Water—with air it is the world’s most important substance for sustaining life. With air, it is also the most efficient means of diluting molecules, mixing them up, and transporting them around the world. A famous physicist postulated that in every breath we take we may be inhaling one molecule that was exhaled by Julius Caesar’s dying breath. Water has a similar ability to disperse, along with whatever is in it.
Clean Water Matters
Clean water, readily available to all, is one of the marks of a civilized society. As soon as a nation is able to provide that resource, its rate of illness drastically diminishes, and life-expectancy and productivity soars.
The supply of good water goes hand-in-hand with the efficient removal of waste and the prevention of one coming into contact with the other. It is reckoned that Joseph Bazalgette, who designed London’s sewers in the 19th century, did more good for the people of that city than any other man in history.
When Water Threatens
Some of the most crippling diseases that affect humanity are carried by water, and we are lucky to live in an era when we can confidently turn on a tap and know that it will not be a source of typhoid, cholera, or polio. But the battle against micro-organisms is unending—in August 2016 a New Zealand town found its water supply infected with the micro-organism campylobacter, and then that the emergency water they supplied presented a risk of E coli infection!
The downside of a modern nation is that we depend more and more on the chemicals that make industry, transport, and health provision grow. These chemicals are very easily transported from place to place, and even from continent to continent, by water.
Some of these contaminants are naturally present in a water source. Others get into the water from the air, from the pipes in which it is carried, or from countless substances that make their way into rivers and lakes from farms, factories, wildlife and homes. Other chemicals are introduced by the treatment process itself.
The authorities who supply our water are required to be constantly vigilant on levels of contaminants. In the USA they are governed by the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, which requires them to issue a Consumer Confidence Report every year, detailing everything about the water supply: where it comes from, how it is tested, what has been found in it, and how it has been treated.
Water companies are obliged to act quickly in the event of any harmful substance being suspected, and to provide advice and alternative water to customers.
What Can the Householder Do?
Check your water all the time for changes in appearance, taste or smell. Any of these could indicate a change in the chemical makeup of your water. Avoid drinking it until you have had assurance from your water company.
Check the Consumer Confidence Report for your area and look up anything you are unsure of. If any contaminants are near to the allowed level, remember that those recommendations can change as more research comes forward, so treat it with caution.
If your water comes from a well water source, you should get your water regularly tested. You can get advice on testing from your local environmental department.
If you are concerned about the level of contaminants in your water, an economical way to achieve peace of mind is to buy a water filter. These have to meet minimum effectiveness standards, and often the manufacturer’s website will have details of the tests carried out. For instance the Berkey test results shown on their website indicate over 97% effective removal of every contaminant tested—for most it is over 99.9%.
If you live in an older property, make sure than any lead pipes have been removed. Lead was a common material for piping drinking water until the last century, and is still a major source of harmful contamination. Until the 1980s it was still used to solder copper pipes, and many brass faucets include lead allowing minute amounts into the water.
The Stuff of Life
Clean water has been essential to humanity since the earliest days. Although modern technology is adding more chemicals to the mix all the time, we are fortunate to live in a time and place where clean water is available on tap at any moment of the day or night. Our vigilance and that of the authorities are needed to keep it so.
Walter J Mcdaniel has worked in importing Home and Garden product business for over 7 years. He has a B.S. in business from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He has worked in Asia and Europe before he established his own company.