When it comes to consuming unhealthy things, moderation is often a good solution. Most unhealthy foods and drinks, when consumed in moderation, aren’t harmful to your health. However, water is essential for life and it’s impossible to consume water in moderation. This leads many people to ask themselves, “am I drinking healthy water?” There are many factors that can affect your water quality. Let’s take a closer look.
Am I Drinking Healthy Water?
Recent events like the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, OH, have many consumers wondering if they are drinking healthy water, or even if their water is safe. In the small Ohio town, a train carrying industrial chemicals derailed, releasing hazardous substances. Vinyl chloride, a toxic flammable gas used to manufacture PVC, is among the most concerning.
The spill has affected the area’s air and water quality, contaminating water sources, killing wildlife, and releasing an unpleasant smell in the air. Though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tested the air quality and found it to be safe, tributaries of the Ohio River have been contaminated. Many residents are not convinced by testing conducted by local and federal officials, and are taking testing into their own hands.
The incident has many others nearby and others across the nation wondering about their water quality and safety. Many people are wondering exactly where their water comes from, if they should switch water sources, and which water is healthy water.
What Is Healthy Water?
First of all, what is healthy water? For some, healthy water might simply mean water that doesn’t make you sick when you drink it. The water source should also be safe to consume long-term, which means it won’t contribute to illnesses over time. For others, healthy water might mean it contains vitamins and minerals that can bolster your health. Let’s take a look at different water sources and where they fit based on these definitions.
Is Tap Water Healthy?
For about 85 to 90% of consumers, water from the tap comes from a public water system. A public water system has at least 15 service connections or serves at least 25 people. This does not include private wells which serve fewer than 25 people. The original water source might include rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground
Public water systems use sanitation methods to test for and remove viruses, bacteria, and other harmful microorganisms from the water. They also remove harmful materials like lead or arsenic. The sanitation methods and the allowable limits for these and 90 other contaminants are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. At the Federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces and regulates safe drinking water. The EPA works with state and local governments, local waste and water management authorities, and other groups to test drinking water and resolve problems.
If tap water is found to be unsafe for consumption or use, local water system authorities will issue a notice or advisory to the public, such as a “boil water advisory,” “do not drink advisory,” or “do not use advisory.”
So, is tap water healthy? There are many factors that can affect tap water quality, but there are also many safeguards in place to monitor water quality. While public water safety protocols are far from perfect, these rules and regulations help keep consumers safe. Here are a few issues to look out for to make sure your tap water is healthy.
- Contamination from local industrial plants, chemical plants, or spills.
- Wastewater contamination from flooding or storm damage.
- Mold or other contaminants in your home plumbing
Is Bottled Water Healthy?
Bottled water comes from similar sources as tap water. Bottled water is often sourced from public water supplies, and it is then filtered and bottled at a bottling plant. Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), specifically under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). This organization and legislation is responsible for monitoring bottled water and purification processes.
Bottled water from a public water source is required to list the water source, unless it undergoes “distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes that meets the definition of ‘purified water,’” according to FDA bottled water regulations. The requirements for “spring water” are different. This water must be harvested from a water source that meets the definition of a spring. However, there are no standards in place for phrases like “glacial water” or “mountain water,” for example, and these can be misleading in some cases.
Most bottled water plants and products are owned by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo or Nestle, though they use a variety of names, like Dasani, Aquafina, Pure Life, Poland Spring, or Pure Life. Unlike public water sources, bottling plants are not required to publicly disclose their water quality. Though the FDA is in charge of regularly inspecting bottling plants and testing the water, independent organizations have found contaminants in bottled water.
Some bottled water may contain other vitamins and minerals that are known to be positive for human health, such as zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, or vitamin C. These extra vitamins may help bolster your immune system, give you more energy, or help regulate your sleep cycle, especially if you are deficient in these vitamins. Some may consider these vitamin-boosted waters to be healthier than tap water.
When deciding whether bottled water is healthy, here are a few things to consider:
- Have independent organizations found contaminants in the water brand or water from the parent company?
- Is it clear where the water comes from?
- Has the parent company recently had issues with or accusations involving water contamination?
Is Vended Water Healthy?
Vended water uses local water supplies. Water vending machines are attached to water lines and use additional filtration systems to further remove microorganisms, metals, and other contaminants. Water vending machines must be regularly cleaned and maintained by owners to ensure proper filtration.
Vended water can be contaminated in similar ways as tap water. If the city issues a water advisory or notice, then local water vending machines will also fall under these guidelines. However, the additional filtration on water vending machines can remove contaminants that home water filters can’t. This means, if your local water has an unpleasant smell or taste, water vending machines may remove this and provide crisp, clear drinking water.
If your local water supply is not safe to use, or you have concerns about it, vended water that accesses a different water source may be safe to use. This can be a good alternative if you detect signs indicating your water is not safe to drink. Or, if you are also using large quantities of ice, you can get affordable, vended ice at the same location.
If you are considering using vended water, here are a few things to consider:
- Are there any local water advisories or notices?
- Have you seen the owner cleaning and maintaining the machine?
- Is the smell or taste of the vended water preferable to your home tap water?
- Do you also need vended ice?
If you’re wondering if your water is healthy, you may consider other water sources. Tap water, bottled water, and vended water can all be healthy water sources. Ultimately, this decision may come down to your own peace of mind and preference for taste or smell.