LIFE CHANGING REASONS TO DRINK MORE WATER

Has it occurred to you today that you are thirsty? Guess what – by the time you experience the sensation of the thirst, you are already dehydrated. That thirst is your body calling for re-hydration.

 

Your body is composed of roughly 60% water1. That means when we are dehydrated – and most of us spend our days constantly dehydrated to some degree – we are affecting the performance of the majority of our body. Nearly all of our systems do not function as well without the proper water intake.

 

So, really, what does this mean? Why should we drink more water?

 

  1. If you don’t drink water, you will die. It’s that important. Depending on our environment, we can live only a few days without water – maybe a week. We can live much longer without food. For most of us, we should prioritize the consumption of water far more than we currently do.
  2. Prevent cancer. Yes, that’s right – various research says staying hydrated can reduce risk of colon cancer by 45%5, bladder cancer by 50%6, and possibly reduce breast cancer risk as well.7
  3. Be less cranky. Research says dehydration can affect your mood and make you grumpy and confused.3 Think clearer and be happier by drinking more water.
  4. Perform better. Proper hydration contributes to increased athletic performance. Water composes 75% of our muscle tissue!4 Dehydration can lead to weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and electrolyte imbalance.
  5. Lose weight. Sometimes we think we are hungry, when actually we are thirsty. Our body just starts turning on all the alarms when we ignore it. For those of you trying to drop some pounds, staying hydrated can serve as an appetite suppressant and help with weight loss.
  6. Have less joint pain. Drinking water can reduce pain in your joints by keeping the cartilage soft and hydrated. This is actually how glucosamine helps reduce joint pain, by aiding in cartilage’s absorption of water.
  7. Flush out waste and bacteria. Our digestive system needs water to function properly. Waste is flushed out in the form of urine and sweat. If we don’t drink water, we don’t flush out waste and it collects in our body causing a myriad of problems. Also combined with fiber, water can cure constipation.
  8. Prevent headaches. Sometimes headaches can be caused by dehydration, so drinking water can prevent or alleviate that nasty head pain. Next time your head hurts, try drinking water.
  9. Make your skin glow. Our skin is the largest organ in our body. Regular and plentiful water consumption can improve the color and texture of your skin by keeping it building new cells properly. Drinking water also helps the skin do it’s job of regulating the body’s temperature through sweating.2
  10. Feed your body. Water is essential for the proper circulation of nutrients in the body. Water serves at the body’s transportation system and when we are dehydrated things just can’t get around as well.
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WATER & YOU

water-health-weight-loss-infographic

What is so cool about water? Read all these amazing facts!

Pour yourself a glass of water and you could be drinking some of the same molecules that passed through the lips of Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King, or Adolf Hitler. Indeed, since the human body is about 60 percent water you might even be drinking a tiny part of one of those people! Water is one of the most amazing things about Earth; without it, there would be no life and our planet would be a completely different place. One of the truly amazing things about water is that it’s never used up: it’s just recycled over and over again, constantly moving between the plants, animals, rivers, and seas on Earth’s surface and the atmosphere up above. Let’s take a look at this life-giving liquid and find out what makes it so special!

Photo: Water covers over two thirds of Earth’s surface and is an essential ingredient for all the flourishing life our planet enjoys—including this lily of the valley plant.

What is water?

We can answer that question in many different ways. Water is what wets windows when it rains, what we drink when we feel thirsty, and what covers about 70% of Earth’s surface. But what exactly is it?

Chemically speaking, water is a liquid substance made of molecules—a single, large drop of water weighing 0.1g contains about 3 billion trillion (3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) of them! Each molecule of water is made up of three atoms: two hydrogen atoms locked in a sort of triangle with one oxygen atom—giving us the famous chemical formula H2O. The slightly imbalanced structure of water molecules (explained in the box below) means they attract and stick to many different substances. That’s also why all kinds of things will dissolve in water, which is sometimes called a “universal solvent”. Water can even dissolve the solid rocks from which our planet is made, though the process does take many years, decades, or even centuries.

Three states of water: solid snow on a beach, with liquid sea, and gaseous steam (clouds) up above.

Most of the water in our world is a combination of “ordinary” hydrogen atoms with “ordinary” oxygen atoms, but there are actually three different istopes (atomic varieties) of hydrogen and each of those can combine with oxygen to give a different kind of water. If deuterium (hydrogen whose atoms contain one neutron and one proton instead of just one proton by itself) combines with oxygen, we get something called heavy water, which is about 10% heavier than normal water. Similarly, tritium (hydrogen with two neutrons and one proton) can combine with oxygen to make something called superheavy water.

Water has no end of amazing properties. It comes in three wildly different kinds, it’s heavy, it expands in a funny way, it can climb up walls, and… oh let’s find out more!

