Is our tap water safe?Most of us are concerned that our water is SAFE to drink. The water crises in West Virginia in January 2014 reminded us that water quality is of the utmost importance.
The question is … can it happen here? This event posed some unanswered questions that are worth looking at.
- Where does our tap water come from?
- What are some ways water gets polluted or contaminated?
- Who is responsible for keeping the water safe to drink?
- What would you do if the government told you not to drink, cook with or shower in the tap water?
1. Where does our tap water come from?
Amarillo gets most of its water from wells north of the city. The city brings the water to a central water treatment facility, the Osage Water Treatment plant, and is processed to remove silt and sediment. The water is exposed to a high intensity disinfection process to kill any pathogens then injected with a residual disinfectant (chlorine type) to keep bacteria from growing in the water distribution system.
* Well water – People who don’t have municipal water rely on wells. Well water is usually safe but it is important to have your water tested on a regular basis to make sure it is safe.
2. What are some ways water gets polluted or contaminated?
Water is a solvent. It attempts to dissolve whatever it touches. Basically whatever water has been in contact with becomes part of the water. Underground water absorbs minerals from the soil. The most common is limestone formations that result in hard water. Most of the water in our area is considered Very Hard.According to the US Geological Survey:
Hard water requires more soap and synthetic detergents for home laundry and washing, and contributes to scaling in boilers and industrial equipment. Hardness is caused by compounds of calcium and magnesium, and by a variety of other metals. General guidelines for classification of waters are: 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) as calcium carbonate is classified as soft; 61 to 120 mg/L as moderately hard; 121 to 180 mg/L as hard; and more than 180 mg/L as very hard.
External contaminants also can leach into the soil and ultimately make it to the aquifer. In some areas of the country serious issues of water quality have happened when pharmaceuticals have made it into the water supply. You can also have direct contamination of surface water (lakes and streams) as is the case in West Virginia.
Another source of contamination occurs when treated municipal water leaves the water treatment facility. Treated water will travel through miles and miles of piping. This is where additional contaminants can be introduced into tap water. This is why it is always a good idea to add a final barrier of protection to the water as it enters your home.
* Well water – Well water contamination can occur when pollutants get into the aquifer the water is getting pumped from.
3. Who is responsible for keeping the water safe to drink?
This is a combined effort of government including Federal, State, City and County. Keep in mind that their responsibility is to keep the water safe. This doesn’t mean the water meets all standards for quality. Almost all our water exceeds the recommended limits on sodium and other dissolved solids. The end user is ultimately responsible for improving the water quality.
* Well water – If you are on a well the responsibility is entirely the home owners. This is why it is vital to regularly test your water and make sure it is safe.
4. What would you do if the government told you not to drink, cook with or shower in the tap water?
It’s always a good idea to have some bottled water stashed at your home for emergencies. Water, if stored properly, won’t go bad. But it’s hard to take a good shower with a small bottle of drinking water. It’s our mutual responsibility to safeguard our water supply and use this precious natural resource wisely.
The city of Amarillo has done an excellent job of procuring water rights for years to come. They also do a good job of insuring our water meets basic safety standards. Ultimately it is the homeowner’s responsibility to improve the quality of water used in the home.
To learn more about how to improve the quality of water in your home and help you make an informed decision about how to get better water in your home fill out the contact form in the top right.
It is the responsibility of all the citizens of our area to exercise good conservation practices when it comes to water. To learn more about smart water conservation go to Every Drop Counts at http://water.amarillo.gov/
What other questions do you have about possible contaminants in your water that I haven’t addressed? Tell me in the contact form above.