Do You Need to Filter Your Water? (4 Ways to Find Out)
We all know that drinking plenty of water is hugely important. Knowing whether or not you should filter your water can be tricky, and then the best way to filter comes next. Is your tap water really that dirty? How can you find out? If it is, which filtration system is best, and what about bottled water?
Let’s clear up some of the confusion. First and foremost, you’ll need to dig deeper into the water quality where you live. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) holds the major responsibility of deeming water contaminants safe or not and setting regulations, and most all water municipalities are held to these standards. However, certain contaminants are not regulated by the EPA (due to lack of funding or other reasons), meaning that they are toxins that have been shown to potentially cause problems, but are allowed in our water supply.
4 Ways to Find Out if You Need to Filter Your Water
Visit the National Drinking Water Database
Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a database that archives millions of state water testing records and will allow you to see the contaminants present in your water supply (ones regulated by the EPA and others). Simply plug in your zip code and learn about your municipal water supply.
Identify the Contaminants in Your Water
Determining which contaminants are present in your water will make a difference in terms of the type of filter you need to purchase. The EWG has pinpointed 316 contaminants in tap water, 202 of those which are not EPA regulated (1).
Ask Your Local Water Utility for Information
While this database is quite extensive and covers many communities, if yours isn’t included you can call your local water utility and ask for copies of their annual water quality report. They should be able to easily provide this important information either in print or online. Check out this great resource to find your water company’s contact information.
Determine if You Need a Filter
Depending on the information you find, you can then determine if you need to filter your water. Most tap water should be filtered to some degree, but knowing which contaminants are present helps (some filters are more effective than others when filtering certain contaminants)
How to Choose a Filter
Pick a System That Fits Your Lifestyle and Budget
The main types of filters on the market include pitcher filters (think Britta), large dispensers, filters mounted on a facet or integrated into the facet, entire home filtration systems, ones that you place on top of the counter or under the sink (2). Some are much more expensive than others (carbon filters are usually the cheapest), and some filter much more effectively than others (reverse osmosis are considered the highest quality).
Remember that our skin is the biggest organ in the body (3), and it absorbs many contaminants from water via bathing, and we also absorb toxins from rinsing our produce with tap water. Whole house filtration systems are excellent options to make sure your bases are all covered.
To find the right fit for you considering all of these factors, visit the EWG’s water filter buying guide that takes you through, step by step, to find the best filter for your specific needs.
Research the Technology
There are many different types of filters that work in different ways. Some of the main options out there include carbon or activated carbon filters, ion exchange, ozone, ultraviolet, water softeners, mechanical filters and deionization. The two most common are carbon and reverse osmosis. Carbon would be your standard pitcher filter and can filter out DPBs (disinfection byproducts) and lead, while reverse osmosis filters can filter the contaminants that carbon filters cannot (but are much more expensive).
Understanding the technology that exists and all of your options is important.
Choose a Filter That Works With Your Specific Water’s Contaminants
Some filters will not be effective for certain contaminants, so it’s of utmost importance to choose the right one. For example, if you find that your water contains arsenic (a heavy metal), a carbon filter won’t do the trick, but a reverse osmosis filter will. Use the buying guide to determine your need, and you might even decide to combine technologies for even better filtration.
Change Your Filter As Needed
An old filter will no longer filter contaminants and can contain a dangerous build-up of bacteria. It is essential to change your filter as needed per instructions.
What About Bottled Water?
Unfortunately, manufacturers of bottled water are not held required to make public their water quality testing, and studies show that a shocking 25% (although some experts claim this number is likely closer to 40%) of bottled water is actually tap water (4). Bottled water is hugely expensive and often no better than tap water, so save your money and invest in a good filter, instead. Not to mention, bottled water takes a big toll on the environment.
Now you know the simple, 4 step procedure to find out if you should be filtering your tap water, and how to choose the right filter. Once you have clean drinking water, always be diligent about carrying around a safe water bottle that doesn’t further contaminate your water with chemicals such as BPA, and invest in a BPA free or stainless steel option. Furthermore, always buy other beverages (like super-hydrating coconut water) in a BPA free bottle, as well.