Household drinking water can be affected by a number of different problems. Its taste, odor, consistency, and even its appearance can all decline due to issues like a missing water softener, old plumbing, or city-wide filtration problems. But in many cases, even if there are subtle impurities in your water, it may still be safe to drink.
How can you tell if your water is truly safe to consume, and what can you do to make your water more drinkable?
One of the most obvious signs that something is up with your water is discoloration. Occasionally, you may notice a slight amount of white cloudiness in your water; if this is the case, it’s probably no cause for concern. It might be dissolved calcium or magnesium, which can make your water hard, but still potable.
However, if your water is yellow, orange, or brown, you should take it as a sign that your water is not safe to drink. Yellow water could indicate the presence of chromium-6, a deadly carcinogen, or metals like iron, copper, or lead in the water. Orange and brown water could also indicate the presence of rust and heavy metals, which aren’t good to consume, especially in high doses. Fortunately, most of these issues can be corrected with an adequate filter.
Hard water is water that contains dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium. It has an unpleasant texture and taste, and leaves behind spots in your sink and tub; it can also accelerate the deterioration of your water-based appliances. However, it shouldn’t make your water unsafe to drink. You can correct most hard water issues by installing a water softener that can adequately handle your water volume.
Taste and Odor
There are many factors that could influence the taste and odor of your water; ordinarily, water should be free of any smells or tastes. However, if there are high levels of dissolved particles, it could taste earthy or musty. If it contains hydrogen sulfide or sulfur-related bacteria, it could give your water a “rotten egg” smell. In low levels, these issues shouldn’t pose an immediate health risk, but it’s still worth investigating and correcting when you can. Oftentimes, a good filter will eliminate these problems.
Unfortunately, some of the most dangerous drinking water issues are ones you can’t easily detect by sight, smell, or taste. If your water contains harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens, it could cause serious infections, diseases, and conditions. Boiling your water will get rid of most of these threats, but nobody should expect to boil all their home drinking water by default. Test your water routinely for the presence of these invisible culprits, and install extra filters if and when necessary.
If you rely on municipal water, make sure you’re getting alerts if and when there’s a problem with the provision of water. Occasionally, storms, maintenance, land disruptions, and equipment failures can interfere with the water plant’s ability to safely and fully filter water. In some cases, the water authorities will recommend for homeowners to boil all their water before they drink it. In other cases, they may recommend avoiding tap water altogether until further notice.
Simple Steps to Keep Your Drinking Water Safe
If you’re concerned about the safety of your drinking water, there are a few steps you can take to improve its quality and consistency:
- Pay attention to the news. The most important step, if you rely on municipal water, is to pay attention to the news. If there’s a significant problem with water filtration or provision in your city, this is where you’ll learn about it. Otherwise, you could expose yourself to dangerous conditions.
- Test your water. You can buy home testing kits for a variety of particles and contaminants, or a catch-all kit that basically tests for everything. Conduct tests on a regular basis, checking to see if there are any issues that warrant your attention.
- Invest in a water softener. A water softener will remove particles like calcium and magnesium from your water, providing you with softer water and protecting your appliances from rapid deterioration. It may be necessary regardless of whether you rely on city or well water.
- Invest in a water filter. Finally, invest in water filters for your home. There are many types of water filters available, so make sure you get one that shields you from the most significant risks in your area—or use multiple filters to protect yourself from a wider variety of threats. Solutions range from very cheap to very expensive, so chances are, you can find an option that works within your budget.
Most drinking water in developed countries is relatively safe, by default, but it never hurts to conduct a test and apply a filter if you’re concerned about your water’s potability. In many cases, a small investment or a simple change is all it takes to make your drinking water safe again—or improve the taste and subjective quality of the water.