Water, ice, and steam

One of the unique things about water in the world around us is that it exists in three very different forms (or states of matter as they are known): solid, liquid, and gas. Ordinary, liquid water is the most familiar to us because water is a liquid under everyday conditions, but we’re also very familiar with solid water (ice) and gaseous water (steam and water vapor) as well.

Photo: Looking out to sea from my local beach on the three states of matter that water can assume. It’s February, so that’s snow (solid water) covering the beach itself. The ocean is liquid water. Up above in the sky, the clouds contain water vapor (water in gaseous form).

Converting water between these three different states is remarkably easy. All you have to do is change its temperature or pressure. Take some ice and heat it up and you’ll soon have a pool of liquid water. Carry on heating it and the water will evaporate and become steam. It takes a terrific amount of energy to turn ice into water and water into steam because you have to physically rearrange the structure of the substance in each case and push the molecules further apart. That’s why kettles take so long to boil. (There’s an easier way to turn water from a solid or liquid into a gas and that’s simply to leave it out in the open air; gradually, the more energetic molecules in the water will escape and turn into a cool vapor up above it.)

Steam and geothermal energy from geysers

Photo: Steam geysers are produced when water is heated by Earth’s internal heat (geothermal energy). Picture by Robert Blackett, Utah Geological Survey, courtesy of US Department of Energy/National Renewable Energy Laboratory (DOE/NREL).

When you heat water to make steam, there comes a point where you keep heating the water but the temperature doesn’t increase. The energy you supply seems to be vanishing into thin air, but it’s actually pushing apart the molecules in liquid water and turning them into a gas. In the process, that energy is becoming locked inside the steam as something called latent heat (the word latent just means “hidden”). Latent heat is like an immense reserve of energy locked in steam that the inventors of yesteryear used to power factory machines and vehicles using their mighty steam engines. Read more in our main article on heat.

Why does water make pressure?

If you’ve ever found yourself washing a car with buckets or watering a garden with cans, you’ll have noticed just how heavy water can be. That’s because it’s a relatively dense substance (it packs an awful lot of mass into a relatively small space). Water isn’t dense compared to metals such as gold, which is almost 20 times heavier by volume. But it’s much heavier and denser than wood and plastic, which is why those things will float. Anything less dense than water floats on it; anything more dense sinks in it.

The weight of water is what causes pressure in the oceans to increase with depth. The deeper you go, the more water there is up above you pressing down—and that makes things particularly challenging for submarine designers and scuba divers. Water pressure increases in direct proportion to your depth, so if you go down 100 meters the pressure is ten times greater than if you go down 10 meters. Just imagine walking on the seabed with lots of buckets of water pressing down on your head. At a depth of about 10 km (6 miles) under the oceans, the pressure is as great as the weight of a fully-loaded articulated lorry pressing down on an area the size of your two feet!

Why does water expand when it freezes?

Everyone knows things get bigger when they get hotter and shrink when they cool. Thermometers tell the temperature that way because the (liquid) mercury metal inside them expands as it heats up and contracts when it cools down. But water is different. Almost uniquely, water expands as it starts to freeze! This amazing trick is called the anomalous expansion of water—and here’s how it works.

If you start off with a glass of water and cool it down, the molecules start to move closer and lock together. But at a temperature of about 4°C (39°F), the molecules are as close as they can possibly get. In other words, the water has reached its maximum density. If you keep on cooling it down, the molecules rearrange themselves into a slightly more open structure. This means ice is a little bit less dense than freezing water and that’s why ice floats on water that’s the same temperature. That’s extremely important for fish and all kinds of other river and sea creatures, because it means they can survive in winter in the liquid water underneath solid frozen ice.

Ice

Unfortunately, people don’t always find the anomalous expansion of water so helpful. If the water pipes running under your home freeze solid in winter, the water inside them will turn to ice that takes up more volume—causing the pipes to burst open and then leak when the ice thaws out. Why don’t we simply use stronger pipes? It wouldn’t make much difference: water expands with incredible force when it freezes and even very thick metal pipes would still burst. You can watch a superb video demonstration of a bursting pipe from Steve Spangler.

Photo: Ice in the Wichita Mountains. Picture by Elise Smith courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Why does water take so long to heat up?

Has that kettle boiled yet? Well tell it to hurry up—I’m dying for a cup of tea! It may be a nuisance if you’re cooking or making drinks, but the length of time it takes water to absorb heat is very useful to us in other ways. Water has a high specific heat capacity and that means it can hold or carry more heat per kilogram (or pound) than virtually any other substance. That’s why we use water in heating systems such as radiators, because each liter of water that trickles through the pipes carries and delivers more heat. Of course the drawback is that the water takes some time to heat up in the first place.

