Before you think of anything else pause and remember your most joyful, amazing experience with water. Was it the first time you saw, felt, smelled or tasted the ocean? Was it the mineral taste of your grandparents country well, or running through open fire hydrants on a fiery summer day.
What ever it was, hold on to that thought when examining all the issues of water quality and control. The water is still there.
First the good news:
If you live in Arlington, TX; Providence, RI; or Fort Worth, TX you live in cities with the top rated water utilities in the country according to the 2009 Environmental Working Group organization ( ewg.org) National Drinking Water Database report. Your municipalities have gained this honor by testing your water for large numbers of chemicals beyond the those federally required and at lower concentrations.
Now the bad news:
If you live in Pensacola, FL or Riverside, CA you have the lowest rated water quality in the country.
The rest of us fall somewhere in between. Hundred of contaminants from agricultural and industrial sources are found in our water. In addition, water treatment itself, and chemicals from corrosion are water pipes contaminate water. The health effect on humans is clear for toxins like nitrates and disinfection byproducts, but hundreds of chemicals found in the water systems haven’t been studied yet. Ninety-five percent of all municipalities test for less than one hundred and fifty contaminants. Only a small fraction of the contaminants have clear guidelines set out in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 and monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A), but consider this in regard to those that don’t. If we don’t know there in there we can’t find out if they’re harming us.
For information on contaminants and health risks check out the E.P.A. site at
If you’re looking for information of the water in your area you can check out the National Water Quality Database which is a joint work by the U.S. Geologic Survey, the E.P.A. and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council at:
but I found it very complicated to use. I had much better luck checking the home page of the city I live in, Madison, WI. There was a direct link to a page with all the local data and well information. I’m including the link so that you have an idea what you are looking for.
Most important; what can you, your family and friends do?
For your own health, filter your water. EWG has a guide to water filters which will help you find one based on cost and goals.
Remember, bottled water isn’t necessarily safer than your tap water, and it is almost always more expensive.
For the health of the water ecosystems that we ultimately all depend on think about incorporating these small changes as a start:
~ Find a local source for disposal of hazardous household waste like pesticides and solvents.
~ Use nontoxic or biodegradable cleaning products whenever possible.
~ Cut back on salt for driveways and sidewalks, or use sand.
~ Maintain your lawn and garden without harmful chemicals and excessive watering by trimming grass less frequently, embracing dandelions and finding non-chemical means to control pests.
~ Keep up with local water issues and lobby elected officials.
Because: This is your world.
Next up: More about what you can do.