Drinking water is not what it used to be. Once, not so long ago, our drinking water was relatively safe. Now there are a numerous ways in which individual wells are contaminated as well as many community water systems becoming polluted.
Contaminants such as household waste, septic tank seepage that may be too close to water supplies, fertilizers and lawn and garden sprays, dog and cat litter boxes and plumbing that needs to replaced are a few of the ways we may be polluting our own water wells. These especially if we live in rural areas and must depend on our own means of keeping our water safe to drink.
Water otherwise safe to drink may not taste just right or have the smell of rotten eggs from too much sulfur, or leave sinks and toilets and other appliances as well as clothes with rust stains. Often, however, there are no visible signs of unsafe drinking water until intestinal diseases and diarrhea outbreaks call for an investigation.
First of all, when we find our water is contaminated we want to know how it got that way and what can be done to control the contamination. Sometimes we do not know and as a preventative it must be treated. This is always done by county health departments after flooding has over run wells and left behind all sorts of trash and flotsam. All you need to do is to call them and they will send out a field worker to test your well water. They will do this even whenever you request a water check.
In urban areas and other community water systems, local officials take care of the water system and generally it is safe to drink. In times of drought and other low water times it may need more intensive care given to its safety. Officials will, however, alert users if there are any dangers to their drinking water. It is not unusual to hear local news reports advising people in such and such locations to boil their water until further notice.
There are several different way of treating waters: Carbon filtering is the one where water is filtered through carbon to remove the impurities. You can either have these installed near your faucet or buy a portable pitcher type device that holds a small amount of water. The filter will need be changed often. Read the instructions carefully.
Other types of water filters are "fiber filters reverse osmosis units, distillation, neutralizers, chemical feed-fee pumps, disinfection, and softeners". Before resorting to any one type for personal use, have your water first checked. It may save you hundreds of dollars.
Contaminants and Recommended Treatment:
Bacteria and microorganisms need to be killed by a disinfectant. Chlorine or bleach is the one most often used. If the water is safe but smells and has a bad taste, most likely a carbon filter will rid it of the excess chemicals causing this odor. But if the contaminant is hydrogen sulfide gas and this is what causes the rotten egg odor, then an oxidizing filter is recommended and that is to be followed by a carbon filter, chlorination and then a sediment filter.
When particles can be seen in your drinking water floating around, you will need a fiber filter. For hard water that contains too much calcium and magnesium, a water softener will work. Water that contains too much iron, you will need a water softener, an iron filter, chlorination and following that a sand filter and sand filter. (All these will be combined in the filtering system you buy.)
Other water problems such as Ph problems, too acid or too alkaline can be successfully taken care of with a neutralizing filter or a chemical feed pump. There are other chemicals that may need some sort of treatment such as the chemical in pesticides and fuel supplies. If you regularly spray your garden with sprays or you have gasoline leaks from heating systems or from a former garage where these may have leaked into the ground water, then you will need a carbon filter system. The right treatment for metal contamination, (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, nitrate, sulfate, sodium) is reverse osmosis unit and distillation.
How different systems work:
Carbon filters that make the water taste better remove the greater part of contaminants. How effective they are has a lot to do with how long the water stays in the unit. The longer the better. However, the experts warn that some carbon filters harbor bacteria. It is a good idea to flush fresh water through a filter to remove bacteria. The cartridges need replaced when the water begins to taste bad.
Depending on where the filters are located there are faucet mounts, inline, line by-pass and point of entry. Of course there are the portable types. Least effective are the faucet mounts because they contain less carbon. In-line are installations underneath the sink in the cold water line, and the by-pass line saves on how often the filter need be changed. It diverts non drinking water around the filter. Point of entry carbon filters filters all water coming into the house.
Fiber filters are what they say they are. They are filters made of cellulose or rayon and the remove whatever is floating around in the water. Reverse Osmosis units that remove numerous chemicals is effective and removes around 95 percent of what it is supposed to remove. It also removes the fluoride that has been added at the processing plant. This type of water treatment is used for drinking and cooking and not for washing machines and dishwashers, and showers.
Distilled water is water where all the minerals have been removed. The water is heated to boiling in a special tank and the steam escapes upward into coils where it is cooled and then stored in other special tanks. The minerals are left in the original tank.