How Safe is My Drinking Water?

Health & Wellness on 08.01.11
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Image credit: EPA Drinking Water & Ground Water Kids' Stuff

Water, food, and shelter constitute the three most fundamental human needs. Of these, only water poses a certain threat to our survival if we have to do without it for even a short length of time. At a recommended 6-8 glasses of water per day, you will consume about four times the weight in water that you eat in food. Probably most of your water will come from a single source to boot, while your food intake represents a range of types from many locations. 

From a chemical risk point of view, this makes water very important. A little bit of bad stuff in your water can amount to a lot of bad stuff over time. Adding to the anxiety, from flammable tapwater to gender-bender chemicals in drinking water, most of the news about our supply of this precious resource is negative. Our pattern-seeking brains quickly develop an uncomfortable sense of uncertainty about water quality.

So it is time to put things back into perspective. Our modern tapwater distribution system remains a marvel of social planning. Although millions of people feature in news about those deprived of clean water, millions more have healthy, clear, tasty H2O at the flip of a wrist. What many people don't know: tap water is frequently and comprehensively tested. It must comply with strict standards. Bottled water, to many people's surprise, is less carefully quality controlled than tap water. And with 40% of bottled water coming from tapwater supplies, you may be wasting money for a beverage that is riskier than what you get from your kitchen sink.

To make sure you are on the right track, request an annual report (Consumer Confidence Report) from your water supplier. These must be provided by law in the USA, but any water treatment authority should be able to answer questions and concerns of their customers. This data will assure you that your water supply can be trusted.

If you get your water from a well, and you haven't had the water quality tested within the past three years, it is time to get a new test. Water flows underground just like it does on the surface. So water quality can change over time. If you are not sure who to hire for this testing or what to have tested, contact your public health office for advice.

Then share some water-related activities with your kids. Take some time to make sure your kids understand how awesome it is to get water at the sink, not having to walk to a nearby (dirty) river with containers that make a heavy load all the way home. Print out EPA's free coloring and activity book or look into the other water stuff for kids K through 12th grade. Or better yet, get active in your home and in your community (perhaps in memory of 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith) to help preserve fresh, clean water sources so we can always enjoy a cool drink from the tap.

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