National Water Quality Month happens in August, but the contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan has placed the topic at the forefront of a months-long debate on the tenacity of water safety claims. Flint, switched its water supply without taking proper precaution, exposing drinkers to lead levels several times above the legal limit.
It is no doubt that this is an extreme example, but that doesn’t mean it cannot happen elsewhere. Still today, millions of Americans still don’t know the true state of their tap water. While no estimate can speak for every citizen, the idea is worth exploring.
Tap water has a bad rap. Even in metropolitan regions, cautious diners demand bottled water at restaurants, and health-conscientious students refuse to use school water fountains. This is driven by the rampant assumption that tap water is dirtier than its bottled counterpart, even if marginal evidence backs the claim.
While individuals may take their suspicion of tap water to extremes, they aren’t totally without reason; Flint is not the only city measuring lead at crisis levels. In fact, the potent neurotoxin was detected at above-recommended averages in more than 5,000 water systems in 2015. More shocking, only ten percent of these measurements were reported to higher authorities, and only thirty percent of those municipalities reported received any penalty at all. Yes, this means that millions of Americans were (and still are) consuming lead via tap water, posing imminent risks to small children and the elderly.
We could point to the irony that municipal tap water undergoes over 100 tests, on average, per month, but we would ignore the fact that these tests are not wholly representative. Large populations and small municipal labor forces require that testers sample only a small number of homes and, in some neighborhoods, make concessions for water delivered through aged pipes. This process, which saves the city time and money in the short-term, may carry the long-term costs of citizen health and water system upkeep.
Municipal measurements also do not account for lead and other chemicals in non-public water systems, like wells and private sources serviced by a pump. As most of these sources are located in extremely rural regions, they are also host to a number of problems not encountered in more urban environments.
Agricultural runoff is the most prevalent hazard, especially in the Midwest. Arriving in the form of animal waste, pesticides, and fertilizers, agricultural substances have the potential to cause birth defects, hormonal disruptions, allergies, or heart disease in those who consume it regularly. Moreover, the CDC has not determined lethal or dangerous criteria for many of these chemicals; if you do order a test for your private water system, it is hard to establish a point of comparison regarding what is and what is not safe for you and your family.
The dangers of tap water beg the question: is bottled water really better?
In short, it depends on what you buy and where you live. Bottled water is screened about once per week, however, it undergoes more rigorous sanitation processes than tap water. Bottled water also tastes better to many drinkers and, for some, is essential to staying hydrated. Furthermore, some bottled waters are engineered to contain minerals and electrolytes that benefit the body more than regular tap water, alone.
Still, some bottled waters are not worth the extra money. If derived from a municipal source, they are no different than tap water. Too, if bottles are not used before their expiration date, there is an increased chance that phthalates, hormone – affecting chemicals, may have leaked into the water.
In all, it is best for you, as a consumer, to do your research. Call your water provider for more information on your municipal or private water system. If your family's local water is found to contain unwanted pollutants like heavy metals or agricultural chemicals, there are ways to eliminate them to restore the quality of your drinking water.
The Adya Clarity® Water Purification System reduces up to 4X's more contaminants than conventional countertop filters (like Aquasana), and up to 50X's more than water pitchers (like PUR or Brita), and provides a broad spectrum of natural ionic trace minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. (The same ones added to bottled water to make it taste better.)
Take control of your water quality and avoid environmentally hazardous plastic bottles by opting for a water purification system up to the job of delivering cleaner, healthier, better-tasting water every time you turn on the tap.