Clean water is an essential part of life. Thanks to modern advancements in the plumbing and water treatment world, providing community-wide clean water has never been easier. However, things can go wrong with even the best water treatment plants. What can homeowners do when the community water system goes down? We’ll give you steps to take that can take to protect against the fallout of the city’s water treatment snafu. Before we get into that, though, let’s review the process that your water undergoes before it is lead to your home.
Public Water Treatment Process
Your drinking water follows a well-defined course from its source to the faucet. You can read more about basic water treatment in our previous post. Here’s the big picture.
First, specially designed equipment collects untreated or “raw” water from underground aquifers or from a surface water source such as a lake or river. Next, pipes transfer raw water to the designated water treatment facility. After that, the water undergoes a “pre-treatment” process. This process removes larger debris such as silt and leaves.
Once that pre-treatment is done, then the water will pass through a sequence of other treatment processes. These processes include filtration and disinfection with either chemicals or physical means. Disinfection helps remove and eliminate disease-causing microorganisms. When the water treatment process produces water ready for public consumption. Finally, the treated water flows out into the community through a network of pipes and pumps, aka the distribution system.
How Does Water Become Contaminated?
Just because the United States is one of the most developed countries in the world, doesn’t mean it isn’t susceptible to water contamination. The catastrophe in Flint, MI represents one an unfortunate example of just how real water treatment issues become left untreated or unchecked.
Water contamination can happen anywhere, from larger cities to the smallest rural areas. Each problem is unique, which makes getting ahead of contamination that much more difficult.
When dealing with farming communities, agricultural runoff poses the greatest risk of contamination. Water drains from farming fields as a result of irrigation, melted snow or rain. This runoff will likely contain pesticides, animal waste, fertilizers or even soil particles. All these contaminants can enter surface sources of drinking water such as lakes and rivers. Depending on circumstances, these same contaminants leach down into the groundwater supplies, or aquifers, and render them unsafe to drink. Treating groundwater is very difficult, and in some cases, an impossible venture, not to mention costly.
The proliferation of industrial and manufacturing areas in metropolitan areas generates a substantial risk of water pollution. In larger and older cities, lead in the water supply still plagues residents. How does lead get into the water supply? Old infrastructure and aging deteriorated pipes contribute to this hazardous contaminant. A large number of industrial facilities also use freshwater to carry their waste away from their plant and deposit it into rivers, lakes and even oceans.
What Are the Risks of Drinking Contaminated Water?
Contaminated drinking water presents deadly risks. Each contaminant creates its own list of problems for unwary citizens. The Environmental Protection Agency provides a list of some of the most common contaminants and how they affect the population:
- Lead: if consumed by children or pregnant women, it can lead to developmental problems and congenital disabilities.
- E. Coli: E.coli, a bacteria that lives in human and animal feces, can enter water sources through human sewage or farming runoff. The symptoms of E. coli include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. If the case is severe enough, anemia, kidney failure, and potentially fatal dehydration can occur.
- Pesticides and Nitrates: nitrates are components found in fertilizers. These are common water contaminants in farming communities. The most noticeable condition caused by nitrate contamination is methemoglobinemia, which is also known as “blue baby syndrome.”
What’s the Solution?
While the above information is scary and shouldn’t be taken lightly, there are steps that you can take to make sure your family has cleaner, safer water for your home.
Point-of-Entry Filtration System
Point-of-entry (POE) systems, also known as whole house water filters, connect with the main water line for your home. You will find the main water line where the water first enters your home from outside. The POE system treats the water so it can flow to every tap and every water-using appliance in your home. POEs treat wide-range water contaminants including iron, sulfur, chlorine and total dissolved solids. Depending size, POE systems last between five-to-seven years without needing a replacement. A POE does filter out a large number of impurities, making it safe for household and appliance usage. However, it does not filter enough for general consumption.
Point-of-Use Filtration System
Point-of-use (POU) filtration systems connect directly where the water exits the plumbing. For example, many homeowners install their POUs by a single water connection, usually under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. This type of water filtration system is of lower capacity, making it a perfect option for light use application. Again, depending on size, your POU system can last anywhere from three-to-six months or in some cases, up to a year. The most common type of POU system, reverse osmosis, can be installed either under the counter or on the faucet. Reverse osmosis filters use advanced filtration technology that removes up to 99% of water contaminants, producing the best quality water for consumption. As a result, reverse osmosis POU systems remain the most popular option in the large selection of POU products.
What does All This Mean?
Pollutants, accidents and human error continue to plague the water treatment industry. As a result, you shouldn’t rely on them to take complete care of your water. Water treatment facilities, in general, are a great starting place for water filtration. But, taking advantage of whole-house water filtration systems and point-of-use filtration systems is the sure-fire way to make sure your household has access to the purest water. If your home is missing one or both options contact us today. Let us help you on the right path to clean, crisp, delicious water.