Water Impurities & Troubleshooting
Water: Wa•ter (wô¹ter, wòt¹er) noun
1. A clear, colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid, H2O, essential for most plant and animal life and the most widely used of all solvents. Freezing point 0°C (32°F); boiling point 100°C (212°F); specific gravity (4°C) 1.0000; weight per gallon (15°C) 8.338 pounds (3.782 kilograms). An excerpt from the American Heritage ® Dictionary.
- A generally bad tasting liquid when collected from a conventional household water tap. An excerpt from a recent Carey Bros. conversation.
We do a lot of traveling. And one of the first things that we do (when we arrive at a new hotel room) is test the tap water. There is always the concern that we will be forced to use bottled water. And more often than not, that is exactly what we end up doing. The tap water is either muddy tasting or seems to contain more chlorine than a community swimming pool. No, this week’s offering isn’t about smelly water in hotel rooms. Our point is that the problems associated with drinking water seem to be universal. Coast to coast and boarder to border.
In addition to the smell and discoloration associated with poor quality drinking water, there is also the concern about mineral deposits and contaminants. Where dangerous contaminant levels may not be a problem with municipal water systems, private water systems and wells should be regularly monitored. At least every six months. Dangerous levels of contamination are not prevalent in the US, but there are occurrences. To find out what the statistics are in your area call the nearest office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA offers lists of cases showing illnesses associated with contaminants in water systems.
The good thing is that just about any impurity can be removed. All you have to do is find out exactly what the problem elements are and then install a conversion or water filtration system (or both) to manage away the bad color, bad smell and/or contaminants. By knowing exactly what impurities are in your tap water you can then select the exact filter or converter for the job. Most manufacturers will tell you what impurities a particular filter or converter will remove or eliminate.
Always start with a water test – even if you get your water from a municipal supply. Where some would suggest that you contact a company that sells water softeners or filter systems, we suggest you use an independent testing lab instead. There is no conflict of interest using our method. Your local board of health can test your water for bacteria and you can often count on the Department of Agriculture extension in your area to test for organic matter, acids or minerals. Remember that bad water doesn’t always look or smell bad.
Earlier we mentioned conversion and filtration. Water softeners prevent mineral buildup and some rust by “converting” minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron. Salt is used in the process, and although some water softener companies claim that softened water contains less salt than what goes in, we suggest that softened water should not be used as drinking water. This is an extremely important issue for folks with heart and kidney trouble. A bypass for hot and cold water can be created for the kitchen sink, which is where most of us go for cooking and drinking water. A little extra scrubbing to deal with mineral build-up at this location is worth insuring a sodium free tap.
Besides water softeners filters also can help to clear up your water. With a filter, water is passed through a container filled with sand, chips of marble or charcoal. What passes through are only those particles in the water that are smaller than the holes in the filtering medium. Filters can take care of some pretty small particles. And they can even get rid of some smells. A charcoal filter at our home eliminated a “river smell” from our drinking water. Minerals such as rust-causing iron particles – which are quite large – are easy to filter out. On the other hand bacteria and other super-microscopic particles can get through most filters. Again, check the specifications on the filter. The manufacturer will specify the specific types of particles it will eliminate.
If you can afford one, look into reverse osmosis. A reverse osmosis filter can remove most bacteria and contaminants and will leave you with fresh tasting, sweet smelling water every time. With reverse osmosis water is passed through a membrane through which only water particles can pass. There is a down side. Reverse osmosis filters are water wasters and they are expensive too. For example: a reverse osmosis system with a 2-gallon storage tank will cost about $850 installed. Also, it takes 6 gallons of water per refill. 2 gallons of drinking water are stored in a holding tank while 4 gallons are used to prevent the filter from clogging. Fortunately, we have never run out of drinking water. Larger families may need a larger storage tank. If a 2-gallon tank isn’t large enough a second tank can usually be added.
We compared the cost of installation, filter replacement, and the cost of water and we each installed reverse osmosis units at our kitchen sinks. It really is a bummer when we leave home and are forced to drink hotel water that tastes like a river bottom or the community swimming pools. Yuck! And, good luck!