People no longer take clean drinking water for granted, even if you are living in a city with municipal water treatment. Unfortunately, problems with your water are pretty much invisible and there may not be any way to tell for yourself that there are contaminants lurking behind the tap.
Before you invest in a water purification system, you should take what steps you can to determine your water quality. There are a few common water quality problems that you may be able to spot (and take care of) yourself.
Your first test is the look of your water. Is it cloudy, murky or brown?
This appearance is often a result of rust or sediment in the water. Relatively harmless though it looks bad and can taste worse. A simple filter system should clean this up, but you might want to investigate further to see if you need to do plumbing repairs for corroded pipes.
Appearance also goes beyond the water itself. Take a close look at your faucets and shower heads to get some clues. Is there a grey crust forming around the end of the faucet or the holes of the shower? Though unappealing, this isn’t a sign of serious problems. It just means you have a high mineral content in your water, also known as “hard water”.
Though it’s harmless, it can be corrosive to plumbing and the crusty build-up is a hassle to continually clean off your fixtures. In this case, the solution isn’t a water filter though. A filter won’t help with dissolved minerals. You’ll want to look into a water softening system instead.
The flavor of your water can tell you a little bit about any potential problems. A bleachy flavor means that the amount of chlorine being added for purification is a little too high. It may be temporary, depending on your local water quality issues. A charcoal-based filter can usually neutralize the chlorine and improve the flavor.
An earthy or “swampy” taste can mean some sort of organic contamination, and you’ll want to use a filter to clean that up. Some biological material can be dangerous, like parasites or E.coli so you’ll want to take proper steps if you start to taste this. A UV filter can kill any living organisms in your water, for example.
But for drinking water that looks and tastes fine, you can’t do much more investigating on your own. You’ll need to get your water tested. Contact your municipal office and see where you can get an independent and professional test done.
Some areas will offer free testing as a city service, others will not. But with a little research, you should be able to find a lab that will do it, even if you have to ship your water sample via courier. The cost may be a small price to pay if you discover a serious contamination problem with your water.
If you have no access to lab testing, there are some limited test kits on the market that offer color-changing paper strips you can use to look for contaminants on your own. They’re not great, but could be a handy option for quick results.