Why can insects walk on water?

You’ve probably seen insects that can walk on water. They’re supported by a kind of invisible “structure” on the surface known as surface tension. It happens because water molecules attract very strongly to one another—that’s also why water forms droplets on windows rather than spreading out in a perfectly thin film, as oil would. Imagine all the drops in a basin full of water trying to attract one another. Effectively, they’re “linking arms” and forming an invisible skin on the surface that’s strong enough to support things like needles and razor blades that are heavy enough to sink. All kinds of insects, including spiders, pondskaters, and water boatmen, use surface tension to move across water. In theory, you could walk on water too if you could spread your weight across a big enough area to take advantage of surface tension.

How does water climb up a tube?

Put some water in a glass and you’ll see that it doesn’t form a perfectly straight surface: it actually climbs up the glass slightly more at the edges, forming a downward curving surface called a concave meniscus. The thinner you make the glass (that is, the smaller the diameter it is), the more the water will climb. Put water in a narrow glass rod and you can make it climb up quite a distance. This is known as capillary action or capillarity. It’s how blood moves through our veins and how water is sucked up through the stems of plants and trees. Capillarity helps a large oak tree to suck up something like 380 liters (100 gallons) of water each day!

Learn more about water filters

The Facts About Water Filters

You may think that one water filter is as good as another, but think again. The filter you buy on impulse may not be keeping your family safe.

Water FilterBeverage companies have made a fortune on marketing bottled water on the premise that it’s “pure,” from “pristine, natural sources,” and thereby safer than tap water. Bottled water marketing campaigns have been so successful in making people suspicious of their tap water, that sales skyrocketed 700 percent between 1997 and 2005. Skyrocketing as well—the environmental degradation, landfill waste, and human rights abuses associated with bottled water. Plus, studies have shown that it’s no safer than tap water (see below).

There’s a much better option for ensuring that the water you and your family drink is as safe as it can be: a water filter. Putting a water filter in your home is less expensive and far less environmentally damaging than bottled water. And if you choose the right filter, you can minimize or eliminate the contaminants of highest concern in your area. Here’s what you need to know. …
How Safe Is Public Water?
Under the Safe Water Drinking Act, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for setting national drinking water standards. The EPA regulates over 80 contaminants—including arsenic, e-coli, cryptosporidia, chlorine, and lead—that may be found in drinking water from public water systems. While the EPA says that 90 percent of US public water systems meet its standards, you may want to use a water filter to further ensure your water’s safety.

A 2003 study by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that due to a combination of pollution and deteriorating equipment and pipes, the public water supplies in 19 of America’s largest cities delivered drinking water that contained contaminant levels exceeding EPA limits (either legal limits or unenforceable suggested limits) and may pose health risks to some residents. So even though it may test fine at its source, public water may still pick up contaminants on the way to your house.

Contaminants that sneaked into city water supplies studied by the NRDC include rocket fuel, arsenic, lead, fecal waste, and chemical by-products created during water treatment.

“Exposure to the contaminants [sometimes found in public and private drinking water] can cause a number of health problems, ranging from nausea and stomach pain to developmental problems and cancer,” notes Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) in its booklet, Drinking Water: What Health Care Providers Should Know. PSR estimates that up to 900,000 people get sick and 900 die in the US per year from contaminated public and private drinking water. Despite the problems with public water, it’s still just as safe as bottled water, despite the billions of dollars beverage companies spend to make you think bottled is better. (For more information, see below.)
Step One: Assess Your Tap Water
There isn’t a one-type-fits-all kind of water filter: not every filter type will eliminate every contaminant. You’ll save money and ensure that you’re targeting the contaminants of concern in your area by doing a little research up front.

“Most people purchase the wrong equipment because they skip this very important step, and then they’ve wasted money and resources on a system that isn’t making their water any safer,” says James P. McMahon

To start, check your water utility’s “Consumer Confidence Report,” which it must mail to you each year before July 1 by law. The report details where your drinking water comes from, what contaminants have been found in it, and how contaminant levels compare to national standards. You can also call your utility and ask for a copy, or visit http://www.epa.gov/safewater to see if it’s online.

For help reading the report, visit NSF International’s Web site.

While your report can tell you what’s going on with the water in your area, only a test of the water coming out of your tap will tell you what you and your family are drinking for sure. To find a state-certified lab to test your water (which will charge a fee) visit the EPA’s Safe water Web site, or call the EPA’s Safe Water Hotline at 800/426-4791.

If your water comes from a private well, it’s not regulated at all by the EPA, so you should have your water tested annually in late spring (when pesticide runoff will be at its worst), and anytime you notice a change in your water.
Step Two: Find the Best Type
Water filters come in a dizzying variety, from plastic pitcher filters and built-in refrigerator filters, to faucet and under-the-sink filters, to whole-house models that combine a variety of media types and treat all of the water in your house. What type you want depends on your needs.

