You may drink eight glasses of water daily to stay hydrated and think you’re doing your body good. Water is necessary to develop and maintain healthy bodies and minds, but what if it’s not as clean as you think? Here is what to know about safe water and 3 ways to test your water at home.
Keeping Healthy by Drinking Water
Water is a vital resource for everyone. Your body is 60% of this element, so replenishing it makes sense. Other beverages may have benefits, but water contains no sugar, fat or calories. It is one of the best things you can drink to prevent dehydration.
Living in a developed country with a regulated water supply is fortunate, but there are still things to look out for to ensure your family is safe.
Managing Water Supplies in the United States
Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974 to standardize water supply regulations nationwide. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets public standards and identifies a safe level for more than 90 contaminants. There are two types of rules: National Primary and National Secondary.
- National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Public water authorities must follow these standards when treating and providing water to residential and commercial buildings. They relate directly to the water’s impact on human health.
- Secondary Primary Drinking Water Regulations: These rules are best practices for authorities but do not directly impact your family’s health. While it is valuable for your utility to abide by them, it is not a requirement. The regulations involve things like color, taste and odor.
Why You Should Manage Your Water
While the EPA mandates water utilities follow specific procedures, mistakes happen and negligence falls through the cracks.
Perhaps the most famous occurrence was the Flint, Michigan, water disaster, where lead and other contaminants risked the health of tens of thousands of people. However, other incidents land closer to home.
Recently, officials found that residents across Kentucky may be exposed to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that could increase your family’s cancer risk. In Indiana, there are concerns about bacteria and harmful particles infiltrating public water sources.
Knowing the state of your drinking water can keep your family safe. Tests and filtration can help you avoid potential exposure.
3 Ways to Test Your Water at Home for Quality
There are primarily 3 ways to test your water at home for contaminants. Testing can provide peace of mind for you and your family whenever you have concerns.
1. DIY Test Kits
One of the easiest ways to get a fast reading on your water is by purchasing a do-it-yourself kit.
Test strips allow you to read various contaminant levels such as copper, lead and chlorine. Some can check for hard water, alkalinity and PH balances. Digital readers can tell you the levels of contaminants by parts per million.
2. Laboratory Tests
Laboratory tests are more expensive but can provide a complete picture of your water’s safety. You can purchase the kits in stores or online and send them to professionals who will test them and provide detailed reports on potential dangers.
3. Professional Testing
You can hire a professional to come to your home to test your drinking water. Consultants will bring equipment to check for contaminants and may get you results more quickly than a laboratory.
Another option is contacting your local water utility for the latest annual water quality report.
Testing for Chemicals and Microorganisms
Chemicals are common contaminants in drinking water that can impact your family’s health. Many can be toxic at high levels and have life-changing impacts. Here are some common ones to know.
- Arsenic: Water with arsenic levels greater than 10 parts per billion can increase your family’s cancer risk. It most commonly enters the water supply when rocks and minerals erode and dissolve into it.
- Lead: There is no safe level of lead in drinking water. The most common cause of exposure is the corrosion of pipes and other plumbing materials. Lead consumption can interfere with red blood cell production and damage your family’s brains and kidneys.
- Pesticides: Pesticides often enter the water supply through home gardens and the agricultural industry but are usually not high enough to harm your health. Some can be safe at certain levels. Drinking water with too-high levels will result in nausea, chemical burns or convulsions.
Microorganisms are viruses, bacteria and fungi that you can’t see in your water but could impact your family’s health. Coliform and E. coli are drinking water’s most common dangerous microorganisms.
- Coliform: These bacteria are in animal digestive tracts. Particles from their waste can enter the water supply, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, fever and dehydration. It is most dangerous to children and older adults.
- E. coli: This bacteria commonly enters drinking water through agricultural storm runoff infected with sewage waste or animal feces. It causes stomach cramps, diarrhea and occasional fever.
Both microorganisms’ symptoms normally appear within a few days of drinking contaminated water.
Improving Your Drinking Water
Installing a filtration system can help ensure your family’s drinking water is safe. There are many options.
- Point-of-use filters: These water tap filters reduce contaminants that pass through. They operate just as your typical tap does, so it’s easy for kids to adapt. You can choose one that filters all the water or one with the option to switch between filtered and original tap water.
- Reverse osmosis filters: They take water from your sink and use pressure to force it through a membrane to eliminate contaminants.
- Activated carbon filters: This common water filter has three options: under-sink, whole-home or pitchers. They attract and soak up contaminants, leaving purified water behind.
Other ways to ensure water safety include conducting regular testing, being aware of any boil water advisories in the area and contacting your utility if you have concerns.
Testing Your Water to Keep Your Home Safe
While many homes’ tap water is safe to drink, it’s best to be sure. Safe drinking water can help keep your family healthy. Testing and taking appropriate action ensures your supply is the best quality it can be.