By Ifeoma Tete Mbuk
Like many water consumers you may never have given this question a thought. Sources of water include wells which taps groundwater. Groundwater is filtered through underground soil layers, and so often does not require much treatment. Lake water (called â€œsurface waterâ€, because it is on top of the land surface) is treated to remove harmful bacteria, solids such as algae and soil, and unpleasant tastes and odours.
Public drinking water supplies are tested and inspected on a regular schedule for bacterium and for nitrate, and on a less frequent schedule for more than 80 other possible contaminants. These include pesticides, cleaning solvents, and other substances which are harmful to drink.
Certain substances in drinking water are even beneficial to health. It might seem surprising at first that so many substances are found in our drinking water. However, because water is a good solvent, it is rarely found in nature as just pure H20. For example, calcium is a mineral often picked up by water as it passes through soils and rocks. Calcium and other minerals help give water its characteristic taste, and may benefit health. Many communities add chlorine to protect the water as it travels through pipes to homes and businesses, and fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Public health officials currently believe that the benefits of these additives outweigh the health risks.
Limited amounts of contaminants are allowed in public drinking water supplies, as well as in bottled water. Scientists use toxicity studies performed on laboratory animals along with data from human exposure in the workplace to make recommendations about the acceptable levels of contaminants in drinking water. They look at immediate risks as well as long term risks such as cancer.Â People who want to lower their risk further can choose to treat the water in their home. However, you must ensure that the system you choose is designed to remove the contaminants you are concerned about.
Is bottled water better?
Bottled water, in general, must meet the same federal drinking water standards as public water supplies. Therefore, bottled water could contain more- or less- of the same contaminants as your tap water. There is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. â€œAnd in fact, an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle â€” sometimes further treated, sometimes not.â€
What actions can YOU take to improve bottled water safety?
Write to the members of House of Assembly, the Environmental Protection Agency, and your state governor and urge them to adopt strict requirements for bottled water safety. Specifically, point out to these officials that they should:
-set strict limits for contaminants of concern in bottled water, including arsenic, plate-count bacteria, E. coli and other parasites and pathogens, and synthetic organic chemicals.
-apply the rules to all bottled water whether carbonated or not and whether sold intrastate or interstate; and
-require bottlers to display information on their labels about the levels of contaminants of concern found in the water, the waterâ€™s exact source, how it has been treated, and whether it meets health criteria set.
-punish bottlers who refill, store, and distribute bottled water under very unhygienic environmental conditions such as in motor parks and near mechanic workshops.Â Empower regulators and enforce the law.
A friendly smile can disarm an aggrieved customer. Keep smilingâ€.
*culled from A Handbook of Customer Service Quotes.