Giardia), industrial waste and agrochemical runoff has changed the playing field. Depending on where you live, the proximity of factories, farms, and transportation hubs to the local water table can produce minimal to outright toxic levels of contaminants. Then there are the chemical compounds that we as individuals add to the slurry, such as expired or excreted pharmaceutical drugs, common household chemicals, and the chlorine and fluoride added to the water supply by municipalities. Taken together, this accounts for quite the crapshoot when it comes to drinking water.
Should skepticism arise concerning the health and safety of tap water, one need only consult the data compiled by the environmental working group. According to their report of almost 20 million records where over 300 pollutants were found:
“More than half of the chemicals detected are not subject to health or safety regulations and can legally be present in any amount. The federal government does have health guidelines for others, but 49 of these contaminants have been found in one place or another at levels above those guidelines, polluting the tap water for 53.6 million Americans. The government has not set a single new drinking water standard since 2001.”
Another recent study testing water for active pharmaceutical ingredients from 50 large wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. found that every sample contained measurable levels of the blood pressure regulating drug hydrochlorothiazide with several other drugs appearing in 90% of the samples taken.
Bottled water appears no safer than tap water (many brands of bottled water are filled from tap water sources) plus they also have the potential for the leaching of plastic residues from the bottle itself. Anyone who has taken a sip of water from a bottle left on the dashboard of their car on a hot sunny day will taste this truth immediately.
If your home plumbs to a municipal water supply, you will be able to find limited details about the water quality from the local governance, while those on well-water will have even less information garnered from a yearly well check. Consumers can opt to self-pay for a home test kit which offers a much more robust evaluation of toxic materials. This can be a worthy investment to help you choose how to access clean water, and in the case of home filtering, how elaborate that filtering system needs to be.
Many options pervade the market, from tap water, home-filtered tap water, and store bought bottles of water. They all have their pros and cons though when price per gallon, convenience, and quality of filtration are all taken into consideration, purchasing a home filtration system is the most sensible choice. The question then becomes what type of filter to use, as the initial investment can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
The basic mechanism of home filtration is one or more stages of carbon filtration to draw out organic pollutants and chemicals added to the water supply for disinfection, such as chlorine. If there is fluoride in your water, you can find home units which include a second-stage filter to mitigate fluoride exposure; however, the only sure way to remove it entirely is via distillation or reverse osmosis.
Although effective, distillation and reverse osmosis units are typically more expensive for home filtration and leave water completely devoid of beneficial minerals. If you choose one of these methods, be sure to add a pinch of unprocessed mineral-rich salt to a glass of water to balance the osmotic effect of empty water on your body.
The environmental working group has produced a water filter buying guide to help consumers navigate through the murky waters. Another great source is Consumer Reports which regularly releases unbiased data on filtration options.
If you are unsure where to start, have your water tested by either an independent lab or through state facilities certified by the EPA. Knowing your individual situation will go along way in guiding your efforts for obtaining pure drinking water.