Every living organism needs access to water to survive, and humans are certainly no exception. The human body is composed primarily of water, and no one can survive without it for more than a few days.
In developed countries like the United States, people have largely had the luxury of giving little thought to how they will access clean drinking water. After all, it comes out of the tap on demand in almost every home.
There are, however, some circumstances that merit giving extra consideration to the quality of a family’s drinking water. When local water supplies become contaminated, for example, or people are planning to travel outside of the country or camp in the woods where clean water is not available, it becomes almost immediately clear how essential this resource is.
The easiest way to make sure that the family will always have access to clean drinking water, no matter where they choose to vacation or what’s going on with the municipal supply, is to invest in a Berkey Water Filter. First, though, those on the fence about whether it’s worth the investment can read on to find out about the importance of having clean drinking water.
Potential Waterborne Contaminants
Sometimes it’s clear when water is contaminated. People might notice an off smell, for example, or discoloration could tip them off to the potential presence of organic or inorganic compounds. However, not all waterborne contaminants are easy to detect, and people can go for years without realizing that they are ingesting harmful substances through their drinking water.
In rural areas, agricultural operations often introduce chemicals from pesticides and fertilizer into the local table that supplies neighbors’ wells. In cities, living near an industrial plant can have a similar impact if the municipal authorities are not as conscientious as they should be about testing the tap water.
The chemicals from these and other contaminants can increase cancer risk, cause reproductive problems, and impair organ function, and the effects may be cumulative rather than acute. People in the community rarely become suspicious of the water supply until their friends and neighbors start getting sick. At that point, it’s too late to take preventative action.
Common chemical contaminants that can make their way into drinking water supplies include:
- Halogenated acetic acids build up during water treatment and can increase the risk of bladder cancer.
- Glyphosate is found in chemical herbicides that can enter the tap water through agricultural runoff.
- Hexavalent chromium is a tasteless and odorless metallic compound that has been found to cause stomach and gastrointestinal cancer.
- Fluoride is a mineral that is necessary in small amounts to maintain healthy teeth but can be toxic when administered in excess and may cause not just gastrointestinal problems but also endocrine disorders, low fertility, and cancer.
- Chlorine is an element used to clean tap water that can’t always be eliminated and increases the risk of bladder and rectal cancer over time.
These and other chemical contaminants can be found in both tap water and well water, and most go undetected. The only way to know for sure if a water source is free from chemical contaminants is to have it tested by a lab. Most people who are concerned about their family’s health and safety find that it’s more cost-effective to simply filter the tap water instead of ordering repeated water quality tests.
Organic and man-made chemicals aren’t the only potential waterborne contaminants. Microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites can also pose dangers to human health if they make their way into drinking water. These pathogens can infect people who drink contaminated drinking water, causing potentially serious diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, and giardiasis. In some severe cases, infections caused by waterborne microbes can even be deadly. Common examples of microbial contaminants include:
- Bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, Escherichia coli, and microbes in the Salmonella family
- Viruses like Hepatitis A, rotaviruses, adenoviruses, enteroviruses, reoviruses, and Norwalk-type viruses
- Protozoa such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum
People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop infections upon drinking contaminated water. However, waterborne bacteria, viruses, parasites, and protozoa are a threat to everyone’s health.
In most cases, municipal water suppliers in the United States do a good job of removing microbial contaminants, although they often introduce potentially harmful chemicals in the process. However, other countries aren’t as careful with their drinking water. Families that plan to travel abroad should consider either buying bottled water or bringing a water filter.
Those who camp off-grid also have reason to be more concerned about microbial contaminants. Even if stream water looks clean and clear, there are almost always upstream sources of microbial contaminants. Pathogens can be introduced into rivers by animals, and people who get sick with serious waterborne illnesses in the wilderness are inherently at a greater risk of suffering serious consequences since they are far from medical facilities. Everyone who camps off-grid should consider a water filter an absolute necessity.
Heavy metals can also make their way into drinking water supplies. Lead is the best-known culprit because it can cause serious developmental issues in children and health problems in people of all ages even in minute quantities. This heavy metal is typically introduced into the drinking water supply through outdated plumbing systems, either on the household or municipal scale, and people rarely realize that they are being exposed until they start experiencing health problems.
Lead isn’t the only heavy metal that can cause issues with public drinking water supplies. Other common contaminants include arsenic, zinc, and mercury, all of which can have devastating health impacts when consumed over long periods. Over time, consuming these heavy metals can even prove fatal.
How to Make Sure Drinking Water Is Clean and Safe
Municipal water treatment facilities are supposed to ensure that the water supplied to the public via their homes’ faucets is clean and safe. However, some cities and towns do a better job of this than others. There are federal laws governing drinking water safety, but not all contaminants are regulated, and even those that are regulated can typically still be found in public water supplies at concentrations that are below the thresholds set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
To complicate matters further, not everyone has access to town or city water. In rural areas, many families rely on wells to supply drinking water for the family. Unlike public water supplies, wells aren’t regulated on either a state or federal level, and it’s up to individual property owners to test their water regularly and ensure its safety. Otherwise, wells can become polluted and residents may get sick.
Common pollutants found in well water include nitrates and volatile organic compounds in addition to pathogens. Private well owners must test their water at least once a year. Water quality indicators tested in labs include total Coliforms, fecal Coliforms, and ph. However, these water quality indicators do not take into account all potential well water contaminants.
In both of these cases, the best solution to ensuring that the family has access to sufficient clean, safe drinking water is to invest in a water filtration and purification system. The best countertop filtration systems can remove all waterborne contaminants, including not just the organic and inorganic contaminants described above but also pharmaceuticals, pesticides, microplastics, PFAS, and more.
Who Needs a Countertop Water Filter?
Everyone can benefit from having a countertop water filter, even if the house is outfitted with a whole-home water purification system. Remember, these systems only work if the electricity is on, and they aren’t portable. If a disaster occurs and the family is left without municipally supplied water, the ability to purify water from other sources can make a life-or-death difference.
Purchasing an affordable and effective countertop water filter also comes with the advantage of portability. Whole-home water filters are great for keeping drinking water safe and clean within the confines of the house, but what happens when the family goes away on a trip? Buying bottled water can get expensive, and it’s terrible for the environment. Packing a portable water filtration system offers a much more cost-effective and ecologically sound alternative.
How to Choose the Best Filtration System
There are many water filtration systems out there, but not all of them are created equal. Most families looking for countertop water filters have a mix of priorities. They typically include:
- Proven effectiveness
- Value for the money
- Ease of cleaning
- Durability of materials
- Filtration capacity
- Unit size
Each family will have a slightly different set of priorities. However, everyone should look for water filtration systems that provide proven results. Laboratory test results should be made available to show how effective the system is at removing different kinds of contaminants.
Invest in the Family’s Health and Safety
A high-quality portable countertop drinking water filtration system is always a worthwhile investment. After all, these products ensure that everyone will have access to safe, clean drinking water no matter the circumstances. Whether the electricity goes out and the whole-home filtration system stops working or the family sets out on an amazing off-grid RV adventure that could wind up involving drinking stream water, a good water purification system will prove essential.