With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.

Experts agree that we need to drink approximately 3.7L (man) or 2.7L (woman) of clean and fresh water every day to stay fit and healthy. Around 20% of this water comes from the food we eat and that leaves a substantial volume that we need to drink to make up the difference. So, it’s natural that medical professionals and the government are interested in getting us to drink more water. Sadly, many people don’t drink enough because they don’t like the taste or they simply forget to hydrate. The former problem is the focus of this article, should water have a distinct taste and what is that taste? Let’s find out.

Does Water Have a Distinct Taste?

The tentative short answer to this question is yes, but there are a number of factors that can have a major effect on how your drinking water tastes. It’s important to realize that taste is subjective and your sense of taste may be quite different to another person. Some people will enjoy the taste of your drinking water, or they may have no strong feelings about it while others may dislike it intensely. That being said, there are certain properties of water that most people agree on and we tend to know when drinking water tastes good.

The only way to know the true taste of pure water is to drink some distilled or reverse osmosis (RO) water. When all the salts, minerals, contaminants, and other materials are removed, water can taste quite bland to many palettes. So, it’s fair to say that the mineral content of the water tends to impart a certain taste that you may enjoy. This is why some people prefer one brand of mineral water over another and why there are so many choices of bottled water available. Let’s take a look at four key factors that affect the taste of your drinking water in more detail:

1.   The Mineral Content

As we mentioned above, the mineral content can vary a great deal depending on the rock, soil and sand that the water has passed through. Water is a very effective solvent, it dissolves materials and adds them to its makeup. It’s possible to express the mineral content of water by the number of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) present in a given sample. A high level of TDS equates to high levels of dissolved minerals and vice versa. A high TDS number can indicate the presence of hard water that can damage your plumbing system and water using appliances too.

2.   Disinfectants and Byproducts

Water received from the local water treatment plant is typically disinfected with chlorine or chloramine, which is chlorine mixed with ammonia, to boost the efficacy. Chlorine based disinfectants have been an effective disinfection method for many years and they kill many types of microorganisms. But, the main problem with these chemicals is that they impart a “swimming pool” taste and odor to the drinking water. This is particularly noticeable if you live closer to the water treatment plant because more is added to maintain the efficacy throughout the water delivery network. Another problem with chlorine based water treatment is that recent studies have linked chlorine byproducts to illnesses. The only alternative is to install a water filtration system in your home that can remove the chlorine disinfectant and byproducts. An RO system is mechanical in nature, no chemicals are added and the result is purer water.

3.   Sodium and Chlorides (Salts)

If your drinking water has a distinct salty taste, there are a couple of likely causes; sodium, and chlorides. These are both salt compounds that can enter our water as it makes its way to our homes and they are not removed at the water treatment plant.

Sodium tends to be found in softened water, the most effective softening method is ion-exchange. Salt ions are exchanged for water hardening mineral ions, such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. This can make the water salt, but if you are on a low salt diet it is possible to switch to a potassium water softening salt which is more benign.

Chlorides are salts found in nature, they are added to the makeup of the water as it passes through rocks that contain high concentrations of chloride, Some other possible sources may include: wastewater, agricultural runoff, and even sewage leaks.

If your water turns salty overnight, you should speak to the water supplier. This phenomenon can be caused by contaminants that have entered your water supply recently. If the water is always a little salty, this can be removed efficiently with a RO filtration system along with many other unwanted contaminants.

4.   Bacteria or Hydrogen Sulfide

If you notice a “rotten egg” odor in your water, the usual cause is bacteria or hydrogen sulfide. Water that has a sulfurous taste and odor isn’t dangerous to drink unless the concentrations rise above 0.5 parts per million (ppm). But, for most people, the water will be undrinkable long before then and prolonged exposure has negative consequences. Plumbing pipes that carry water rich in hydrogen sulfide are prone to corrosion and food cooked with this water will taste bad. Hydrogen sulfide is usually removed with an activated carbon filter that makes the water taste clean and fresh again.

In Conclusion

As you can see, the taste of drinking water can be influenced by a number of factors and the “real” taste of water is subjective. The best way to get cleaner drinking water without adding any chemicals is a RO filtration system. The incoming water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane, only water molecules can pass through the tiny pores and the contaminants are left on the surface. The result is clean and pure water that will allow the true taste of your beverages and cooking to shine. It’s true that some people find RO drinking water to be flat or dull, but you can add some healthy mineral content with a little Himalayan pink salt.

If you want to learn more about installing a RO filtration system, a water softener or an activated carbon filter, contact your local water treatment specialist today.