Nationwide, nearly 53% of all drinking water comes underground from wells while 47% comes aboveground from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.
Americans enjoy one of the best supplies of drinking water in the world, due, in large part, to strict regulations and standards enforced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the 50 states. Even so, a water system may meet all EPA safe water standards and still have problems consumers might find objectionable. Despite the best efforts of officials, some water supplies do not meet all applicable standards. Also, the EPA does not regulate water taste, odor or appearance.
Consequently, a number of households may suffer from some kind of correctable water problem that is not regulated. Each problem can bring its own unpleasant effects into a home. Rusting and corroded pipes, clothing stains, bad-tasting and smelling water, and higher water heating bills are just a few of the possible results of problem water.
Many consumers do not realize that water problems can be solved in their home or business at the point-of-use or point-of-entry. Point-of-use (POU) refers to water quality improvement equipment which can be installed in water faucets or in pitchers/containers filled with water, usually for drinking and cooking. Point-of-entry (POE), often called "whole house" treatment, refers to water quality improvement equipment that can be installed where the water enters the home or business.
Identifying the Problem
Finding the solution for a drinking water problem or discovering the ideal water quality "fit" for personal needs can be simple with the proper information. Water quality may differ from city to city, well to well, or home to home. Your water quality problem may not be the same as those of a next door neighbor or relative across town. The key is to match the particular water quality problem with the most efficient and effective point-of-use (POU)/point-of-entry (POE) solution.
Some of the more common problems that can affect water supplies are listed below:
Water systems serving the same people year round are required to prepare annual water quality reports, or consumer confidence reports. These reports list all contaminants detected in drinking water and how they compare to EPA drinking water standards found at www.epa.gov. You can get these reports directly from your water supplier, or they may be posted on EPA's web site at www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo.htm. Also visit the above site to contact your water superintendent. NOTE: If you use well water, ask your local or state health department if it offers free water testing. Most of these departments will offer free testing for bacterial contaminants.
Before seeking independent water testing, get your local water report from your water supplier. If you do need independent testing, it’s wise to contact a laboratory from the EPA’s state laboratory certification officer list available on-line at www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/sco.html.
Much of the fresh water on earth is groundwater. As it travels through rock and soil, it picks up particles of calcium, magnesium, iron, lead, and other minerals. The "hardness" of water refers to the amount of calcium and magnesium in the water and is measured in grains per gallon (gpg), where a grain is a measurement of weight, or in parts per million (ppm) (17.1 ppm = 1 gpg).
In areas where the source of water is very hard, the local water utility may soften it to about 5 or 6 grains per gallon—still moderately hard. But, since the cost of centrally softening water is so great, many utilities and water companies generally leave the resolution of any hard water problems up to the homeowner or business person.
Hard Water Warning Signs
Following are some "telltale" signs of hard water which could indicate a problem:
Water Softening Solutions
Hard water is generally softened in the home by a process called ion exchange water softening. As the water passes through a resin bed, the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water are exchanged for sodium ions, producing water softened to the desired level. Besides providing softened water, ion exchange may reduce sediment, iron, manganese, barium, and radium levels in the water as it enters the home.
Some water softening solution technologies include:
Permanent, fully-automatic soft water units installed at the point-of-entry (POE), generally featuring a brine tank and resin regeneration. An automatic unit recharges according to a preset time clock, or may use an electronic sensor that recharges the system according to water usage.
A soft water service (exchange tank) provides water conditioning equipment whereby the dealer hooks up a portable unit to a water line, replacing it as needed to maintain the desired water softness.
Avoiding Water Filter Fraud
If you have any reason to suspect your water supply is contaminated, contact your state officials. They have the most direct enforcement authority over water systems. Calling the EPA Hotline at 800.426.4791 or going online at www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo.htm can get you state program contact information. Also, to avoid falling for water filter fraud, a red flag should go up anytime a salesperson or telemarketer suggests any of the following:
How to Protect Yourself
If you are a victim of a water-filter scam, there are many groups that you can contact for help:
To learn more about water quality, contact the following:
YOUR LOCAL BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION at 877.FTC.HELP (877.382.4357)
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY OFFICE OF GROUND WATER AND DRINKING WATER at 800.426.4791
WATER QUALITY ASSOCIATION at 800.749.0234, Technical Issues: 630.505.0160
If you find any of the web sites listed above to be inactive, please contact the respective organization. Also, be aware that the above phone numbers may be subject to change without notice.