If, after examining your Consumer Confidence Report (or, preferably, your current and several past reports), you find that your water regularly tests better than EPA levels, you may just want a filter that can remove the chemicals your local utility uses to treat the water.

These chemicals may or may not show up on your report. Call and ask your utility if it uses chlorine, a suspected respiratory and neurological toxin, or chloramine, a suspected blood and respiratory toxin. Chlorine combines with organic elements during the water treatment process to produce carcinogenic by-products.

The best type of filter to remove chlorine and its byproducts is a combination carbon/KDF adsorption filter (not to be confused with “absorption”), which range from shower and faucet filters to sink and whole-house filters, like those from Filtercon. www.filtercon.com  A regular carbon filter won’t remove chloramine, so look for a catalytic carbon filter instead

If you only have one or two contaminants, a smaller unit, such as a countertop or under-the-sink filter, may meet your needs. To find a filter certified to remove the contaminants you’re most concerned about, visit the NSF’s online database.

Finally, if you find your water has serious safety issues, consider a multi-stage filter that can tackle a variety of contaminants. Many combine a variety of filter types (see the box below for an overview). Filtercon sells multi-stage whole-house or sink filters, for example, that combine KDF and carbon adsorption with ultraviolet light, among other steps—and it also sells customized filters.


Step Three: Look at the Labels

Some experts recommend looking for a filter certified by NSF International, a nonprofit organization that conducts safety testing for the food and water industries. NSF tests and certifies water filters to ensure that they both meet NSF safety standards and are effective at removing contaminants as claimed by the manufacturer. Underwriters Laboratories and the Water Quality Association also offer similar certification, based on NSF standards.

NSF has different certifications, so when you read the label, first make sure it says the filter will remove the contaminants you’re most concerned about. A filter certified by NSF to remove chlorine isn’t going to be helpful if you need it to remove nitrates. Then, look for the NSF seal, Underwriters Laboratories’ “UL Water Quality” mark, or the Water Quality Association Gold Seal for added assurance that your filter will actually do what the box claims.

Our friend RJ talks about water filters!

Americans are all wet when it comes to water. We drank 8.7 billion gallons of bottled water in 2008 (most recent available data) at a cost of more than $12 billion, according to the International Bottled Water Association. That’s a lot of money for something that flows so freely.

By filtering your water, it’s possible to tap into fresh-tasting water without pouring money down the drain and clogging up landfills with empty bottles.

Most of San Diego’s water comes from the Colorado River and contains a heavy load of dissolved solids. While this isn’t a health concern, it does affect the taste.

“At the end of the day, people want a water filter that makes their water taste, smell and feel better,” said Elaine Montemarano, general manager of Superior Water, a San Diego water filtration company.

Water filter systems range widely in price and sophistication. To find the best filter for you, determine how much water you use and how pure you’d like it.

Pitcher

Cost: $20 to $40

How it works: The pitcher is filled with tap water, which seeps through a granulated-carbon filter. The carbon acts like a magnet so impurities (mostly chlorine) stick to its surface while water passes through.

Advantages:: Easy to use, inexpensive, no installation.

Disadvantages: Little water capacity. Must change filters often, and water drips out very slowly. Removes only some of the chlorine and few other chemicals.

Best for: Renters, households that don’t consume much water or don’t want to install a permanent system.

Faucet-mounted filter

Cost: $35 to $50, plus another $30 to $70 annually in replacement filters.

How it works: Tap water flows through a carbon filter faucet attachment to remove some contaminants.

Advantages: Inexpensive, fairly easy to install, filters more water than a pitcher, removes some organic contaminants that can give water a foul taste or odor.

Disadvantages: Filter cartridges need frequent changing and often clog. Filters water at slow rate.

Best for: Renters and people who don’t want permanent installation.

Under-sink carbon filter

Cost: $100-$400

How it works: The filter removes chlorine and some sediment from tap water, with a reserve tank under the sink. Often used with refrigerator-door drinking-water dispensers.

Advantages: Convenient. Filter cartridges last for a long time. Some have more than one filter for better contaminant removal. Fast flow rate.

Disadvantages: Requires hiring a professional to install and change filters every few months ($60 to $150 per filter change). Requires drilling into countertop.

Best for: People who consume a large quantity of water or have a water dispenser on their refrigerator door.

Under-sink reverse-osmosis filter

Cost: $250-$900. Renting an R-O system, about $25 to $50 per month including all maintenance, is an option.

How it works: Contains multiple filters, including a membrane filter that removes 95 percent to 99 percent of impurities in the water.

