Is tap water safe to drink? A Comprehensive Guide on tap water components
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s talk about an unsung miracle of the modern age.
Our ancestors would call it sorcery that our homes have access to reliable, clean, healthy water in our homes at command.
Tap water seems like something that we should be grateful for. But is it safe for us?
Let’s find out
What is Tap Water and Where does it come from?
Tap water is water made available to residents of cities, towns, and villages in their homes and places of work.
Tap water is a marvel of modern-day engineering. Water is drawn from water sources such as lakes, rivers, and groundwater reserves, given treatment to make it suitable for drinking and other purposes, and sent to our homes through a labyrinthine network of pipelines.
How is Tap Water Treated Before it’s sent to Our Homes?
So the question now arises- how is water treated in order to make it safe?
Most countries follow a number of steps to purify water to make it fit for purpose
In this step, positively charged ions such as aluminum and iron are added to the water. They react with negatively charged impurities such as dirt and sand, to form larger particles known as coagulates
In this step, water is mixed gently. This leads to the formation of larger, heavier particles. These particles are known as flocs. Some water treatment plants add chemicals to hasten the flocculation process.
Now that we have our flocs, it’s necessary to separate them from the water. This is accomplished through sedimentation. In this step water is allowed to stand, allowing gravity to pull the heavier floc particles down as the sediment.
Once the sediment has settled, it’s time to filter the clear water out. This is done by allowing the water out of the sedimentation chamber and then passing it through several filters. These filters are arranged in layers from coarse to fine. Pebbles, charcoal, gravel, sand, etc are used as filters. They remove organic and inorganic particulate matter. In recent times, activated carbon filters are being employed to remove any unpleasant odors.
Reverse Osmosis or RO may also be used during this step
Natural water bodies are full of organic matter. Unfortunately, this includes wastes, bacteria, parasites, viruses, and more. These are destroyed through disinfection. Chemicals known as disinfectants are added to the water in a concentration sufficient to kill pathogens while not affecting the portability. Commonly used disinfectants include chlorine, chloramine, and chlorine dioxide.
UV light is also being used as a disinfecting agent recently.
Also Read: Distilled Water: Can You Drink It?
What are the Benefits of Drinking Tap Water?
Due to the stringent protocols above, tap water is almost always safe to drink. The best part is that drinking tap water comes with several benefits.
- Health Benefits- Tap water contains essential minerals that keep you healthy. These minerals make tap water wholesome and a better choice for your body compared to bottled water which is often bereft of minerals and may be contaminated with microplastics.
- Cost Benefits- Tap water is cheaper than bottled water by an order of magnitude. It’s far lighter on your pocket, especially when you take into account just how much water we drink over the course of our lives.
- Taste Benefits- The minerals present in tap water give it a more palatable taste that has been shown to be equal to or better than bottled water in blind tests.
- Environmental Benefits– Tap water is far more sustainable than bottled water. It involves almost no use of single-usage plastics, is usually derived from local sources, and the process of treating it is far less wasteful than the bottling process. This makes tap water an overwhelmingly better option from an environmental standpoint.
How can I tell if my Tap Water is Safe to Drink?
While quality control is very strict with regard to tap water, here are some tests to make sure your water is safe.
- Check for Cloudiness- Your tap water should always run clear, any sign of cloudiness or turbulence is an indication that there might be organic material in your water.
- Check for Colour- Tap water should be free from color. Be extra vigilant about brown or green coloration. They usually come from rust and organic contamination respectively. Yellow water may even be an indicator of carcinogens in your tap water.
- Check for Odour- Tap water should have no discernible odor. If you get any unpleasant smells from tap water, you should immediately be on the alert.
- Sliminess- Sometimes water may contain high amounts of insoluble minerals that give it a slimy consistency when used with soap. Such water is known as hard water and is harmful to your pipes and your body.
- Use a DIY water test kit- These kits are readily available on the market and may help you understand the composition of your tap water better.
- Get in touch with your Local Government Health Body– They may provide you with a detailed analysis of your tap water.
So the next time you drink a glass of tap water, slow down and appreciate all the work that went into making it possible and savor your H2O.
What are some ways to improve the taste of my tap water ?
- Get a filter– There are a variety of filters available in the market, from alkaline filters to ceramic, RO and ultraviolet. These will remove any unpleasant tasting compounds from your tap water and make it taste better.
- Let it breathe- Drinking tap water a while after it has been poured out and let to breathe improves its taste by allowing any gases to dissipate out.
- Infuse your water- Infuse your water with citrus fruits, mint, berries and more! You’re only limited by your creativity. This will make your water look and taste so much more appealing and it can be a fun activity to do with the kids as well.
Are there any risks associated with drinking tap water?
While tap water is generally safe for you, there may be a few risks associated with it in niche cases
These include heavy metals from soil and old pipes, hard water, reaction to chlorine and risks associated with fluoride.
Fluoride is added in drinking water to prevent tooth decay and while fluoride toxicity is quite harmful, the research indicates that the concentration of fluoride used in drinking water is not sufficient to lead to fluoride toxicity.
Should I filter my tap water?
Due to the extensive filtration and purification processes that water goes through before it reaches our home, filtering it is not necessary. However, if you notice any off odour, taste or colouration in your tap water you can filter it again with a home water purification system.
Does tap water damage teeth?
Tap water is good for your teeth and does not damage them. Sipping tap water regularly dilutes any acid that may be produced by caries causing bacteria in our mouths. Tap water is also often imbued with minuscule amounts of Flouride that strengthen the structure of our teeth from within.