I guess the real question to ask is, do you really want to know?
In light of United Nation’s World Water Day next week, March 22nd, I wanted to address how little I know about where my water comes from. I realize that even though there are water crises, droughts, and groundwater pollution all around the world, that I should start somewhere and just look in my own backyard to gain some insight of our current global water issues.
I turn to the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) website, who have compiled water data from the EPA and public utilities to help consumers understand what is in our tap water. A simple entry of my zip code gives me access to information on my local utility and water treatment plants.
While it seems that our water is “safe to drink” because its made it’s way through our utilities and into our homes, it is alarming how many contaminants invisibly lie within. A “contaminant” is considered an added chemical into our waterways, whether its through agriculture, industrial runoffs, or even a bi-product of the water treatment itself.
These contaminants are labeled as such because of their negative health effects to humans, like cancer-causing chemicals, as well as adverse effects on the environment.
After inputting my zip code and selecting my district, I was shocked to learn that where I live in the city of Denver (that services 1 million people) was found to have 6 contaminants in our water that is higher than health guidelines. These contaminants included:
Hormones (a specific one labeled that is linked to steroids, 4-Androstene-3, 17-dione)
Hexavalent Chromium (remember Erin Brokovich anyone?)
Radiological Contaminants (Radium & Uranium)
While the EWG shows that even though these levels are still above the health guidelines, that compared to other utilities within the state and the Nation, it is actually quite low (see the example below)
I had NO idea that water quality within the nation were this bad. I knew the water issue in Flint, Michigan was linked to problems with lead poisoning in the groundwater but I hadn’t realized that chemicals like Chloroform are ADDED to our waterways at water treatment facilities. That chemical in high doses is meant to poison people on purpose!
The graphs and information on the database are extremely easy to understand and have great navigation and resources to understand how and WHY our water is contaminated. Out of the 6 over the level contaminants and the 13 “other detected” contaminants in my area, the causation of the pollution is clearly labeled as to what contaminant came from which source.
It makes sense that here in Colorado, we have runoff from local agriculture production, as well as a high number of naturally occurring contaminants with our heavy, mineral soils. However, it never occurred to me that so many of our contaminants come from “Industry” operations. Isn’t this where we should pressure our politicians to have large, polluting corporations clean up their acts? This in itself seems like some seriously muddy-waters of finding who is really to blame.
BUT! There is hope. It does state that most at-home water filters can remove these contaminants from your tap water, whether it be a carbon filter (like a Brita) or a more serious and permanent operation like a reverse-osmosis system. However some hormone contaminants are extremely difficult to remove with the more basic-type filtration systems, and it does not surprise me that so many individuals are experiencing fertility issues with all this nastiness in their water.
Some of you might think that pre-packaged water is the solution for where you live, as it does seem that water quality also correlates with regional income levels. Bottled and packaged water are NOT the solution, as most do come from tap water sources (like Dasani…) and even though that bottled water packaging portrays a beautiful spring on a mountain top, it is likely it came just down the river from other industrial and agricultural run-off situations. Plus the downside of all that is that with current water shortages with climate change, the whole “it takes 3 bottles of water to make just 1 plastic bottle” thing doesn’t really do anyone any favors.
If we are really advised to drink 8 glasses of water a day, shouldn’t we also be advised on what goes into our water as well as what we can do about it?
That while we might be trying to be on top of our health game and staying hydrated, we are flushing our systems with a mess of chemicals too? I encourage you to put in your zip code and see what with you are working with, and then research which water filter systems work best for your family and your home. (I personally have a Berkey water system, stay tuned for my next post sharing my love for my big B!)
I find this topic so fascinating as citizens and consumers, we think we are safe. Let me know what you find out about your area as I am curious to what other contaminants are out there!!
Check out your local water health here -> https://www.ewg.org