Advantages: Removes most contaminants. Long-lasting filters (change every two years). Removes arsenic and dissolved solids. Good for coffee makers and irons.

Disadvantages: Expensive. Requires professional to install and change filters ($200-plus charge). Hole must be drilled into countertop. Wastes three to five gallons of water to get one purified gallon. Slow flow rate.

Best for: Well owners. Those who consume a lot of water, want minerals removed, have contaminant problems.

Whole house water filter system

Cost: $2,000-$5,000

How it works: Installed at house water source, the multistage carbon filtration provides filtered water throughout the house. Reduces chlorine, ammonia and other chemicals and heavy metals.

Advantages: Filters drinking and bathing water. Filters large volumes of water quickly. Good for fishponds.

Disadvantages: Expensive.

Best for: People who find tap water too harsh for skin or hair and want filtered water on every faucet.

I reccomend calling FIltercon or going online to http://www.filtercon.com They treat you right, they make sure you have exactly what you want and they have great prices for everyone!

How do you get your drinking water? A great article by our friend, Zhai Yun Tan

Before you take a gulp of water, try to mentally trace where that water that just gushed out of your taps has been: How did it go from that weird-tasting raindrop to the clear, odorless water that is sitting in your glass now?

Safe drinking water is a privilege Americans often take for granted — until a health crisis like the one in Flint, Mich., happens that makes us think about where it comes from and how we get it.

Our drinking water comes from lakes, rivers and groundwater. For most Americans, the water then flows from intake points to a treatment plant, a storage tank, and then to our houses through various pipe systems.

The most common steps in water treatment used by nearly every utility company:

A typical water treatment process.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

  1. Coagulation and flocculation – Chemicals are added to the water. They bind with the dirt and dissolved particles, forming larger particles called floc.
  2. Sedimentation – The floc is heavy, so it settles to the bottom of the tank.
  3. Filtration – The clear water on top passes through filters composed of sand, gravel and charcoal to remove dissolved particles such as dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses and chemicals.
  4. Disinfection – Chlorine or chloramine is added to kill parasites, bacteria, viruses and germs. Fluorine is added to prevent tooth decay.

Various other chemicals can be added to adjust for hardness and pH levels or to prevent corrosion, based on the water source. But depending on where you are in the United States, there can be different challenges, and corresponding methods of treating drinking water. For example:

Lead Pipes Are Common In The Northeast And Midwest

Enlarge this image

(Top) Older pipes can be treated with a chemical to prevent corrosion and contamination of the water supply. (Bottom) When Flint, Mich., changed its water source, it didn’t treat the water to prevent corrosion of the pipes, which contributed to high lead levels in the water.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Lead pipes or fittings are a culprit in the current water crises in Flint, Baltimore and other cities. Many old water pipes are made of lead, which may leach into the water supply if preventive measures aren’t taken. According to EPA, even low levels of lead can cause behavior problems, slow growth and affect IQ levels.

While the most effective solution might be to replace lead pipes entirely, water utilities usually add some form of phosphate to the water supply. That forms a protective film between the lead pipe and the water flowing through it.

Flint failed to add orthophosphate to control corrosion when it switched water sources from the city of Detroit to the Flint River; water from the Flint River has eight times more chloride than Detroit’s, which is highly corrosive to the pipe.

Agricultural States May Suffer From High Levels Of Nitrate

Enlarge this image

In farming communities across the country, water can be contaminated by fertilizer and livestock.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Nitrate runoff in rivers and groundwater can be common in places with high levels of farming activities. Fertilizers, manure storage and septic systems are sources of this pollution. High levels of nitrate in drinking water can cause “blue-baby syndrome,” where infants younger than 6 months suffer from shortness of breath. If untreated, it might lead to death.

Des Moines often has to deal with treating high levels of nitrate in its rivers. The Des Moines Water Works utilityremoves it through an ion exchange process in one of its treatment plants.

Many Western States Drink Saltier Water

Water with high salinity is prevalent in the western part of the United States. In some places, the water can be too salty for drinking or other uses and needs to undergo desalination. These saline water sources include seawater and brackish groundwater.

Turning seawater into drinking water is a relatively new concept. The Carlsbad plant in California that opened last year is the largest seawater desalination plant, and some see it as a possible solution to the statewide drought.

Brackish groundwater has high levels of salt but not as much as seawater. Texas relies heavily on brackish groundwater as a water source.

There are two methods plants may use for desalination. One, used by Carlsbad, is called reverse osmosis; it forces water through semipermeable membranes under very high pressure.

The other is a thermal process that heats the water to form water vapor, which is then condensed and collected as freshwater, leaving the salt behind.

Waterborne Diseases Can Happen Anywhere

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 32 cases of drinking-water associated outbreaks from 2011 to 2012, the most recent time period for which they have been reported.

