- Where does our drinking water come from? According to www.watereducation.org , most of the drinking water for northern California residents and businesses comes from groundwater and local streams and reservoirs. This is a concern now, since California is in another drought year. The Pacific Institute’s drought response group regularly updates the current drought conditions in California and reports that the snowpack is at 19% of average and average precipitation is below normal statewide, with the major reservoirs at 46% of capacity. Groundwater, local streams and reservoirs do not get filled when there is not rain, so our sources for water--for drinking, agricultural, industrial and other uses--are becoming depleted faster than they are being replenished.
- How does clean drinking water get from the ground to your house? Enacted in 1974, the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) has the goal of protecting public health by regulating the water delivery system. The Act’s 1996 amendments added regulations to protect source water, provide for operator training, added funding for system improvements as well as a public information component. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates public systems of water, which bring safe drinking water to 90% of Americans. The EPA regulations cover systems that serve at least 25 people; they do not regulate household wells or private water delivery systems. According to the EPA website, there are approximately 160,000 public water systems in this country, serving over 300 million Americans. The regulations are designed and enforced to limit the number of contaminants in our water. What kind of contaminants? Microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfectant byproducts, organic and inorganic chemicals and radionuclides. Here is the list of contaminants that the EPA monitors and regulates in the drinking water supply: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/. And if your water source is a well on your property, here is the page to find out how to discover the health of the water you are drinking: http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/well.
- How can I further clean tap water? Check out the information on the Environmental Working Groups website: http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/. You can also filter the tap water in your home with several methods: basic carbon filters remove common contaminants like lead and toxins formed when chlorinated water mixes with plant debris and animal waste. There are also reverse osmosis systems that remove any contaminants smaller than a water molecule, which results in pure water, though it removes minerals as well. There are also leading-edge products on the market now that are filters made from biodegradable components, like charred coconut carbon and a plant-based casing, that filter out the usual contaminants.
- What about bottled water? Bottled water is not held to the same standards as tap water, since the regulating agency for bottled water is the FDA (Food and Drug Administration, which considers bottled water a food product). According to the New York Times, the FDA cannot require certified lab testing or violation reporting for bottled water. The FDA does not require the manufactures to disclose where the water came from, how it has been treated or what contaminants it contains.
We wanted to write about drinking water this month. When you turn on the tap and expect clean water to flow out, do you know where that water came from, how it’s been treated and who’s looking out for your safety and well-being? Here are some answers to those questions, as well as resources to investigate for more information.
SBS believes in the value of collaboration. Our post come from ideas and issues our team feels passionate about. We offer a combination of topical sustainability issues and applicable tips for every month of the year.