The Not-So Refreshing Truth About Your Water

Water plays such an important role in our lives no matter where we live. It’s a primary element of our planet’s ecosystem. It nourishes us. It quenches our thirst. It impacts our health. It’s critical to our survival. It’s the source of life. It’s pure, refreshing and healthy to drink…or so you thought.

Rarely do we consider that our drinking water could be dangerous, or have negative effects on our health. Water is the vital nutrient to the life of every cell, acting as a building material. Our brain is 76% water, our muscles 75%, and even our bones are 25% water. It’s important we’re getting properly hydrated with clean water to support cellular health, digestion and the other chemical reactions in our bodies. Studies show that 60%-70% of the US population is dehydrated throughout the day. The most common symptom of dehydration is fatigue — feeling tired. Think of it like this; you’re not just what you eat but what you drink. Proper hydration from pure water each day is critical.

But hydration from clean water can be difficult when drinking from your home’s tap. Harmful chemicals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pathogens and other impurities run wild in our system.

More than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, yet only 91 contaminants are regulated by the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act.

Some common chemicals in tap water such as chromium, arsenic and disinfectant byproducts can accumulate in body tissue. This can affect the developmental and hormonal systems in ways scientists don’t yet understand. Pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, sex hormones, anti-depressants, and seizure pills have been found in the tap water of at least 41 million Americans. Water treatment centres are not currently required to test for pharmaceuticals.

If you think the bottled water you are drinking is much better. Think again.

Aside from the obvious sustainability argument, more than 40% of all bottled water comes from the same place tap water does.

The FDA regulates bottled water as food, so in fact tap water goes under much stricter regulation than bottled water. In most cases you’re paying for a water bottle label, not for superior water.

A number of water purification solutions have come to market in the last few years to address this growing concern, but are they really as effective as they claim? Water purification solutions come in all shapes, sizes and setups, but there are five major categories:

1. Filter Jugs & Bottles

The Pros:

  • Cheap, convenient and easy to setup/repair.
  • Very portable.

The Cons:

  • Very inefficient at filtering water contaminants. In recent laboratory testing, 4 out of 6 filters tested bacterial counts in the fresh filtrate were higher than in tap water.
  • Filter jugs and bottles will often only remove a basic number of bacteria and chlorine, leaving you exposed to tens of thousands of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and other impurities.

2. Distillers

The Pros:

  • Removes all contaminants.

The Cons:

  • Distillers can cost upwards of $450 and require a significant amount of maintenance to clean the waste product. More importantly, distilled water can have detoxifying effects in the short-term, studies have shown negative effects over a prolonged period, including stripping your body of essential nutrients.

3. Reverse Osmosis (RO) Membranes

The Pros:

  • Highly efficient in removing a large number of contaminants.

The Cons:

  • Often very costly and a lot of maintenance is required.
  • Replacement RO membranes are expensive.
  • Small pores in the RO membrane block particles of larger molecular structure, but more dangerous chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and chlorine are molecularly smaller than water. RO removes naturally occurring minerals in our water. Water stripped of these trace minerals can be unhealthy for the body. RO also wastes a large amount of water and energy.

4. Ionizers & Alkaline Water Filters

The Pros:

  • Increases water Alkalinity.

The Cons:

  • The Ionizer units are expensive and the health benefits not verified.

5. UV

The Pros:

  • Effective way to kill bacteria in water.

The Cons:

  • UV systems are often expensive and may only damage the microorganisms, rather than disrupt them.
  • The UV treatment can be ineffective on hard water.

We have only begun to address the effectiveness of these solutions. With a few limited exceptions, the water filtration category has had some serious design neglect for a long time. Most households have limited options when looking for something that is effective and also looks good on their kitchen counter. The ability to combine function and design is crucial in making this shift.

The most effective solutions for homes would incorporate a hybrid approach. Utilizing a network of filters with a mixture of advanced filtering media and larger membranes. This would allow you to filter out the harmful impurities whilst maintaining the essential trace minerals that are important for your health. In reality, this is hard to achieve and requires a great deal of cost, planning, maintenance and expertise — though not impossible.

As we think about the future of our planet, it’s more important than ever to turn to tap water but how can we do that in a way that doesn’t put our health at risk and supports our active lifestyles? A good place to start is by being informed. Researching what’s really in your water can be as simple as a click away. Check online resources like the National Drinking Water Database or request access to your town’s water information.


a Coren, Michael. “Study: Rocket Fuel Chemical Taints Food, Water.” CNN. February 25, 2005. Accessed: May 25, 2010.

b Duhigg, Charles. “That Tap Water Is Legal, but May Be Unhealthy.” The New York Times. December 16, 2009. Accessed: May 13, 2010.

c “Probe: Pharmaceuticals in Drinking Water.” CBS News. March 10, 2009. Accessed: May 13, 2010.

d Fereydoon, Batmanghelidj MD. 1992. Your Bodies Many Cries for Water. Global Health Solution, Inc.

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