Tap Water: You can drink tap water without any chance, and it is also better than you think. Depending on the sector you reside in, it may have one flavor or another or be harder or softer. We explain everything that affects the water in your house.
The bad reputation of tap water may be one of the reasons that consume the most bottled water per person. Despite this, the consumption of running water is still higher. And a study by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) shows that, in general, it is better than we think.
However, several factors can alter its quality from its origin until it comes out of your taps. How to determine if you can drink the water that comes to your house without a problem.
1. Good Water in 89% of Cases
What was analyzed in each sample
The laboratory analyzed the water samples for the presence of substances that can be harmful to health at certain levels.
- Mineralization: sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc., which influence the taste of water.
- Metals: traces of copper, zinc, nickel, lead, iron both from the origin and due to pipes.
- Trihalomethanes: chemical compounds produced as a reaction of chlorine used to make water drinkable. Being volatile, they can be inhaled, for example, while you shower, and irritate the respiratory system, eyes, and skin.
- Pesticides: the presence of insecticides used on crops.
- Microbiology: the existence of bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella.
2. Factors That Can Alter Water Quality
The supply source, that is, if the water they supply comes from a reservoir, an aquifer, or a desalination plant, and the process it is subjected to make it drinkable, influence its quality.
But it is not the only implement that counts. Factors such as the season of the year or the climate and, above all, the installation in the building or home are also decisive.
The maintenance of the installation is essential to avoid taking risks.
And is that the presence of microorganisms or polluting substances in the water may be due to a poor condition of the tanks, pipes or even the taps themselves, and also to the materials cast-off in the manufacture of pipes.
3. Do You Know if Your Pipes Are Lead?
Countless studies have shown that exposure to lead is harmful to health. This metal is toxic and can damage neurons and affect mental and physical development, especially in children and pregnant women.
The installation of lead pipes is prohibited, but if your house was built before 1975, it might still have them and more if it is before 1950 since before it was the most used material.
Its replacement is mandatory, but it is usually only done if the home needs to be renovated as it often involves raising floors or opening walls.
Many older homes still have lead pipes.
If you have any visible sections of pipes, you can easily identify them: lead pipes are dull gray, and, being a soft metal, they can be easily scratched with a wrench or a knife.
And if they are made of lead, while you cannot change them, keep in mind these two tips:
Before drinking water, let it run for a few moments, especially if you haven’t turned on the tap for more than 6 hours. Because it is retained, it is easier for the lead from pipes to enter the water.
Please do not use the hot water tap for cooking, drinking, making an infusion, or a bottle, as it has higher lead content. Use cold water and heat it separately.
4. Do You Have Hard or Soft Water?
The hardness of water is measured as a function of the amount of calcium carbonate it contains. The higher the absorption of calcium and magnesium salts, the harder it is.
Traces of lime on glasses and taps are a warning sign of hard water, which also tends to have a worse taste due to its high mineralization.
The hardness of the water influences the taste, although chlorine also.
We associate this type of water with breakdowns in household appliances such as the washing machine or dishwasher due to limescale and the need to put more detergent on clothes.
But you may not know that it can also affect your health:
Kidney stones: although according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is not enough scientific evidence, some studies suggest that the consumption of hard water could favor the formation of kidney stones.
Dermatological problems: showering with hard water can cause dry skin and hair, itching, irritation, and rashes, especially in sensitive or atopic skin.
Researchers from King’s College London (UK) have linked hard water to an increased risk of eczema in childhood.
5. How to Check Its Quality
Although having the water analyzed by an accredited laboratory is the best way to obtain the most reliable data, in DIY stores, you can find several options to check its quality at home:
Digital TDS Meter: It is an easy-to-use device, similar to a thermometer that gives you the total dissolved solids (TDS, in English) in water, such as minerals, salts, metals …
Test strips: some only measure the pH or hardness of the water, but the complete kits also analyze the presence of bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrates, nitrites, etc.
6. Various Options to Purify It
And if with everything that we have explained to you –or after doing one of these tests– you want to improve the quality of the water you have at home, you can find different systems on the market
Active carbon filters: you can install them on kitchen and shower taps. They eliminate chlorine and derivatives, such as trihalomethanes. They are also used in water purifying jugs.
Water softeners: through ion exchange resins, they transform hard water into soft. They are normally placed at the wide water inlet.
Reverse osmosis systems: it is a filtering system that is installed under the sink. It can remove up to 95% of impurities from the water, such as metals, chlorine, pesticides.
The main drawback is that three are discarded for every liter of filtered water (depending on the model). However, they can be collected and reused for cleaning, water, or fill the toilet cistern.