Home Drinking Water Safety

Check out the free resources in our home drinking water safety guide! Drinking tap water safely varies from region to region, so learn your state’s drinking water quality before deciding to buy a purifier or bottled water. The most common contaminants in water are nitrates, lead, pesticides, and bacteria. Learn how to test your home drinking water for contaminants below.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2020

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We all need water to survive. But how do we know the water we’re drinking is safe and healthy? With the recent news of lead-filled water in Flint, Michigan and water contamination in places like Hoosick Falls, New York, water safety is a growing concern for all Americans.

Should you drink the tap water in your home? How can you test your water for safety? If your tap water isn’t safe, how can you purify it? The resources below will help you answer all these questions, and more.

Tap Water: is it Safe?

The safety of tap water is a controversial subject. We go through fifty billion water bottles a year — creating a huge environmental problem — largely in an effort to avoid drinking tap water.

But some claim tap water is safer than bottled water.

Tap water goes through a disinfection and chlorination process that kills off most parasites and bacteria, but it won’t catch everything. The quality of tap water will also vary widely by region. Making an informed decision about your water is the first step in staying healthy.

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Home Water Sources & Water Safety

Do you really know where your water comes from? Many people have no idea. If you’re in an urban area, you probably get your water from the public water supply — most often a reservoir or river. The further you live from a population center, the more likely it is you have a well. But does your water come from a cistern, stream, lake, or groundwater source? The answer might surprise you, and the quality of your water depends on it.

Water Quality and Contaminants

The most common contaminants in water are nitrates, lead, pesticides, and bacteria. You may have heard the bit of folk wisdom about not drinking water from the “hot” tap, as water from hot pipes absorbs lead more easily. That’s actually true — much of the lead in water is absorbed from pipes or solder.

Nitrates in water usually come from septic systems, fertilizer, and animal waste. Pesticides usually come from surface water supplies and not groundwater. All these contaminants, and more, can be tested for with kits.

Health Effects of Drinking Contaminated Water

The possible side effects of drinking water contaminants are as diverse as the contaminants themselves. Many of the most common parasites and bacteria can be fended off by an adult’s immune system without major issue. However, exposure to nitrates can cause more serious issues like methemoglobinemia (“blue baby syndrome”) in infants. More serious effects can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Exposure to more serious contaminants, such as lead, can be particularly dangerous to children, potentially disrupting red blood cell chemistry.

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Testing Water

There is no single test for general “water quality.” There are a number of tests for various contaminants, which must be tested for individually. Among the many reasons the EPA recommends testing your water: if you have brass fixtures, lead pipes, or lead soldered joints in your plumbing; if your water tastes or smells strange; if you’re purchasing a new home; if you’re pregnant or have an infant in the household. Water testing can be done at home with kits, or by state or private labs.

Water Filters and Purification Solutions

Most water from a public water supply should be safe to drink. But what if you test your water and it comes up contaminated, what do you do next? Don’t start boiling your water just yet. Fortunately, there are an array of treatment options for households: microfiltration, ultrafiltration, and nanofiltration, and reverse osmosis systems. With a little research, you can find the solution that’s right for your home.

Home Water Safety for Kids

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