New Year's Water Resolutions
When it comes to making resolutions, people often give up after weeks of trying. But there are a few new year's resolutions we want you to keep in 2019. And it all starts with your water. First things first, get your water tested.
Drink more water. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Exercise a few times a week. Spend less time on your phone. Save more money. Get organized.
These are all examples of new year's resolutions. When it comes to making resolutions, people often give up after only weeks of trying. But there are a few resolutions we want you to keep in 2019. And it all starts with your water.
First things first, get your water tested.
1. Get your water tested.
Whether your water comes from a well or a municipal supply, it's important to get it tested every year.
Why should we monitor water quality?
Monitoring drinking water is necessary for our health and safety. The quality of drinking water impacts taste and cleanliness in every drop. Even though the United States has one of the safest water supplies in the world, drinking water may still contain a variety of contaminants.
Drinking water standards are set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And these standards apply to more than 90 contaminants commonly found in drinking water. Such as lead, nitrates, bacteria and iron.
While there are 90 different contaminants, there are two specific categories. A contaminant category is based on the type of health effects it may cause.
Acute and chronic are two types of health effects caused by contaminants in drinking water.
Acute effects occur rapidly after consumption. Like within hours or days. Bacteria and viruses, called microbes, can cause acute effects.
Chronic effects occur after prolonged exposure. Like when a contaminant reaches levels above the EPA's safety standards for years at a time. Contaminants such as radium and arsenic can cause chronic effects. And chronic effects include the risk of cancer, liver issues, kidney problems or reproductive challenges.
Monitoring the quality of drinking water reduces the risk of exposure to contaminants causing acute or chronic effects.
Municipal Water Quality Monitoring
The EPA sets the quality standard for municipal drinking water supplies. Which includes regulations for contaminant limits, water-testing schedules and methods for water systems to follow. This helps the EPA ensure public water supplies are safe in the United States.
Although the federal government oversees the EPA, each state has power over their drinking water. Because of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). In 1974, Congress passed a law giving states the authority to set and enforce their own drinking water standards. As long as those standards abide by the federal EPA requirements.
Each local water supplier runs a test for the SDWA once a year. And every community water supplier is required to provide those annual results in a report to its consumers.
Private Well Monitoring
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 15 million United States homes rely on private wells for drinking water. But unlike public (municipal) water supplies, the SDWA does not regulate these wells.
Because of this, owners are not required in most jurisdictions to test their water. But that does not mean private wells should go unchecked. In fact, your private well should be tested annually. Both at the tap and the source.
And if your well is shallow, it requires more frequent testing. Because shallow wells are more susceptible to contamination.
However, owning a private well does not mean you cannot be helped. Local health departments can assist in selecting the right tests to check your drinking water quality.
Your local Culligan expert is also equipped to test well water if you have concerns.
2. Invest in better drinking water.
Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water
Harmful contaminants can present themselves in well water or municipal water. So no matter where your water comes from, filtration may be necessary. What type of filtration removes contaminants? Reverse osmosis.
Reverse osmosis is a great method of filtration. Especially when it comes to protecting your family and household.
So, let's learn more. How does it really work?
In order to understand reverse osmosis, it's important to understand the process of osmosis.
What is osmosis?
Osmosis is the passage of a solvent, like water, from a low-concentration solution to a high-concentrated solution. Separated by a semipermeable membrane, the two solutions allow the solvent to pass through. But not what is dissolved.
And when both solutions become equal in concentration the flow finally stops. This process is classified as passive transport. As it does not need energy in order to be applied.
So what is reverse osmosis then?
Unlike osmosis, reverse osmosis requires an external force to complete the transport. Which means that pressure is a key part of the reverse osmosis process.
As the name implies, reverse osmosis is the opposite process of osmosis. And instead of balancing the two solutions out, external forces of pressure reverse the natural flow.
Because contaminant molecules are larger than water molecules, only water passes through. Therefore, trapping contaminants in the semipermeable membrane.
So the more pressure applied to contaminated water, the more effective the reverse osmosis process is.
What are the steps of reverse osmosis filtration?
In thinking about this process, we can break it down into four different steps.
Although various brands may vary slightly, most reverse osmosis systems perform this way. And the steps include pre-filtration, reverse osmosis, drainage and storage.
First, pressurized water moves through a particle filter. This removes impurities like salt, sand and sediment.
Next, the water passes through an activated carbon filter. Which removes and traps minerals and contaminants. Like chlorine, mercury, copper and pesticides. These first two phases are called pre-filtration.
