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?

Bottled Water Industry Exposed

Filed Under Category Health, Water by Annie Barbour

Have you ever drunk bottled water? If you’re like most Americans or Canadians, of course you have. Bottled water is a healthy alternative to soft drinks, and has been marketed in a way that suggests it’s also safer and more pure than tap water. As stated in the previous post, that’s simply not the case. Bottled water is less regulated, unsustainable, and expensive and consumes a great deal of precious natural resources. Thanks in part to truthful, informative media coverage like “The Story of Bottled Water,” the public’s positive attitude about the once beloved beverage has rapidly decreased. Watch this telling clip about the full life cycle of a one-time-use plastic water bottle, from production to consumption.

To recap, bottled water is wasteful and unnecessary, to say the least. It depletes the oil supply, requires more water to produce the bottle than goes into it, can contain illness-causing contaminants, and unless the plastic bottle is recycled pollutes the earth with each bottle consumed. An alternative exists, and it’s good for you, your wallet and the planet: use a refillable, reusable water bottle. If you’re not happy with the taste of your tap water, consider filtering your water for a pure, clean glass of water.

So, after knowing the facts, why would you buy and drink from the plastic bottle?

Tap Trumps Plastic

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

Running out the door, you grab a bottle of water. It’s calorie-free, it’s convenient, and it’s there.  Forget the ease of your home’s user-friendly faucet, and the countless refillable bottles you have somewhere in the kitchen.  Forget that you already pay for the water coming out of your tap, and that it costs mere pennies, compared to the dollar-something, name-brand H20.  Besides these factors, tap water is also significantly more regulated and green than bottled water packaged in plastic.

Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which sets the limit for more than 85 different contaminants in drinking water. Each municipality must test the drinking water it supplies on a required schedule to determine quality and safety.  When excess contaminants are found, the public water system is required to notify the community it serves, and to efficiently remove the potential threat, as mandated by the Safe Water Drinking Act.  This Act also requires that consumers receiving treated water be updated annually via a Consumer Confidence Report about the source and quality of their water. In a previous blog post titled “You Have a Right to Know” we discussed the importance and value of Consumer Confidence Reports.

Bottled water, on the other hand, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA requires manufacturers of bottled water to follow the specified Current Good Manufacturing Practices. These practices include sanitary handling, protecting the source of the water from pollutants, using quality control measures, and testing the water for contamination. Unlike the EPA, the FDA does not require certified lab testing nor do manufactures have to report violations regarding excessive contaminant levels. In addition, bottled water companies do not have to inform consumers about where their water comes from, which could be sourced from groundwater, surface water or even straight from the tap (which often is the case)! The key differences between EPA tap water and FDA bottled water rules are summarized in this table. Along with the other differences already mentioned, the FDA does not require testing for fecal coliform and E. coli (an indicator of disease causing pathogens) nor does it require the same frequency of sampling that the EPA does.

Although bottled tap water ensures quality, what’s the point?  On average, a gallon of municipally-treated water costs two cents, whereas an eighth of that amount of bottled water costs between one and two dollars! Beyond the personal financial cost, there is a large environmental cost that comes with bottled water.

Bottled Water Environmental Footprint:

  • • It takes nearly 7x the water consumed in a bottle, to produce and deliver a Fiji Water bottle
  • • 1.2 pounds of Green House Gases are emitted by the transportation of a one-kilogram bottle of Fiji Water
  • • In 2008, as much as 162 million barrels of oil were consumed to produce, transport and dispose of bottled water around the world
  • •Less than 20 percent of water bottles are recycled

It’s unfortunate that convenience is so readily chosen over safety, expense and waste. The market is full of reusable water bottles to choose from, which not only saves money, the earth and your health, but also will help you drink more water. So, make a choice today, pledge to do good and to Take Back the Tap.

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