Improve Water Quality at Home

Photo: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/ flickrDrinking water is an absolute necessity of life, but how clean is the H2O you drink? Water straight from the faucet will quench your thirst, but may come with unwanted "fringe benefits" ... in the form of minerals, microbes, nitrates, radiation, chloroform, and even arsenic. These contaminants can negatively affect the flavor of your water and, more seriously, your physical health.

You may be tempted to switch to bottled water, but that comes with its own set of drawbacks -- a high price tag, uncertain quality, and a major recycling problem due to all those empty plastic bottles. To ensure a steady supply of clean, healthy water for your family to drink, the most practical solution might be to install a water purification system in your home.

Learn how to assess and improve drinking water quality in your home.

Regulation of Drinking Water Quality

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the agency responsible for water testing and treatment in the US ... that is, if you are connected to the public supply. The EPA regularly posts updates on its website regarding the drinking water quality, state by state, as well as information about utilities that supply water to the general public.

However, if you have a private well, your water is not under the jurisdiction of the EPA. You yourself must take care to ensure its safety by having a certified laboratory test it once every year.

Water Assessment Testing

A water assessment test is normally a part of the inspection process prior to purchasing a home. However, you can choose to have it done at any time. There are 2 elements to this test. The first is detection of primary water standards -- contaminants including dangerous microorganisms, viruses, disinfectants and disinfection byproducts, chemicals both organic and inorganic, and radionuclides. The second is the detection of secondary water standards -- harmless minerals like iron or copper, which affect the taste of your household water supply. The results of the test help determine which type of water treatment or purification is best for your home.

Types of Water Treatment and Purification Systems

A number of systems are available to purify your drinking water, ranging widely in volume, efficiency, and price. They run the gamut from simple small-capacity carafe-style and faucet-mounted filters, through undersink, reverse osmosis, and whole house water treatment systems. An advantage of the more complex systems is that they often combine water purification and softening functions; however they may require installation by a professional plumber.

The reverse osmosis method is reputed to remove traces of pharmaceutical medication from your home's water supply. To choose the right model for your needs, consider the results of your water assessment test, as well as your budget, the size of your household, and the amount of water you consume.    

Installation and Maintenance

Before purchasing a drinking water filtration system, check whether its installation will require a saddle valve. This can cause leaks, since it necessitates drilling a hole in the cold water line. A screw-on plumbing connection makes installing the filter system simpler. In addition, find out how expensive and complicated the system is to run and to maintain. Operating a non-electric method of water purification will save energy and cash.

Maintenance may entail cleaning the device and/or changing the filter on a regular basis, depending on your particular system. Some systems have an electronic indicator to show when the filter needs to be replaced.

Laura Firszt writes for

Updated December 5, 2018.


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