Water quality is an important concern no matter where you live. Contamination with bacteria can make you acutely sick, and other contaminants such as heavy metals and chemicals can cause medical problems if they are ingested over the long term. Therefore, you want your water to be as pure as possible whether you drink municipal water or water from a private well. Here are a few things to know about how water is treated to make it safe for drinking.
Treatment Depends on the Source
Every water source is different. The mineral makeup depends on the geology of the local area. The local environment also contributes to the main type of pollution. For instance, water sources near large commercial farms become contaminated with farm runoff while sources near factories may be contaminated with heavy metals and other chemicals. Plus, the physical location of the water plays a role in its purity too.
Deep groundwater from wells is usually the best-filtered water since it is made from rain that has filtered through the soil and rock. Because of the level of filtering involved, groundwater usually has a low amount of bacteria, but it can still be contaminated with local chemical runoff. Water reservoirs that are above the level of human activity and protected from commercial pollution tend to have a lot of organic matter, algae, and protozoa. Water that is sourced from nearby rivers that flow through cities and past farms and industrial sites are the most contaminated with chemicals, heavy metals, and bacteria. The only way to know what is in the water, whether it is at the point where it exits the ground or comes from your tap, is to have it tested.
Treating Municipal Supplies
A water-treatment specialist determines the most appropriate way to make your local water supply safe for drinking depending on how polluted it is at the source. It will be filtered with screens first to get rid of large debris, and then it will be passed through smaller filters, such as layers of sand, in order to get rid of tiny particulates. Then, the water will be disinfected. This can be done with chlorine or some other chemical, or it can be done with ozone or UV radiation. Chemicals may also be added that cause particles in the water to clump together so they fall to the bottom of a holding tank. Finally, the pH of the water may need to be adjusted so it is not too high or too low. If the pH is too extreme, it could cause metals to leach out of the plumbing system as the water flows to your house.
Treating Well Water
If you have well water, you may be lucky enough to have water that is free from contamination, but you still need to test your water on a regular schedule to make sure nothing fouls your well. You still may need the water to be treated if it has excess minerals that cause scaling and stains in your home. A water softener removes some of the minerals through a chemical reaction, but it doesn't get rid of contaminants. For that reason, when you have well water, you may need a water softener and a water filter that gets rid of sediments and small particulates in the water.
Home Water Treatment
Although the city treats your water, you may have better peace of mind about water quality if you treat the water in your home before you use it. You can do that with a carbon filter attached to the end of your sink faucet, or you can invest more money and install a reverse-osmosis system under your sink. A home-filtration system is a good choice if you don't like the way your city water tastes because of the mineral composition, and this kind of system is also extra insurance that the water is as free from contamination as possible after passing through pipes to get to your faucet.
Water is vital for life, but drinking contaminated water can do more harm than good. That's why so much effort and monitoring is put into purifying the municipal water supply. You may find quarterly or monthly water-testing reports listed on your city's website, or you can buy a test kit and test your water yourself. It's always best to know what you are drinking and to filter water if you're not sure it's safe just to make sure there is adequate water treatment in place.