What’s In YOUR Water? – Tap Water Contamination

by heather


Learn how to save water

Have you ever wondered about your tap water? Most of us give little thought to the simple act of turning on the faucet. We turn the knob and out comes clean, fresh water. It’s a luxury we have in this country that we rarely think about.

But, there are over 1.1 billion people in this world who don’t have access to fresh drinking water. And each year, over 1.1 million people die from waterborn diseases.

We’re truly lucky to live in a country with access to so much clean water.

Think about this for a moment: where does your water actually come from? How does it get treated? What chemicals are used? And where does it go when you’re done with it?

These are all questions that popped into my head today. I was doing dishes, and it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea where the water that was pouring out of my kitchen faucet had come from. And as usual, I put on my research hat and decided to write a post about it all.

Where Does Our Water Come From?

The first thing we’ve got to find out is where our drinking water actually comes from.

If you’ve been a long time out of school and have forgotten what the water cycle looks like, here’s a nifty picture for you to look at:


(I had way too much fun looking at water cycle diagrams…)

Ok, now that you’ve refreshed your memory on how our Earth recycles water, we’ve got to investigate how this water actually gets to our tap.

Is Your Water Public or Private?

Everyone gets their water from one of two sources: ground water or surface water. Ground water comes from underground wells and aquifers. Surface water comes from lakes, rivers, and streams.

According to the EPA, most rural areas get their water from groundwater sources. And most metropolitan areas get their water supply from surface water sources.

The CDC estimates that over 286 million Americans get their water from a community water source (instead of a private well). So, chances are pretty good you’re in this group.

Finding Your Exact Water Source

Now, the answer to exactly where your water comes from is going to be different for everyone. If you want to find out where the water comes from where you live, then check out EPA.gov’s Surf Your Watershed. This nifty tool will let you pick your area to find out exactly where your drinking water comes from.

You can also see how many neighboring communities rely on the same watershed, and the environmental data that’s been reported.

For instance, I found out that I get my water from the Shiawassee watershed here in Michigan (which I didn’t know), and that mercury is the primary pollutant. Not good.

You can check out this other nifty tool from the EPA called EnviroMapper. This tool allows you to see all your local rivers, lakes, and streams. If you click on “water quality” on the left bar, you’ll see which local watersheds are in danger from pollution (they’ll turn a bright red color).

How Does Water Get Treated?

When a municipal water supplier takes water from a source, either groundwater or surface water, obviously it’s not crystal clean. It has minerals, pollutants, dirt, and who knows what else. It’s got to be cleaned up before we can drink it.

I found this very helpful diagram online. This is a typical water treatment system:

image002A few years ago I went to my local water treatment facility; their system is almost identical to this one.

Chemicals Used To Treat Water

Every municipality uses different chemicals to treat their water. When you think about it; they have to.

Rivers can run through farm fields, picking up pesticides and fecal matter along the way. They can run through zinc or arsenic-ladened rock formations, pick up pollutants from factories, and carry in human sewage from septic fields (source). Without treatment, then diseases like cholera and typhoid would be pretty common. Not good.

Most facilities use chlorine and chloramine to disinfect the water. Others use iodine, or aluminum (as a coagulant to filter out large particles). And, many systems also add fluoride for dental health.

But, these chemicals may not be so good for us. Natural News recently published an interesting article on water safety.

…this process, which is often called “purifying” water, appears to not make water “pure” for the body. In fact, a recent study by University of Illinois scientists published in the scientific journal Mutation Research shows the chemicals used to treat water we drink and use in swimming pools causes a reaction with organic materials in the water that creates dangerous, cancer-causing toxins known as disinfection by-products (DBPs).

Basically, when these chemicals are used to treat the water a reaction can occur which produces new, dangerous by-products.

Here’s an example, again from the Natural News article:

The first discovery of the University of Illinois research team involved water with naturally high bromine and iodine in it, produced primarily from sea water or underground aquifers most likely linked to ancient sea beds in the past. When this type of water was disinfected with chemicals, DBPs were produced that had iodine atoms attached — creating a gene harming toxin

The Drugs In Our Water…

It’s not only DBPs that we have to worry about. The Associated Press finished up a landmark investigation last summer and found that the drinking water of over 41 million Americans was contaminated with pharmaceuticals.


Well, most of us think that when we take a medication that’s the end of it. We swallow a pill and feel better.

But, our bodies can’t completely absorb and break down many of these complicated medications. So, much of it leaves our body through urine.

Unfortunately, our water treatment systems don’t have a way to take these pharmaceuticals out of the water. So, it stays there. Here’s a sample from the article, which was published at Environmental News Network:

The investigation found widespread evidence of drinking water contaminated with both over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including painkillers, hormones, antibiotics, anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, and drugs for cancer or heart disease. Of the 28 major cities that tested their water supplies for pharmaceuticals, only two said those tests showed no pharmaceutical contamination. In Philadelphia, 56 different drugs and drug byproducts were found in treated drinking water, and 63 were found in the city’s watershed.

Of the 35 watersheds that had been tested, 28 were found to be contaminated. Deep-water aquifers near landfills, feedlots and other contaminant sources in 24 states were also found to contain pharmaceuticals. This means that even in rural areas where people get their water from wells, drinking water might still contain drugs.

What You Can Do…

1. Steam Distill Your Water

The safest water in the world is steam distilled water. If you want completely healthy, completely pure water then this is the best way to get it. And yes, you can easily steam distill your own water at home. I do it everyday.

I use a Megahome Steam Water Distiller (you can see my product review here). I love this water distiller. It’s incredibly easy to use, and I get perfect, pure water for pennies.

Steam distillers work by heating up the water to boiling, and then capturing the steam into another jug. This means that all the chemicals and minerals are left in the distiller, and the perfectly pure water is left in the other jug. And, there’s nothing a steam distiller can’t filter out.

It takes me about 5 hours to get one gallon of water. And, I don’t have to worry about drinking anything else but water. To me, it’s definitely worth the investment to have one of these.

2. Take Action By Being Aware

Another way you can help protect your water is to learn what not to put down the drain. Paint, medications, oil, soaps that contain phosphates…all these things end up in your local watershed and cause pollution. So, take action by using natural, plant-based cleansers, detergents, and shampoos.

3. Don’t Put Chemicals On Your Lawn

Fertilizing and chemically-treating your lawn means that most of those chemicals are going to run off down the drain, especially if you use a sprinkler-system or get a heavy rain. Use natural fertilizers, like manure or those sold by Terracycle.

You can find a list of more suggestions at the National Resources Defense Council.

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April 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm


[email protected] April 24, 2009 at 11:53 am

Thank you for not suggesting we drink bottled water. I am in an environmental geology course right now and we are learning about this exact topic. I find it very interesting how we basically abuse a very limited natural resource as though it will last forever. It must be that we see our world mostly covered with water and figure we can never possibly run out…too bad it is all unusable at this point in time, or at least economically infeasible.

In order to produce a liter bottle of drinking water it requires 3 liters of water to make the plastic for the bottle. Hmmmm….

heather April 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm


I totally agree with you!

I found a stat online that said 97% of our Earth’s water is in the oceans, 2% is ice in glaciers, and only 1% is fresh water. So, we definitely have less than we think…

Margaret August 4, 2009 at 8:58 am

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Eleanor Fullwood October 1, 2009 at 8:15 am

Thanks for sharing this information that is so much needed. Water is the source of all life but not all water is created equal. Are we drinking a healthy elixir or a corosive acid? That is a serious question to think about.

Our bodies are composed of roughly 70 trillion cells which are primarily water – from 76-98% – the water we drink is the water that makes up these cells.

We are as healthy as the water we bath our cells in, so the quality of water we consume directly impacts our overall health.

Water may be the single most important element for achieving & maintaining optimal health.

That is without the chlorine, arsenic, rust, lead, rocket fuel, untreated raw sewage – human and animal wastes, parasites, 271 million pounds of pharmaceutical drugs, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides etc… it killing us and our babies.

So what is the solution to this madness?

Clean, Refreshing….Kangen Water

Change Your Water,Change Your Body…Change Your Life!

Eleanor Fullwood

Natasha January 15, 2010 at 11:58 pm

thanx so much for this peice of research, i have been looking around and this is the whole package. tap water not only tastes vile where i live now but makes me feel ill. when i drink it i feel like i need to sick it out and i hate drinking it. my stomach always feels weak and not right after drinking it (sometimes pains and aches) and this lasts ages. bottled water doesnt make me ill but tastes just the same and makes me feel sick depending on which one it is. i thought i might have an internal allergy to chlorine but the doctor probably won’t do anything. im furious they’re putting floride in the water, if you research floride very carefully it is actually a very seriously harmful toxic chemical. it has oficially never been proved to benefit teeth in any way. mam was advised from dentist to give me floride drops when i was young and i developed florosis on my teeth which is permenant stains that are yellow or cream and everywhere. floride is gonna couse so many problems, but what can you do, how do you go about complaining about water exactly? i wish i could. floride is also a form of toxic waste that is impossible / very expensive to dispose of. one one very long article i heard hats why they are disposing of it to dentists and in the water. remember how it always says on the tube of toothpaste [only give a pea sized amount to children] which is because it is very bad for u if u swallow it. but not wer going to be swallowing it and bathing in it every day without choice, i so need to join some campaign or soemthing against this its terrible.

Don't drink bottled water February 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Bottled water is not ideal for the environment. But you need to drink clean water. Check out http://www.homefacts.com/waterquality.html to find out what’s in your water.

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