Do you drink tap water as your major source of drinking water? Many Americans do and thereby are saying it’s the best drinking water source for them. Is this a wise choice?
One of my clearest childhood memories is returning to the U.S. from the Congo, where I was raised. It seemed incredibly wonderful to be able to drink water directly from the tap. I was used to drinking only water that had been boiled and then filtered.
This blessing of quality tap water is both affirmed and cautioned by Rene Ebersole in her June/July article in National Wildlife, 2004, entitled, “Is Your Drinking water Safe?” She says,
“The quality of U.S. tap water rates better than what is found in most countries, but it doesn’t mean you should take it for granted. It’s clear, smells fresh, tastes good, but is it safe to drink?…Truth is American water supplies are some of the cleanest in the world. Still, it sure doesn’t hurt to be cautious.”
She goes on to recount the example of Washington, D.C. Less than a year previously, thousands of D.C. residents were informed that their tap water was tainted with dangerous levels of lead which could have serious effects on children if continued to be consumed. There was a scramble on the part of the city to get to the root causes, and a scramble on the part of the residents to buy drinking water filters. She goes on to say that there are three dozen other water systems in the U.S., most smaller communities, that have lead levels above the federal safety standard.
Erik Olson, Senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, puts us on guard by saying,
“Most Americans take it for granted that their tap water is pure and their water infrastructure is safe. They shouldn’t.”
Is Tap Water the Best Drinking Water for You?
The American Society of Civil Engineers released its “2005 Report Card” on America’s tap water. This was a report card prepared by 24 civil engineers representing a broad spectrum of civil engineering disciplines. They gave the nation’s water infrastructure a “D” and said that the drinking water itself had declined from a “D” to a “D-” in the past 4 years.
They said the federal funding in 2005 was $850 million, but that this was “less than 10% of the total national requirement.
Some studies estimate that as many as 7 million Americans become sick from contaminated tap water each year. This comes as a result of 1) aging pipes that break and bring in contaminants into the water and breed bacteria, 2) out of date treatment facilities that fail to remove 21st Century contaminants, and 3) such things as storm water run offs, agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, industrial pollution, hazardous waste, and oil and chemical spills.
A report from the National Resources Defense Council found that the quality of drinking water in 9 major cities was a risk to the health of some residents, those most susceptible to disease as the elderly or small children. The cities with the poorest water quality were: Albuquerque, Boston, Fresno, Phoenix and San Francisco.
What Would It Take to Make Tap Water Fit for Drinking in America?
The deteriorating quality of tap water for drinking has no “quick fix” because it is rooted in a whole infrastructure that needs to be renovated and updated to respond to current kinds of pollution. It is estimated that to upgrade and restore the nations water system would cost between $230 and $500 billion. So far, this has not become a high priority in the U.S. budget. And even if the money were available right now, it would take many years to do the restoring and updating. We need to keep pushing for change, but also have alternate ways of purifying our drinking water in the interim.
The current threats of terrorism and chemical warfare add a new urgency to the need for updating and protecting our water infrastructure. David Ozonoff, professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health and an expert on waterborne illnesses says,
“We’ve figured out how to build very efficient water delivery systems, but these systems can either provide safe drinking water, or deliver poisons and harmful organisms into every home, school and workplace. One misstep can lead to disaster, so we must vigorously protect our water sheds and use the best technology to purify our tap water.”
What You Can Do to Improve Your Tap Water?
There is currently a debate over whether or not to drink bottled water or tap water? For many years most Americans drank their tap water. Then due to concerns over tap water there has been a massive movement on the part of Americans to drinking bottled water. Between 1999 and 2004, the global consumption of bottled water doubled. Americans lead the world in the consumption of bottled water.
However, many are taking a second look at the quality of bottled water. They have found that the quality of bottled water is in reality no better state, and sometimes worse, than tap water. In fact about a quarter of bottled water actually comes from taps and then sometimes treated additionally. The advertising industry has sold us a bill of goods with their pictures of glaciers and springs on the bottles and their vocabulary of “pristine” and “mineral” etc. So today there is a whole movement back to the tap!
This looks like a battle of words over “the lesser of two evils”. Why not take your tap water and pass it through a quality filter of the type you can trust and come out with a much better quality of drinking water, perhaps the best drinking water available. It has the added benefit of being able to filter out any added pollutants that could be used by an enemy force.