One question I’ve always been curious about is if tap water is safe to drink. When I’m dining out, the server typically asks if we’d like water for the table. In turn, I ask if it’s filtered or bottled? This exchange usually involves me glancing around the table observing the raised eyebrows of my friends. Depending on the servers answer, I generally opt for wine.
I can’t be alone in this debate, right? So, I tracked down expert, Jim Lauria, who is a water technology executive with over 20 years of global experience in the agricultural, municipal, industrial, and commercial markets. He graciously and patiently answered all of my questions.
Q: How safe is it to drink tap water and why?
“Tap water is generally safe to drink and its purity is regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency. However as evidenced by the recent Flint, MI situation, in rare instances things can go wrong and drinking water can be contaminated in the distribution system that delivers the water to households.”
Q: Should we filter tap water?
“As a safety precaution, it doesn’t hurt to “filter” tap water to remove any impurities that might make their way through a compromised water distribution system. In addition, a chlorine residual usually exists to protect consumers from microorganisms that could cause health problems. Carbon filters can remove this chlorine residual and also any taste, color or odor components that would affect the flavor of the water you would drink or cook with. A Brita filter pitcher is a cost effective way to ensure safe, clean water for drinking and cooking purposes. More expensive solutions would involve an under-the-sink reverse osmosis (RO) system or a point-of-entry system to treat the water for the entire household.”
Q: Why does my tap water taste differently than bottled water?
“As I stated previously tap water often contains a small amount of residual chlorine and some flavors that are picked up in the distribution system. Bottled water is typically municipal water treated using an RO system to make it almost completely pure with minerals added in at the end of the treatment process to give it some taste.”
Q: Is there any benefit that tap water has over bottled or filtered water?
“Tap water in the US averages about $1.50 per 1000 gallons ($0.0015 per gallon) compared to bottled water that can range from $1.00 to $6.00 per gallon (in many cases more expensive than gasoline!). In addition, the bottles are an environmental liability being produced with oil, transported using gasoline and often ending up in landfills.”
Q: I feel like when I drink tap water, I feel more thirsty, is that possible?
“You may just be sensing a different taste between the tap water and the bottled water. Either source would hydrate you the same.”
Q: Where does my water come from and how do I trust the source?
“Drinking water comes from a variety of sources – surface water (rivers, lakes, streams, reservoirs) and groundwater (drilled wells and natural springs). You can find out about your particular source water by reading your water bill on a regular basis. Several times per year the water utility that is serving your area is required by the EPA to provide a report on the water tests they conduct.”
Q: In your opinion, how much water should we drink per day and why?
“Staying hydrated throughout the day offers all sort of health benefits. Some people recommend eight glasses of water per day. If you are drinking water only when you are thirsty, you probably are not properly hydrated.”
Jim wanted to remind me that water is a valuable resource and should be conserved and not wasted. For tips on how the general public can conserve this precious resource, please see his blog post that he wrote in honor of World Water Day.
As for my changed outlook, I went out for dinner and was going to have tap water, but they mentioned it was filtered!
Other articles of interest by Jim Lauria: