Archive for December, 2011

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

Give Thanks for Water

Filed Under Category Health, Water by Annie Barbour

Water is absolutely essential for life. Think plants, think animals, think humanity, think whatever you want – it’s vital, isn’t it?  Its uses abound – hydration of course, but also hygiene, cooking, recreation and the manufacturing of so many goods.  So it’s only fitting that this week, we give thanks for this naturally reproducing thing called H2O.

To function properly, we must drink water.  Our bodies and the vast majority of our vital organs are composed of water.  Without consuming about half of our body weight in ounces on a daily basis, we may experience dehydration symptoms including lethargy, lightheadedness, headaches, dry skin, achy joints and low blood pressure.  Consider a dry, withering plant. What is the first thing it needs for life? Water of course!  Regardless of which wonder-grow solution you add to the plant, it will not thrive without water. The same is true for the human body.  We need pure water to function as we should, and thankfully – most people have access to it.

About seven out of eight people have access to clean drinking water, which leaves 884 million people lacking that basic right.  Without clean water, individuals of all ages are more susceptible to disease, infections, diarrhea and even death.  Children are denied education in impoverished countries due to the lack of sanitation facilities and because of their, or the women’s duty to fetch water daily.

Along with many other organizations, Pump Aid demonstrates how important clean water is by the work they do.  They build self-sustainable wells for poor, rural African communities who can then draw the water, as opposed to walking miles to get their daily supply.  Pump Aid also helps communities build a sanitary toilet, and teaches them how to irrigate nutrition gardens.  It is by these actions, that we realize how vital water really is.

We are blessed with the easy access to clean water, which is life giving in so many ways. Take advantage of it!

Ground to Glass

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

Each morning in many houses besides your own, a daily routine begins. You brush your teeth, shower, flush the toilet, make a family-sized batch of oatmeal and remind your children to brush their teeth too. Though morning routines are not identical, life’s basic necessities and cleanliness norms suggest that “getting ready” always requires one thing: water. When you turn the faucet’s handle, you expect water to readily flow from it. But how does it get there, from start to finish?

As we explained in a previous blog post about the water cycle, initially the water is supplied through precipitation, and is collected as surface water or groundwater in a river, local lake or a well. Water is then pumped from one of these sources to a water treatment plant, for the town’s use. Once it reaches the plant, the water goes through a series of treatment processes, to make it safe to drink and use in your home. A typical water treatment plant includes the following processes: coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, disinfection and storage.

After sediment is removed from the water through coagulation, sedimentation and filtration, the water needs to be disinfected to remove illness-causing pathogens. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets contamination limits for drinking water according to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which are all based on a minimal, healthy level.  Arsenic, lead, viruses and mercury are just a few of the contaminants regulated by the EPA, and reduced by water treatment plants.

Public water systems disinfect water through one or more processes, including chlorine treatment, ultraviolet radiation (UV), and less common alternatives including ozonation, boiling and pasteurization. Gaseous forms of chlorine treat public water, reducing disease-causing bacteria and organisms, and removes minerals like iron and hydrogen sulfide. After primary disinfection occurs and the water leaves the municipality, some disinfectant remains to continuously keep water safe. Some utilities have switched from free chlorine to chloramines for maintaining a disinfectant residual in the distribution system. The secondary or residual disinfectant can, and often times does, affect the taste and odor of your tap water, though is not harmful. Alternatively, ultraviolet treatment kills contaminants through radiation, and safely improves water quality. This type of process does not affect the taste or odor after the fact, albeit nor does it have a disinfectant residual.

The filtered and disinfected water is stored and then used when it is needed. Tanks, aquifers and water towers, are all types of reservoirs used for water storage.  Water towers typically hold enough of a water supply for one day of the population’s use. Water towers are usually elevated by structure and location, providing sufficient pressure to deliver water to the homes and businesses within the town. After the water volume in the tower is reduced from a day’s use, more water is pumped in at night when usage is minimal from the municipal source.  By the time you awake in the morning, the tower is filled with clean water – ready for you, your family and your town’s use.

What is the initial source of your drinking water? Do you know how it’s treated?

“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.

Got Lead?

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

“Don’t eat the paint,” your grandmother advises, as she fills a glass of water straight from the tap. “Gladly,” you think, neither tempted by this odd warning nor confused about the meaning. Old homes have lead paint; by now – it’s a well-known fact. What your grandma doesn’t know, is that the old pipes that bring water to the faucet are made of lead, and heed an important warning of their own in your freshly poured glass.

Lead is a naturally occurring, inexpensive metal that is bluish-gray in appearance and easy to manufacture. Because of its inherent properties, lead is used in a variety of products including batteries, bullets, piping and up until 1978, paint. Though useful, this metal has serious effects on people when overexposure occurs. Lead-based paint was banned by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission because of the poisonous effects on children, which resulted in irreversible slowed mental and physical development and a reduction in attention span. Lead poisoning in adults can negatively affect muscle coordination, reproduction, increase blood pressure and cause nerve damage.

Lead can also be consumed through tap water that is supplied through lead-based pipes, fixtures and connectors built in homes most typically before 1986.  The water becomes contaminated when it sits in the lead pipes for several hours, and the metal leaches into the potable water. Leaching cannot be pinpointed to one single factor, but occurs more frequently from soft and acidic water, high temperatures, and in old plumbing. In recent years, lead exposures have decreased, thanks in part to the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule, which monitors lead levels at the tap and takes necessary measures if required. However, as reported in a recent article in the Chicago Tribune concerns have been raised about the screening process for lead.