Following pre-filtration, pressurized water is forced through the semipermeable membrane. Here the smallest impurities are trapped. And only water passes through. This is the reverse osmosis stage.
Let's talk about the membrane specifically.
To give you an idea of the membrane's power, the diameter of one human hair is about 100 microns wide. But in a Culligan reverse osmosis system, the spaces in the membrane are approximately one micron wide.
Finally, in the discharge stage, the removed contaminants are flushed away. And the treated water moves into a storage tank.
Before the treated water reaches a faucet, it undergoes one more final activated-carbon filtration to improve taste. And quality, for household use.
How does reverse osmosis filtration compare to other methods?
Since we understand the reverse osmosis process, let's compare it to other filtration methods.
Many different filtration methods are available. Some popular options are refrigerator filters, faucet filters and pitcher filters. And while all of these can help with the taste and smell of water, few will reduce the hardest to detect, and dangerous, contaminants.
But, a reverse osmosis filtration system removes contaminants that others may miss. Because a reverse osmosis filter uses advanced technology, it also requires little maintenance.
3. Remove unwanted contaminants.
Contaminants come in all different shapes and sizes. And the EPA regulates dozens of them.
The presence of contaminants in your water can negatively impact your home and health. But some contaminants have no color, taste or smell. Which makes them difficult to detect without a professional water test.
What types of contaminants does a professional water test find?
Let's find out.
Entering the water supply through bedrock, or an industrial byproduct, is arsenic. Low-level and long-term exposure via drinking water results in an increased risk of cancer and other serious health problems.
Chlorine Taste or Smell
The smell or taste of chlorine is often associated with swimming pools. Although, in drinking water, it is unappealing. And this contaminant is known to dry out skin and hair. While municipalities use chlorine to disinfect water supplies, it should be filtered out before consumption. In order to eliminate harmful or annoying side effects.
Also known as hexavalent chromium, chromium-6 is a highly toxic contaminant released into groundwater after certain industrial activities. Like chrome plating, leather dying, wood preservation or stainless steel manufacturing. Because it is highly toxic, drinking more than 0.02 ppb (parts per billion) could cause cancer. This contaminant is too small to notice, even when it is present in large amounts. But chromium-6 impacts 2 out of every 3 Americans.
Three groups, containing 16 species, are included in this contaminant category. These three groups include total coliform, fecal coliform and E. coli. Bacterial contamination can result due to septic system failure or agricultural runoff. And symptoms of infections can vary widely. Some include digestive issues like diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and fever. But others include severe conditions such as anemia and kidney failure. Combining reverse osmosis filtration and UV based deionization are the most efficient ways to reduce bacterial contaminants from drinking water.
Although lead is a well-known contaminant, most people assume it is not in their water. Lead seeps into water supplies from pipes. And from solder and fixtures which are used extensively across the United States. No level of exposure to lead is safe. Especially for children, who can suffer harmful and possibly chronic effects. These effects range from stomach pain to brain damage.
When rain soaks into the ground, running through sand, soil and rock, magnesium can enter the water supply. The presence of this contaminant creates hard water. And though hard water is not a direct threat to health, it can cause other complications. Like buildup in pipes, shortened lifespans for appliances and increased soap and detergent use. Additionally, magnesium causes dry skin, dull hair and spotted dishes.
A major ingredient in most fertilizers is nitrates. Because nitrates are essential for food, flowers and green lawns. And although nitrates naturally occur in soil, overuse of fertilizer causes contamination. Nitrates spread across lawns and fields and move quickly through soil, growing more concentrated in groundwater. This creates a potential health risk for everyone, especially infants and pregnant women.
Because it is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, radon is a difficult contaminant to find. It exists due to the radioactive decay of uranium. Which is a common element in bedrock. And radon is also known to cause cancer. Radon gas dissolves into groundwater and is released into the air when a faucet is turned on.
Produced by reducing sulfur bacteria, hydrogen sulfide is sometimes found in groundwater. It is a smelly and colorless gas. And it causes hot water to smell like rotten eggs. Sulfur in water can have a laxative effect. Because of this, exposure may increase rates of diarrhea and dehydration. Especially in infants and young children. But it can also stain plumbing fixtures, toilets and sinks. All while tarnishing silver and copper housewares.
4. See and taste the difference.
At Culligan, we want 2019 to be the year you focus on achieving your new year's water resolutions. It's not enough to see the difference. And it's not enough to taste the difference. You have to see and taste the difference that better, cleaner water makes in your life.