Although most of us have clear, odorless water running from our faucets, our municipalities continue to work hard to filter an ever-increasing array of both natural and manmade pollutants from our groundwater. Staying informed about water quality is a good idea for everyone, especially those of us with children, with chemical sensitivities or who have weakened immune systems.
Despite federal, state and local water regulations, contaminants can still make their way into our water supply. According to a 2011 survey by the Water Quality Association, 54 percent of consumers polled were concerned about contaminants in tap water, and 49 percent were concerned or very concerned about their household water supply. To help ensure your home's drinking water is safe, here are a couple of steps you can take:
Step 1: Learn what's in your water
Every year by July 1, your water supplier will mail you an annual consumer confidence report (also known as the drinking water quality report). You may also be able to find your report on the EPA's website. The EPA also offers online tools to help you learn how to read your report here. While these reports offer an analysis of your local water at its source, its also wise to directly test your tap water at home as some contaminants (such as lead) could leach through pipes and household plumbing, therefore not be detected before water enters your home. Home water-testing kits are available at many hardware stores and are relatively inexpensive.
Step 2: Understanding contaminants
Drinking water contaminants can come from many sources — some are naturally occurring, while others come from people, animals & industry. 10 common contaminants include arsenic, atrazine, chlorine (and chlorine by-products), cryptosporidium, chromium-6, fluoride, lead, mercury (inorganic) and radon. For a full list of contaminants, visit the NSF's full contaminant guide for explanations of more than 50 contaminants along with their certified treatment technologies.
Step 3: Selecting the best filter
Although there is a growing selection of filters, the choices can be surprisingly easy to navigate. A few overall tips to keep in mind: Some filters use a combination of technologies, while others use just one; any filter you choose should be certified by a reputable, independent agency; and check what a filter is certified to do by reading the fine print. For example, some filters are certified to improve water's taste, but not guaranteed to remove specific contaminants. To find the filter most capable of removing specific contaminants, refer to the Environmental Working Group's website to find a list of filters certified to effectively remove it, as well as their online water filter buying guide.
Representing the fourth generation of the Ferrier Companies, Heather Ferrier Laminack functions as the marketing manager for Texas-based green home builder Ferrier Custom Homes, utilizing her passion for sustainable building practices and her first-hand experience of green building techniques.