Most of it was Legionellosis, a disease typically spread by water droplets in the air. The remaining cases were associated with bacteria and viruses that can be killed by chlorine. To prevent such outbreaks, CDC emphasized the importance of ensuring a sufficient level of disinfectant, such as chlorine, is present in the water from the time it leaves the treatment center to when it arrives in our pipes.

Some utilities use ozone as a disinfectant to kill bacteria and viruses, a method some say is more effective than the usual route of using chlorine. Ozone is bubbled into the water in huge tanks, destroying illness-causing microorganisms. It also gets rid of taste and odor in the water.

Milwaukee, Wis., started using ozonation after an outbreak of Cryptosporidium in 1993 killed 69 people and sickened up to 403,000 residents. It was one of the largest outbreaks caused by a contaminated public water source, according to the CDC.

Some States Try To Protect Their Water At The Source

Watersheds are the areas where rivers, lakes and ponds drain into, and they’re a source of drinking water. Some cities, such as Seattle and New York, are famous for the regulations and programs they put in place to protect their watersheds.

New York City gets its water from multiple watersheds that are well-protected. The quality of the water is so good that it does not need to undergo filtration at the treatment plants.

Frank Whitney/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images

In fact, New York City’s watershed protection is so good that it’s one of the five large cities in the country where the drinking water supply does not need to undergo filtration.

The city works with farmers and landowners upstream to reduce pollution and manage land. The Conservation Easement Program sells or donates land to conservation organizations, limiting the type of development that can occur on it permanently.

Although the water doesn’t go through filtration, it is still disinfected with chlorine and ultraviolet light, with the usual sludge of chemicals added to control pH and prevent corrosion.

The EPA regulates approximately 155,000 public water systems in the country, requiring utilities to conduct tests according to schedule and submit water quality data. On the other hand, over 15 million Americans rely on private wells — water quality from this source is not regulated by the EPA, but might be under state rules.

From the lake to the tap, water goes through many steps to become safe for us to drink. It is a crucial process that requires constant monitoring, and — as both history and current events show — it’s one that can be easily threatened by bacterial outbreaks, natural disasters and human activity.

Before you take a gulp of water, try to mentally trace where that water that just gushed out of your taps has been: How did it go from that weird-tasting raindrop to the clear, odorless water that is sitting in your glass now?

Safe drinking water is a privilege Americans often take for granted — until a health crisis like the one in Flint, Mich., happens that makes us think about where it comes from and how we get it.

Our drinking water comes from lakes, rivers and groundwater. For most Americans, the water then flows from intake points to a treatment plant, a storage tank, and then to our houses through various pipe systems.

The most common steps in water treatment used by nearly every utility company:

A typical water treatment process.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

  1. Coagulation and flocculation – Chemicals are added to the water. They bind with the dirt and dissolved particles, forming larger particles called floc.
  2. Sedimentation – The floc is heavy, so it settles to the bottom of the tank.
  3. Filtration – The clear water on top passes through filters composed of sand, gravel and charcoal to remove dissolved particles such as dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses and chemicals.
  4. Disinfection – Chlorine or chloramine is added to kill parasites, bacteria, viruses and germs. Fluorine is added to prevent tooth decay.

Various other chemicals can be added to adjust for hardness and pH levels or to prevent corrosion, based on the water source. But depending on where you are in the United States, there can be different challenges, and corresponding methods of treating drinking water. For example:

Lead Pipes Are Common In The Northeast And Midwest

Enlarge this image

(Top) Older pipes can be treated with a chemical to prevent corrosion and contamination of the water supply. (Bottom) When Flint, Mich., changed its water source, it didn’t treat the water to prevent corrosion of the pipes, which contributed to high lead levels in the water.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Lead pipes or fittings are a culprit in the current water crises in Flint, Baltimore and other cities. Many old water pipes are made of lead, which may leach into the water supply if preventive measures aren’t taken. According to EPA, even low levels of lead can cause behavior problems, slow growth and affect IQ levels.

While the most effective solution might be to replace lead pipes entirely, water utilities usually add some form of phosphate to the water supply. That forms a protective film between the lead pipe and the water flowing through it.

Flint failed to add orthophosphate to control corrosion when it switched water sources from the city of Detroit to the Flint River; water from the Flint River has eight times more chloride than Detroit’s, which is highly corrosive to the pipe.

Agricultural States May Suffer From High Levels Of Nitrate

Enlarge this image

In farming communities across the country, water can be contaminated by fertilizer and livestock.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Nitrate runoff in rivers and groundwater can be common in places with high levels of farming activities. Fertilizers, manure storage and septic systems are sources of this pollution. High levels of nitrate in drinking water can cause “blue-baby syndrome,” where infants younger than 6 months suffer from shortness of breath. If untreated, it might lead to death.

