“Our aging water infrastructure, particularly lead pipes, solder and faucets, represents a community health hazard of enduring significance.” That statement came from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa.
While the quality of tap water in America is far from ideal – and can represent a danger to our health – there are ways to improve it in your home. I’ll get to those ways in a moment. And I’ll let you know if your state is one of the 10 worst for water quality.
First, I want to remind you that many states have water distribution systems with an average pipe age of 50 years. Some networks have subsystems more than 100 years old.
Thousands of pipes running from water mains to homes are made of lead. Not to mention the fact that plumbing inside old houses contains lead pipes, pipe joints with lead solder, and brass faucet fixtures containing lead.
When pipe deposits break free, small particles of lead leach into our tap water. And lead is just one of hundreds of harmful water contaminants. In fact, lead can cause serious damage to organs and interfere with the body’s normal processes.
An ‘Immoral’ Action
One of the reasons water quality remains a problem in the 21st century is that water main work frequently falls short of completion.
Road crews often leave some lead pipe in the ground when they replace part of it with copper pipe. Water experts say that has occurred hundreds of thousands of times in America.
City officials who don’t want to spend money to remove all lead piping say chemical treatments will take care of any problem. Some officials who want to get rid of all of it say they don’t have the budget for it.
Yanna Lambrinidou is a medical anthropologist at Virginia Tech University. She told the Associated Press, “I can’t but think of partial replacements as immoral because they involve a witting decision by government agencies to leave residents at continued risk of exposure.”
Where Does Your State Rank?
So, how do you know if water coming out of your faucets is safe to drink? There are ways to test it, but first let’s look at an analysis by J.D. Power.
In a recent report, the data analytics, software, and consumer intelligence company ranked states according to their water quality. They used feedback from water utility customers regarding quality and reliability, as well as other criteria.
According to their data, states with the worst tap water quality were Indiana (10th worst), Arizona (9th), Mississippi (8th), Ohio (7th), and Pennsylvania (6th).
Texas ranked as the 5th worst state for water quality. Next were New Mexico (4th), Oklahoma (3rd), Maryland (2nd), and – drum roll, please – Alabama with the worst.
Test It & Filter It
If you live in one of those states – or if you just want to make sure your water quality is good enough – ask your local health department if they have free water testing kits available.
If not, you could ask them to come to your home and check it. Especially if you express concerns about it.
Once you’ve done that, it would be a good idea to invest in a filter. There are plenty on the market. But do some research to make sure you’re acquiring one that gets rid of contaminants most likely to be found in your area.
The better filters will dramatically reduce a wide variety of contaminants. Including bacteria, viruses, volatile organic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and herbicides. As will heavy metals like lead, mercury, chromium, copper, and aluminum.
More Tips & Tricks
In addition to using filters, there are a few other tips and tricks you can try. One is to let cold water run a couple of minutes before you fill up a glass to drink.
This is most important when you haven’t used that particular tap for two or more hours. That’s because water quality can decline when it’s sitting dormant in pipes.
Even common activities such as flushing toilets, showering, laundry, and running your dishwasher help by keeping water moving through your pipes.
Another tip is to always use cold water for drinking and cooking. Knowing they’re going to heat water for cooking, some people will fill a pan with hot water. But hot water can dissolve contaminants such as bacteria, metals, and sediment.
Get Your Back Into It
These next few suggestions require more time and effort. But they are worth it to ensure the water coming out of your faucets is safe for consuming, bathing, and cleaning.
If the plumbing in your home is old, it’s more likely to contain lead. By replacing galvanized plumbing with copper pipes, your plumbing will be virtually lead-free.
Clean faucet aerators regularly and replace if needed. It doesn’t take long for metals and sediment to collect in those screens.
Finally, drain your water heater annually. The tank is another place where bacteria, metals, and sediment can collect. And this can negatively affect both your water pressure and quality.
Peace of Mind You Can Taste
Safety is the first thing we think about when it comes to water quality. After all, nobody wants to get sick from drinking contaminated water.
But taste is another issue. Clean water tastes better than contaminated water. Which means you will drink more of it, which in turns means you’ll stay better hydrated.
Another great reason for making sure your tap water is safe is the peace of mind you’ll get from knowing you don’t have to worry about it.
It’s difficult to put a price tag on that.