Quality of Drinking Water in the US
Drinking water in the United States is generally of high quality. Through regular monitoring and reporting, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets enforceable standards to protect public health by establishing limits on the levels of disease causing microorganisms and select chemical contaminants. Even with enforcement of stringent water regulations, concerns remain.
Data from numerous studies and water quality reports continue to show an assortment of chemical and microbiological contaminants in drinking water. Part of the reason is that drinking water regulations apply at the point of production – the public water treatment facility. Once the water leaves the facility however, it may become re-contaminated as it travels through our nation’s aging water distribution infrastructure on its way to consumers. Contaminants may be naturally occurring or originate from various point and/or non-point sources of pollution, as well as through leaching or corrosion of materials that comprise distribution systems, such as metals or chemicals from pipe materials and fittings.
Studies have reported increased rates and/or outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness in the U.S. linked with recontamination of treated water before it reaches consumers, due to deficiencies or large system disruptions in public water distribution systems. Water can also be degraded in the distribution system due to growth of bacteria on interior pipe walls and other surfaces in contact with drinking water, a phenomenon known as biofilms.
Many chemical contaminants in drinking water are not currently regulated by EPA nor removed by conventional drinking water treatment. Current drinking water treatment facilities are not designed to remove some contaminants, particularly non-regulated chemical contaminants originating from pesticides, personal care products and pharmaceuticals, which have been increasingly identified in drinking water at measurable concentrations due to advancing analytical capabilities. Numerous studies have identified various industrial or agricultural chemical contaminants in untreated and even in finished drinking water (after treatment and before distribution). Some of these chemical contaminants have been associated with health risks including increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular system disruption, liver problems, and potential harmful effects on reproduction, growth and development.
Perhaps even more concerning is the health risk for the more than 15 million U.S. residents who obtain their drinking water from domestic private wells, which are not covered by federal regulations. These private wells are mostly located in rural areas some of which are in/or near septic and/or agricultural areas and can thus be particularly vulnerable to microbial contamination due to fecal organisms from nearby agricultural activities or septic tanks.
Faucet-mounted water filters can serve as a final barrier treatment to reduce risks from a number of these chemical and microbial contaminants. Certain NSF-certified water filters can remove 93% to more than 99% of many contaminants found in drinking water.
Don’t let water be the overlooked ingredient in your kitchen! If you don’t have a filtered water dispenser built into your fridge, a water filter pitcher is a great way to keep chilled drinking water on hand. And a faucet-mounted filter system makes it super convenient to filter water that you’ll be using as an ingredient in foods and beverages.