Des Moines often has to deal with treating high levels of nitrate in its rivers. The Des Moines Water Works utilityremoves it through an ion exchange process in one of its treatment plants.

Many Western States Drink Saltier Water

Water with high salinity is prevalent in the western part of the United States. In some places, the water can be too salty for drinking or other uses and needs to undergo desalination. These saline water sources include seawater and brackish groundwater.

Turning seawater into drinking water is a relatively new concept. The Carlsbad plant in California that opened last year is the largest seawater desalination plant, and some see it as a possible solution to the statewide drought.

Brackish groundwater has high levels of salt but not as much as seawater. Texas relies heavily on brackish groundwater as a water source.

There are two methods plants may use for desalination. One, used by Carlsbad, is called reverse osmosis; it forces water through semipermeable membranes under very high pressure.

The other is a thermal process that heats the water to form water vapor, which is then condensed and collected as freshwater, leaving the salt behind.

Waterborne Diseases Can Happen Anywhere

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 32 cases of drinking-water associated outbreaks from 2011 to 2012, the most recent time period for which they have been reported.

Most of it was Legionellosis, a disease typically spread by water droplets in the air. The remaining cases were associated with bacteria and viruses that can be killed by chlorine. To prevent such outbreaks, CDC emphasized the importance of ensuring a sufficient level of disinfectant, such as chlorine, is present in the water from the time it leaves the treatment center to when it arrives in our pipes.

Some utilities use ozone as a disinfectant to kill bacteria and viruses, a method some say is more effective than the usual route of using chlorine. Ozone is bubbled into the water in huge tanks, destroying illness-causing microorganisms. It also gets rid of taste and odor in the water.

Milwaukee, Wis., started using ozonation after an outbreak of Cryptosporidium in 1993 killed 69 people and sickened up to 403,000 residents. It was one of the largest outbreaks caused by a contaminated public water source, according to the CDC.

Some States Try To Protect Their Water At The Source

Watersheds are the areas where rivers, lakes and ponds drain into, and they’re a source of drinking water. Some cities, such as Seattle and New York, are famous for the regulations and programs they put in place to protect their watersheds.

New York City gets its water from multiple watersheds that are well-protected. The quality of the water is so good that it does not need to undergo filtration at the treatment plants.

Frank Whitney/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images

In fact, New York City’s watershed protection is so good that it’s one of the five large cities in the country where the drinking water supply does not need to undergo filtration.

The city works with farmers and landowners upstream to reduce pollution and manage land. The Conservation Easement Program sells or donates land to conservation organizations, limiting the type of development that can occur on it permanently.

Although the water doesn’t go through filtration, it is still disinfected with chlorine and ultraviolet light, with the usual sludge of chemicals added to control pH and prevent corrosion.

The EPA regulates approximately 155,000 public water systems in the country, requiring utilities to conduct tests according to schedule and submit water quality data. On the other hand, over 15 million Americans rely on private wells — water quality from this source is not regulated by the EPA, but might be under state rules.

From the lake to the tap, water goes through many steps to become safe for us to drink. It is a crucial process that requires constant monitoring, and — as both history and current events show — it’s one that can be easily threatened by bacterial outbreaks, natural disasters and human activity.

Before you take a gulp of water, try to mentally trace where that water that just gushed out of your taps has been: How did it go from that weird-tasting raindrop to the clear, odorless water that is sitting in your glass now?

Safe drinking water is a privilege Americans often take for granted — until a health crisis like the one in Flint, Mich., happens that makes us think about where it comes from and how we get it.

Our drinking water comes from lakes, rivers and groundwater. For most Americans, the water then flows from intake points to a treatment plant, a storage tank, and then to our houses through various pipe systems.

The most common steps in water treatment used by nearly every utility company:

A typical water treatment process.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

  1. Coagulation and flocculation – Chemicals are added to the water. They bind with the dirt and dissolved particles, forming larger particles called floc.
  2. Sedimentation – The floc is heavy, so it settles to the bottom of the tank.
  3. Filtration – The clear water on top passes through filters composed of sand, gravel and charcoal to remove dissolved particles such as dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses and chemicals.
  4. Disinfection – Chlorine or chloramine is added to kill parasites, bacteria, viruses and germs. Fluorine is added to prevent tooth decay.

