In our everyday lives, we rely on water for a variety of purposes. We bathe with water, drink water, and use it for cooking and cleaning around the home. About 87% of all United States residents – approximately 283 million people – get their water from a public supply such as a city or regional water system. Rigorous standards for safe drinking water mean that this water is generally safe to use in the home. Still, contamination of city water supplies can and does occur. In addition, potentially harmful chemicals or contaminants that may be below maximum allowable limits can be found in municipal supplies. To ensure safe drinking water in the home, a reverse osmosis water system can both remove contaminants and offer peace of mind for you and your family.
Safe Drinking Water: More Than Meets the Eye
If you get your water from a municipal source, your water may be crystal clear and have great taste and odor characteristics. While these characteristics can be signs of contaminant-free water, there is more to water quality than what we can observe with our senses.
Dissolved minerals, industrial and agricultural residues, biological pathogens, and heavy metals or petroleum traces can be found in water supplies around the world. In many cases, these contaminants go undetected unless laboratory testing of water sources is conducted or if illness should strike water users.
Consider also the network of pipes that deliver safe drinking water from municipal sources to end-users. Water may meet standards as it leaves the city’s water treatment facility but can pick up contaminants along the way to your home. A ruptured or damaged pipe can allow contaminants to enter your home’s water; corroded plumbing or fixtures in your home may also contribute to water contamination. In other words, a lot can happen during the water’s journey to your faucets. Chemical contaminants in drinking water can put your health at risk. With a reverse osmosis water system, you can remove those contaminants, ensuring safe, clean, and freshwater for cooking, bathing, and drinking.
Maximum Allowable Limits of Contaminants
Did you know that certain chemical and biological contaminants are allowed by safe drinking water standards? Public water systems must adhere to stringent water safety standards, yet contaminants may still be present in your water supply.
Water quality is governed by the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR), established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These are legally enforceable standards and treatment techniques that public water systems must meet. The purpose of these regulations is to limit levels of contaminants in drinking water. Some contaminants, such as protozoan cysts, fecal coliforms, and viruses have an allowable limit of zero. Others, such as chlorites, chloramines, barium, asbestos fibers, cadmium, copper, and fluoride, may be allowed in small amounts. Water safety regulators balance permissible contaminant levels against their potential to cause health issues; in cases where small amounts of chemical contaminants are allowed, these tiny levels have been deemed to pose little to no health risk.
Where Do Contaminants Come From?
Safe drinking water is an issue many of us take for granted. When we pour a glass of water from our tap, we give little thought to the possibility that harmful contaminants can threaten our health. Contamination can come from numerous sources, including:
- Damaged or broken water supply lines
- Runoff from industrial and agricultural sources
- Natural disasters (flooding, storm surges, earthquakes)
- Damage to or corrosion of plumbing pipes and fixtures in the home
- Sewage spills
- Septic tank failures
- Geological weathering of subsurface minerals
- Chemical residues from the water treatment process
Natural disasters and severe weather events are perhaps the most common sources of widespread water contamination. When a severe rain event or hurricane hits, sewage treatment systems and retention ponds can overflow, causing contaminants to enter water sources such as lakes, reservoirs, or rivers.
Common Contaminants in Drinking Water Supplies
Contaminants in drinking waterfall into three major categories: Chemical, Biological, and Mineral. When water supplies are contaminated, these substances can negatively impact our health and safety. Common chemical contaminants of concern to public health officials include:
Residues from the water treatment process – the chemicals used to disinfect water at municipal treatment facilities – can also be present. These chemicals include chlorine, ammonia, chloramine, and chlorites. If these residues are present at sufficient levels, illness can occur.
What Can Happen if I Drink Contaminated Water?
Water that is contaminated may look and taste like ordinary water, but may ultimately put you and your loved ones at risk. Without testing the water, you may not know you are consuming dangerous substances until you develop symptoms. Common symptoms associated with drinking contaminated water include:
- Joint pain
- Cognitive and behavioral changes
Much of the time, these symptoms resolve on their own, especially if safe drinking water replaces the contaminated sources. Chronic exposure to chemical contamination in water can lead to long-term health risks, such as the development of certain forms of cancer, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, and even death.
Protecting Against Water Contamination
Clean water is essential to our everyday lives. We depend on safe drinking water for uses in and around the home, including drinking, cooking, and bathing. How can we protect ourselves and our loved ones from consuming water contaminated with chemicals? A reverse osmosis water system can ensure clean, fresh, great-tasting water.
Reverse osmosis is a mechanical process where water is pumped under pressure through a semipermeable membrane. The membrane is equipped with tiny pores – pores so small they can trap bacteria, viruses, and dissolved minerals. Most advanced reverse osmosis water systems in the home include multiple filter stages to produce safe drinking water. The first stages remove suspended solids such as sand, silt, and minerals. Once the water passes through the reverse osmosis membrane, the water then travels through one or more filter elements that remove harmful chemical contaminants like petroleum, agricultural pesticides, and heavy metals. Activated carbon filter elements improve the taste, odor, and clarity of the water. Finally, clean water is delivered right to the RO faucet, ready to enjoy.
A reverse osmosis water system is installed between the water supply lines and the RO faucet. They are easy to maintain, requiring only periodic backflushing and replacement of filter cartridges. Reverse osmosis is effective, removing up to 99% of contaminants that can threaten your health and safety. With one of these systems in place, you and your family can enjoy great-tasting, fresh, and safe drinking water for uses around your home.