Monday, August 01, 2005

Is Your Water Safe?

With concerns about the environment, many folks are wondering if their water is safe to drink. Given that water has been the carrier for many illnesses throughout history, that’s not an unreasonable concern!

I’m going to make a couple of assumptions about you. I’m assuming that you live in the United States, or Canada. I’m going to assume that you either get your water from a municipal water supply, or from a well. And by making these assumptions, I can make the further assumption that your water is completely safe to drink.

There are exceptions. If you have any doubts, call someone, and get information. If you’re in a city, and getting your water from a city source, the switchboard at city hall can connect you to the person you need to speak to. If you have a well, most areas require periodic testing for bacteria and contaminants. If your well is contaminated, they will let you know.

But the exceptions are just that, exceptions. And most people do not need to worry about their drinking water.

If the water is not safe for some reason, you have a couple of options available. One is to use bottled water, which -- although certainly more than tap water -- can be surprisingly affordable.

But a cheaper way to deal with water problems is to install a filter on your sink. The filter will usually have an on/off switch. This allows you to only use the filter for purposes of drinking water, and avoid paying to filter water that’s being used to, say, water the plants. I don’t really encourage you to install a filter on your own, unless you’re awfully good with plumbing. It’s more complicated than the instructions make it sound. Another -- more low tech -- alternative is to use filters installed in special water pitchers. In these, you fill the pitcher with water, and pour out your drinking water as you need it.

Filters can sometimes be good for dealing with water that -- while it may be safe-- is just not particularly good tasting. In either case, don’t hesitate to use them if needed. But at the same time, don’t fall for some of the fear tactics that have been used to scare people in the last few years. And if you decide to buy a filter, make sure you comparison shop, and ask hard questions. Some of the things you might want to ask: how long will the filter last? How often do I have to change the filter? Can I change it myself, or will I need a professional to do it? What will the filter filter out? Will it remove bad tastes? And -- last but not least -- what is the cost of the system?


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