Archive for July, 2012

Reusable Water

Filed Under Category Water, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

The United States’ drinking water standards are high. Under normal circumstances, the water is clean, safe, tastes ok and is used for so many different things. The same water that we drink is used to flush the toilet, water the plants and wash the car. Does a toilet require potable water for flushing? No, absolutely not. Could the runoff water from the dishes and shower be reused for other purposes? Yes, definitely.

Think of it this way: three levels of water quality exist – white, grey and black. White water is that which we drink, potable water. It’s been filtered and disinfected specifically for us to safely consume. Grey water is the wastewater that flows from a home’s shower, bathroom sink, washing machine and/or bathtub. This water is then purposed for reuse, typically in the form of landscape irrigation. Black water is flushed toilet water, containing materials unsafe for reuse, unless properly treated. Water from the garbage disposal, dishwasher and kitchen sink is usually referred to as black water as well, because of high levels of organic waste.

On average, 280 gallons of water goes down the drain per household, per day and more than half of that could be reclaimed as grey water. Reasons to reuse water include sustainability, making your home more green, reducing your water bill and reducing your water footprint. Water reclamation can simply be done by collecting shower water with a bucket and reusing where applicable. Other specific tools are available to do the trick, for example hooking up a bathroom sink to a machine that funnels the grey water to the toilet.

Rainwater harvesting is another way to conserve water. This method involves collecting and storing rainwater, and reusing it for irrigation or for consumption.

In our next blog post, we will be discussing specific examples of water conservation and grey water application, and what it can do for the home and the environment. In the meantime, do you reclaim water or harvest rainwater? If so, please tell us about it. Would you consider it if you don’t do one or both of these, and for what uses?

You Have a Right to Know

Filed Under Category Health, Water, Water Contaminant, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

Lead, arsenic and unpronounceable words like Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”) aren’t your everyday vocabulary words. We understand that. However, these specific words are important in determining everyday health for you, your family and your neighborhood.  Water is an incredible ingredient for your well-being, and the quality can and should be guaranteed. Today, community water systems ensure drinking water quality through compliance with primary standards for approximately 90 contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with setting the standards and regulating the levels of contaminants and indicators in drinking water. What may be surprising is these public drinking water standards have only been in place since 1974 when the Safe Drinking Water Act became law.

Drinking water, as well as bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants doesn’t necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk.[1] Annual drinking water reports, also known as Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs), are provided each year by water utilities, detailing local water quality to customers. The EPA requires community water systems to supply these reports by July 1st each year to the people it serves including home-owners, apartment building landlords and mobile home park residents.

CCRs are required to include several key points about the water it delivers. What source does the water come from? What are the contaminant levels in the local water as compared to the EPA maximum contaminant level (MCLs)?  What is the probable cause of the delineated contaminants? If contaminants exceed the maximum level, what are the potential health effects? The community water system must also provide a plan of action to bring the contamination level below the MCL. The dangers of lead, nitrates, arsenic and illness-causing Cryptosporidium are also entailed in the report.

Each summer, a report is distributed to community members via newspaper, direct mail and/or the Internet. Some reports are also available for download from the EPA’s website.  If a contaminant does surpass the maximum EPA level, consider having your drinking water tested. In addition to the yearly report, pay attention to changes in the color, odor and taste of your water. Changes in these characteristics can indicate that something is not right in your water; a home water-quality test will inform you of specific contamination concentration levels such as lead, iron and coliform bacteria. With this information, if a contaminant, such as lead, exceeds the MCL, consider installing a home water treatment system like the Zuvo Water Filtration System to reduce the concentration to below the MCL.

The United States government amended the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1999 to include the vital, public information the CCR provides. Take advantage of it. Check your water quality. If necessary, improve your water quality with a home water filtration system.

Have you read your annual Consumer Confidence Report provided by your local water utility? Do any contaminants in your drinking water exceed the MCL? If so, what have you done to mitigate the risk?

