One question we get asked a lot is – do I need to filter my tap water? And unfortunately, the answer is always – it depends. There are a number of different reasons why you may or may not want to filter your tap water, as well as a variety of different ways to do so.
The main reason people tend to ask this question is because they’ve heard something in the news or online or from a friend or wherever that says drinking regular old tap water is unsafe or bad for your health. While we here at PlumbingSupply.com® are not doctors, we do know that all drinking water supplied by a municipality in the United States is regulated by the EPA for safety and is considered healthful and safe for the majority of people. That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t reasons to filter your water – including taste or odor, sand/sediment, and individual lifestyle or health concerns.
The EPA regulates the amount of certain minerals, chemicals, bacteria, and other microorganisms that can be present in our drinking water to ensure not only that harmful things are kept in check, but also to help provide optimal levels of healthful things like magnesium and fluoride. These levels are frequently tested and your water municipality must notify you within 24 hours if there is some kind of problem and your water is either unsafe to drink or may cause a health issue. It is important to note, though, that certain chemicals and compounds that may be present in drinking water are not regulated or tested for a variety of reasons – and we are still uncertain of the long-term effects things like leftover pharmaceuticals in our drinking water may have on our health.
Additionally, it is important to understand that water quality is very complex and can vary from town to town, from neighborhood to neighborhood, and even from house to house on the same street depending on several different factors, including the initial source quality, treatment methods, and municipal and home plumbing systems. For example, your home might have a different type of plumbing system or an older plumbing system than your neighbor’s, which can sometimes affect the taste, odor, or other qualities of the water.
The very first step in deciding whether you should filter your water or not is to know the quality of your water source. Those who receive municipal water can request a water quality report from their water company. Many municipalities offer an online download so you can look it up any time, or you can ask for a paper copy to be mailed to you. The report should tell you things like the methods used to treat the water, the general hardness of the water, and overall levels of certain chemicals, minerals, and microorganisms. If you’re on a well, we recommend having your water tested by a professional. Your local city authorities or municipal water company will usually have a list of water quality professionals you can contact.
If the overall quality of your water is acceptable, but you simply don’t like the taste or odor, we recommend installing a countertop carbon filter for drinking. Carbon filters will usually clear up taste and odor issues for a relatively low cost. Countertop models attach easily to the existing water supply under your sink and can be moved with you – a bonus if you rent. If you’re worried about chlorine or lead, most carbon filters will also remove these elements. We also offer filtered shower heads that can help remove chlorine and may be helpful to people who are concerned about the health effects of breathing in chlorine.
If you’re concerned about fluoride, we recommend first determining how much fluoride is in your drinking water and how it got there, and then discussing your personal fluoride needs with your dentist. Fluoride naturally occurs in many drinking water sources, and is beneficial to our dental health. If it is present in appropriate amounts, your local municipality may not add fluoride to the water or may even remove some of the naturally present fluoride if levels are too high. Note that carbon filters won’t remove fluoride and you may need a more involved filtering system, like a reverse osmosis system if you want to get rid of it.
Sometimes your water can pick up sediment somewhere between the water treatment plant and your faucet, but the biological quality of the water is still good. In these cases, you may just need a simple sand separator to solve the problem.
If the overall quality of your city tap water isn’t what you would like it to be, you have well water, or you have certain medical conditions, you may need to filter your water. However, before you choose a filtration system, we recommend consulting a professional to help you figure out what should be removed and what should be kept. Once you’ve decided what your filtering needs are, check out our super awesome Water Filter Buying Guide to help you evaluate your options and choose the best filtration system for you.
Now it’s your turn – do you filter your tap water? Why or why not?