Various other chemicals can be added to adjust for hardness and pH levels or to prevent corrosion, based on the water source. But depending on where you are in the United States, there can be different challenges, and corresponding methods of treating drinking water. For example:

Lead Pipes Are Common In The Northeast And Midwest

Enlarge this image

(Top) Older pipes can be treated with a chemical to prevent corrosion and contamination of the water supply. (Bottom) When Flint, Mich., changed its water source, it didn’t treat the water to prevent corrosion of the pipes, which contributed to high lead levels in the water.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Lead pipes or fittings are a culprit in the current water crises in Flint, Baltimore and other cities. Many old water pipes are made of lead, which may leach into the water supply if preventive measures aren’t taken. According to EPA, even low levels of lead can cause behavior problems, slow growth and affect IQ levels.

While the most effective solution might be to replace lead pipes entirely, water utilities usually add some form of phosphate to the water supply. That forms a protective film between the lead pipe and the water flowing through it.

Flint failed to add orthophosphate to control corrosion when it switched water sources from the city of Detroit to the Flint River; water from the Flint River has eight times more chloride than Detroit’s, which is highly corrosive to the pipe.

Agricultural States May Suffer From High Levels Of Nitrate

Enlarge this image

In farming communities across the country, water can be contaminated by fertilizer and livestock.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Nitrate runoff in rivers and groundwater can be common in places with high levels of farming activities. Fertilizers, manure storage and septic systems are sources of this pollution. High levels of nitrate in drinking water can cause “blue-baby syndrome,” where infants younger than 6 months suffer from shortness of breath. If untreated, it might lead to death.

Des Moines often has to deal with treating high levels of nitrate in its rivers. The Des Moines Water Works utilityremoves it through an ion exchange process in one of its treatment plants.

Many Western States Drink Saltier Water

Water with high salinity is prevalent in the western part of the United States. In some places, the water can be too salty for drinking or other uses and needs to undergo desalination. These saline water sources include seawater and brackish groundwater.

Turning seawater into drinking water is a relatively new concept. The Carlsbad plant in California that opened last year is the largest seawater desalination plant, and some see it as a possible solution to the statewide drought.

Brackish groundwater has high levels of salt but not as much as seawater. Texas relies heavily on brackish groundwater as a water source.

There are two methods plants may use for desalination. One, used by Carlsbad, is called reverse osmosis; it forces water through semipermeable membranes under very high pressure.

The other is a thermal process that heats the water to form water vapor, which is then condensed and collected as freshwater, leaving the salt behind.

Waterborne Diseases Can Happen Anywhere

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 32 cases of drinking-water associated outbreaks from 2011 to 2012, the most recent time period for which they have been reported.

Most of it was Legionellosis, a disease typically spread by water droplets in the air. The remaining cases were associated with bacteria and viruses that can be killed by chlorine. To prevent such outbreaks, CDC emphasized the importance of ensuring a sufficient level of disinfectant, such as chlorine, is present in the water from the time it leaves the treatment center to when it arrives in our pipes.

Some utilities use ozone as a disinfectant to kill bacteria and viruses, a method some say is more effective than the usual route of using chlorine. Ozone is bubbled into the water in huge tanks, destroying illness-causing microorganisms. It also gets rid of taste and odor in the water.

Milwaukee, Wis., started using ozonation after an outbreak of Cryptosporidium in 1993 killed 69 people and sickened up to 403,000 residents. It was one of the largest outbreaks caused by a contaminated public water source, according to the CDC.

Some States Try To Protect Their Water At The Source

Watersheds are the areas where rivers, lakes and ponds drain into, and they’re a source of drinking water. Some cities, such as Seattle and New York, are famous for the regulations and programs they put in place to protect their watersheds.

New York City gets its water from multiple watersheds that are well-protected. The quality of the water is so good that it does not need to undergo filtration at the treatment plants.

Frank Whitney/Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images

In fact, New York City’s watershed protection is so good that it’s one of the five large cities in the country where the drinking water supply does not need to undergo filtration.

The city works with farmers and landowners upstream to reduce pollution and manage land. The Conservation Easement Program sells or donates land to conservation organizations, limiting the type of development that can occur on it permanently.

Although the water doesn’t go through filtration, it is still disinfected with chlorine and ultraviolet light, with the usual sludge of chemicals added to control pH and prevent corrosion.

The EPA regulates approximately 155,000 public water systems in the country, requiring utilities to conduct tests according to schedule and submit water quality data. On the other hand, over 15 million Americans rely on private wells — water quality from this source is not regulated by the EPA, but might be under state rules.

From the lake to the tap, water goes through many steps to become safe for us to drink. It is a crucial process that requires constant monitoring, and — as both history and current events show — it’s one that can be easily threatened by bacterial outbreaks, natural disasters and human activity.

One of the best books on water!

Below is a link to pages of an amazing book that you need to read if you ever wondered about water and what it is capable of. It sustains life… but so much more. Click this link to read an amazing book!

https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Holy_Order_of_Water.html?id=iZX8g_wvpJ4C&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false