[1]EPA Water: Basic Information about Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants

“Well” Water

Filed Under Category Water, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

One hundred years from now, history books and museums may tell the tale of water-pumping wells. Today, an estimated 15 million US households, or 60 million people, rely on private wells for their main source of water.  With 15 percent of the US population using wells, it’s important to know not only how they work, but also, what the quality of the water is that wells supply.

Private wells pump groundwater to the surface for a plethora of purposes. People pump well water into their home for hydration, cooking, cleaning, showering, and to run appliances.  The majority of this water is used for agriculture; specifically irrigating crops, and a smaller percentage for feeding livestock. Wells are most typically found in rural areas on private plots of land, and are not regulated by the EPA.

The contaminants affecting the water supply depend largely on geographic location and the prevalent industries surrounding the well.  Mining and construction can release heavy metals into the ground, resulting in arsenic in the groundwater, which can cause cancer after long-term exposure.  Nitrates and bacteria are released into the water through septic tanks and factory farms, which both contain large amounts of human and animal waste.  People with weak immune systems, including infants, the elderly and AIDS-afflicted individuals are especially vulnerable to nitrate and bacteria contaminants. Pesticides, fertilizers, household waste like cleaning products and used motor oil, and industrial discharges are also a potential threat to the water that comes from private wells.

It is important to test your well water periodically because unlike water that goes through a municipal source, no one is ensuring the quality and safety of your water. Each state has different requirements, so check with local agencies for the proper testing procedures. If and when you notice a difference in taste, odor and/or color, be sure to test your water and determine the best course of action to maintain quality, drinkable water. If your water has been deemed safe to drink and you’re still not happy with the taste and odor, consider a Zuvo Water Filtration System, as it offers a pure, clean glass of water, every time.

We Can’t Survive on Salt Water

Filed Under Category Water by Annie Barbour

While taking a drink of that ice-cold glass of water, do you ever wonder where it comes from? Beyond the pipes in your home, past the local municipality or your own personal well, what’s the source beyond the convenience of immediate consumption?

Drinking water, worldwide, is supplied through precipitation collected in streams, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans or the ground. Water collected in the latter is fittingly known as groundwater. Surface water includes that which is collected above ground, in bodies of water. Though oceans impressively make up 98 percent of the Earth’s water, it is unsafe for human consumption, or non-potable, due to high-salt concentrations. The Department of Energy offers a scientist’s explanation of this commonly-known, but not often understood fact:

“Humans can’t drink salt water because the kidneys can only make urine that is less salty than salt water. Therefore, to get rid of all the excess salt taken in by drinking salt water, you have to urinate more water than you drank, so you die of dehydration.”

This heedful rationale is clear, and naturally points us to the safe, though small supply of drinking water. As stated in our previous post about the water cycle and the need for conservation, less than one percent of the world’s water is potable.

Surface water, which accounts for more than 75 percent of freshwater supplies, is used for various purposes including agriculture, thermoelectric, irrigation, industrial uses, and public supply. Ironically enough, the very places and people who rely on this valuable resource contaminate surface water through hazardous substances, chemicals, pesticides, petroleum, sediment, or heated discharges. Non-point sources, meaning pollutants that wash off the land into bodies of water whose origins are not easily pinpointed, are the primary source of contamination. Much of this pollution has been pinned to the prevalent use of pesticides and fertilizers, and also livestock manure runoff, which contains pathogens that pose risks to humans.

Most groundwater, like surface water, comes from precipitation. Once the rain or snow reaches earth, it trickles down through the top layers of soil, sand, gravel and/or rock until it reaches an area that is saturated with water. A saturated area containing a substantial amount of water is called an aquifer. Most commonly, wells pump water from these aquifers and distribute it to rural homes and towns as well as to farms for crop irrigation. Fertilizers and pesticides also pollute groundwater, as well as underground landfill leaks and/or gasoline leaks.

Although the pollutants are unappealing, local municipalities do a great deal to clean up that murky water. Plus, it’s really quite amazing that Earth has been reproducing water through this same cycle for billions of years, as water is without a doubt, essential for life.

Tell us about the source of your drinking water. Is it surface water or ground water? What do you like and/or dislike about it?