Apart from municipal checks or using a home water quality test kit, there is no way to tell whether there is lead in drinking water, as the metal is odorless, tasteless and colorless when dissolved in water. Because of this, it is important to check with your local municipality to ensure safe drinking water. Ask if your water has an action level of 15 parts per million (ppm), which exceeds the EPA’s maximum level, and if your street’s water main pipe has lead in it.  If the lead concentration in your tap water exceeds the action level of 15 ppm, running your water for 30 to 45 seconds, or installing a home filtration system is recommended to reduce it. The Zuvo® Water Filtration System is certified to meet the NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for the reduction of lead.

Are you concerned about lead in your water? If you are, please contact Zuvo Water for more information or check with your local water utility.

Is Eight Glasses of Water Still the Magic Number?

Filed Under Category Health, Water by Annie Barbour

There’s no use denying that we’re biased. So okay, we admit it. We love water, and our bodies need it!

We feel better when we regularly drink it, and are more alert and more active.  There’s a good reason for this since our body is made up of 60 percent water. More than that, the majority of our vital organs are made up of water:

  • • 90% of lungs
  • • 83% of blood
  • • 80% of brain
  • • 75% of muscles

We need H20 because we’re made of it, and because our bodies naturally lose a great deal everyday. To be more precise, about 1.5 liters of water is lost daily through urination for the average adult, and another liter through the combination of breathing, sweating and bowel movements. Because of this, replacement of the body’s liquids is vital.  So, how much water is enough?

According to recent studies, the old magical rule of 8 glasses per day is considered outdated and inaccurate. The new rule of thumb varies, but the Institute of Medicine recommends 91 ounces (2.7 liters) and 125 ounces (3.7 liters) of total water a day for women and men, respectively. But before you get overwhelmed by this number, it’s important to note that 20% of your daily fluid intake comes from food, and the remaining 80% comes from water and any other beverage you consume throughout the day. This equates to just over 9 and 12.5, 8-ounce servings of water and other beverages per day for women and men, respectively, making the recommended amount less daunting, right?

Still, drinking water enables the body to function optimally. This calorie-free beverage helps suppress your appetite, which is very helpful when trying to lose weight. Staying hydrated provides you with energy and healthy skin, and also cures digestive problems and cleanses the body of toxins. After a six-year study, researchers found that drinking more than 5 glasses of water a day reduces the likelihood of dying from a heart attack by 41% compared to people who drink less than 2 glasses. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, so try drinking a glass of water before reaching for the aspirin.

To feel your best and stay hydrated, try bringing a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. It’s a good reminder to continue drinking the good stuff throughout the day, instead of reaching for the convenient, less healthy, and less sustainable alternatives like bottled water and carbonated beverages.  If for some reason you’re not keen on the taste of water, try adding a slice of lemon so you can enjoy the incredible effects this natural beverage has.  To your health!

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?

Water: A Precious Commodity?

Filed Under Category Water by Annie Barbour

Since that second grade science lesson with Mrs. So-and-so, you’ve been familiar with the water cycle (also known as the hydrologic cycle). Evaporation, condensation, precipitation, collection, and repeat. The process begins when the sun heats up bodies of water and vaporizes into the air. The vapor eventually gets cold at higher elevations, and changes back into a liquid state, forming clouds. Precipitation, which falls in many forms, occurs when condensation has amassed greatly in a cloud, and the air can no longer hold it. Once the precipitation reaches the earth, the water collects in rivers, lakes, oceans or soaks into the earth as groundwater.

Water Cycle

Source: Water Cycle Diagram

As the image shows, this natural process reproduces and cleanses water in a continuous cycle. The amount of water within this natural cycle remains constant, meaning the Earth will never have more water than already exists. Even though the earth is covered by 70 to 75 percent water, less than one percent of it is suitable for human uses such as drinking and cooking. The good news is that even though the percentage of water suitable for human uses seems small it is not a finite resource. This is because it is constantly being re-circulated as water from precipitation. While this occurs at a greater rate than humans consume it, the water distribution doesn’t occur proportionately to where populations are concentrated.

The challenge posed by disproportionate water distribution is further exacerbated by the increasing world population and the prevalence of water-contaminating pollutants. Currently, the world population is seven billion, which the UN estimates will increase to more than ten billion by 2100. Ever-growing population and industry contribute to increased surface water and groundwater contamination due to chemical discharge, pesticides and fertilizers from farming areas, wastewater and everyday garbage. These activities can impair and even cause water supplies to become unusable for drinking. Water distribution, population growth and water contamination are all factors that contribute to an increasing number of water scarcity events especially in arid and semi-arid regions.

While solutions such as ocean desalination and long-distance pipelines and aqueducts have been built to ensure adequate water supplies they come at a high price. Water conservation is one of the most effective, local and low-cost solutions. In the United States, the average person uses 80 to 100 gallons per day and typical usage includes:

  • • 25 to 50 gallons to take a shower
  • • 2 to 7 gallons to flush a toilet
  • • 2 gallons to brush teeth

A few simple ways to reduce water use are:

  • • Collecting water from your roof to water your garden
  • • Soak dirty pots and pans instead of running the water constantly until the dish is clean
  • • Always adjust the washer’s water level for the size of the load

What creative things do you do at home to cut back on water usage?