Does your water have a strange odor or taste? Do you find your soap doesn’t lather well or you have water spots on dishes and glasses? Or, do you simply wonder what could be in it? Whether you think your water has a specific issue or you’re just concerned about the safety of your family, the first step is having your water tested. You can also check out a copy of your water company’s Annual Water Quality Report. While this report doesn’t tell you what’s coming out of your tap specifically, it can give you an overall idea of what’s in your municipality’s water.
Common Water Issues
Hardness: Caused by the build-up of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, water hardness doesn’t pose any imminent health threats, but it can leave your dishes and glassware speckled with spots, cause soap and detergents to be less effective, and stain sinks and fixtures. Residue from soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and other cleaning products can get left behind even with proper rinsing, which can result in dry skin, clogged pores, and skin irritation. Moreover, the build-up can cause pipes, showerhead nozzles, and faucet aerators to become clogged.
Low pH: Common in areas such as Great Falls, acidic water is defined as having a pH of less than 7. If you have sinks, tubs, faucets, pipes, or shower walls with blue-green stains, you may have acidic water. A sharp, chlorine-like smell out of the tap and a metallic taste are also signs. Too much acid in the water can corrode the copper piping in your plumbing system, causing pinhole leaks to develop. Additionally, when acidic water is combined with heat it can be even more damaging, and cause premature failure of water heaters.
Contaminants: Grouped into 4 basic categories; microbial, inorganic, organic, and radiological, these groups contain over 100 contaminants that can be found in drinking water. Now, before you spit out the glass of water you’re drinking and run out to buy the most expensive filtering system available, many of these contaminants are rare or not harmful in small quantities.
Water Softeners: These systems are typically plumbed into your home’s water supply system and work by using an ion exchange process. This process trades the minerals that are causing the hard water with another mineral, most often sodium. Softeners do require that salt is periodically added, and the frequency depends on how often your system needs to regenerate. For peace of mind, you can hire a service to maintain the system and to deliver and refill the salt.
Acid Neutralizer: To correct a low pH balance, an acid neutralizer system passes through either calcite or Corosex mediums, and dissolves into the water for a neutral pH. Periodically, a neutralizing solution will have to be added.
Carbon Filter: This type of filter passes water through positively charged, highly absorbent carbon which attracts and traps impurities, and improves the taste, odor, and appearance of your water. They are most effective at filtering out chlorine, sediment, and volatile organic compounds. Some filters will only require a cartridge change, while other systems are best maintained by a professional.
Reverse Osmosis: This filtering system uses household water pressure to force water across a semi-permeable membrane, allowing the water to pass through the tiny pores, but removing any substantial amounts of inorganic chemicals such as salts, metals, and minerals. While this system is effective at removing a wide array of contaminants, a pre-filter system, which is often included in a reverse osmosis unit, is necessary to remove chemicals such as chlorine and pesticides. It should be noted that these systems do produce a large amount of wastewater, as backwater is necessary to flush out the contaminants.
Ultraviolet Systems: These systems purify water without heat or chemicals by utilizing germicidal UV light to kill microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, molds, algae, yeast, cryptosporidium and giardia. Since UV light doesn’t have an impact on chlorine, volatile organic compounds, or heavy metals, a pre-filter is used so there are no large particles that will block the UV light from reaching and killing the microorganisms. UV bulbs should be replaced annually.
Many of these systems are available as either a point-of-entry or a point-of-use system. A point-of-entry system, also known as a whole-house filter, connects to the main water line entering your house and treats the water before it’s distributed through the faucets, toilets, showers, and washing machines. A point-of-use filter is installed under sinks, on the faucet, and even in ice makers. Also, many systems can be combined as one unit, such as a water softener and a carbon filter. As water is such a vital part of our daily lives, it’s best to consult a home expert to figure out what type of system would be most beneficial for your needs.