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.
This may seem to be a bold statement, but we all need access to clean water to stay fit and healthy. In fact, water makes up over ⅔ of our body weight, and any person can die if they are deprived of water for a few days. Our brains are 95% water, our lungs are 90% water, and our blood is 82% water. Even a tiny 2% drop in water consumption can trigger the earliest symptoms of dehydration, such as brain fog, headaches, and a dry mouth. Feelings of fatigue are exacerbated by even moderate levels of dehydration, and our bodies simply cannot work effectively if we don’t drink enough clean water each day.
The Dangers of Untreated Water
Many areas of the world have limited, or no access to a clean water supply and this can lead to a wide variety of serious health issues. In the first world, this is less of a problem because we have water treatment plants to disinfect and clean our water. This removes most of the contaminants that can cause harm, but the system isn’t perfect, and contamination can occur. There are three main ways that untreated water can be hazardous to human health.
If drinking water is unfiltered, it can contain a number of different contaminants, such as chlorine and chloramine byproducts, fluoride, parasites, and dioxins. The exact composition will vary a great deal depending on where you live and your local water conditions. All of these contaminants can be harmful to health, and the only way to remove them is through water filtration.
Sadly, a great deal of the water found in our rivers, lakes, and aquifers is now polluted and unfit to drink without water treatment. The sources of pollution can include heavy metals, agricultural and industrial runoff, organic materials, dissolved lead, drug byproducts, and many others. Our water is sourced from these waterways; treatment is the only way to clean this water and make it fit to use in our homes.
- Waterborne Diseases
The World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled an extensive list of the most dangerous waterborne diseases, including typhoid, hepatitis A, botulism, polio, cholera, cryptosporidiosis, and dysentery. These diseases threaten many lives all over the world where access to clean water isn’t guaranteed. All of these waterborne diseases can be caused by bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and intestinal parasites.
As you can see, when the water quality is poor it can be difficult for our minds and bodies to work properly. We may feel fatigued, bloated and dehydrated if we don’t get enough clean and fresh water. Our public water treatment facilities remove many of the major contaminants that we’ve shown in this article. But, they may not remove any contaminants that affect how your water tastes and smells. Also, if those public water treatment systems fail, it’s a great idea to have an extra line of defense in your own home.
Home Water Purification Methods
There are a number of water purification methods to choose from depending on the local water conditions and the homeowners’ budget. Let’s look at three of the most popular modern options.
- Reverse Osmosis (RO)
In recent years, RO has become increasingly popular because of its effectiveness at removing a wide variety of harmful contaminants. During RO purification the incoming water is forced through a semipermeable membrane at high pressure, and the contaminants are trapped there as the cleaned water passes through. This can be a small unit located under the kitchen sink to provide cleaner water for drinking and cooking at that faucet only. More elaborate whole house RO systems will treat all of the water coming into the home allowing the occupants to shower, bath and clean, with cleaner water.
- Ultraviolet (UV) Purification
Until fairly recently UV water purification was only found in clinics, hospitals, and laboratories. This method is extremely effective at disinfecting biological contaminants, such as viruses, parasites, and cysts. Again, this can be a smaller under sink unit, or it could be a more extensive system to treat all the water coming into the home.
- Carbon Water Filtration
This is still a popular method of water filtration for many people; the water is passed through a bed of activated charcoal. Any impurities or contaminants are removed via chemical adsorption. Each granule of activated carbon has a large surface area in relation to its size; this porous material is ideal for trapping many water contaminants.
- Water Softening
Many people now live in hard water areas, and this is harder to live with for a number of reasons. Hard water contains elevated levels of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals are the source of limescale, soap scum and spots on your dishes. Although these minerals are not harmful to ingest directly, they can have a negative effect on our health and well being in different ways. When we wash with hard water, a thin film of minerals sticks to our skin blocking pores and tangling in our hair. This can lead to dry skin, acne breakouts, eczema irritation and it can make your hair feel brittle and lifeless after washing. A water softener can remove the water hardening ions and replace them with softer sodium ions making the water easier to use.
Cleaner Water for Better Health
A 2009 study carried out by the University of California found that homeowners using an RO filtration system suffered approximately 12% fewer gastrointestinal illnesses compared to those drinking unfiltered tap water. The EPA has regulations in place for water treatment facilities covering chemicals, microorganisms, and other harmful contaminants. But, some public water suppliers don’t test for other harmful contaminants, such as synthetic hormones, agricultural chemicals, household chemicals, and pharmaceutical contaminants.
Making a Change
When you take responsibility for your own water quality, it can be a huge relief. There is no need to worry about the quality of the water that you’re using in your home. Many people that have made the change report that their water tastes cleaner and fresher. The true taste of your cooking can shine through and your plumbing and water using appliances may last longer.
If you are interested in clean water, you should speak to a water treatment professional. A specialist technician can test your water supply and recommend treatment options best suited to the characteristics of your water.