No matter where you are in the country these days, chances are it is hot. From pediatricians to summer camp counselors the advice is currently the same: Make sure you keep hydrated. There are some 326 million trillion gallons of water on Earth, but when it comes to summer thirst, it’s the tap water that matters. And while most tap water is fit to drink, that’s not always the case.
Though water companies and municipalities check and purify their water, a lot can happen between those tests and your tap. Water may pass through old lead pipes. It might acquire toxic vinyl chloride from PVC pipes. It could be over-chlorinated or contain bacteria picked up along the way. Here’s how to keep your family hydrated with safe water:
First, get a Consumer Confidence Report from your water supplier. All public water systems serving at least 15 connections and 25 year-round residents must supply these annual reports, which summarize your water’s quality at the source.
To make sure it’s arriving in a similarly drinkable state, test your water at a lab like Suburban Water Testing Lab or National Testing Labs or ask your supplier or environmental officials to direct you to a local lab. Testing is tricky because you’ll need to specify the contaminants to check for. Here’s some guidance:
- Always test for lead, which remains all too common in water supplies.
- If your water company disinfects with chlorine, check for trihalomethanes, toxins created when chlorine reacts with natural organic chemicals in water.
- If you live in an agricultural area, look for pesticides.
- If you live in an industrialized or urban area, or near a waste dump, research your neighborhood on the Environmental Defense Fund’s Chemical Scorecard which summarizes local toxic releases. Test for any pollutants the Scorecard lists for your zip code.
- Well water is different than municipal water. Private well owners should check for nitrates and bacteria. For more information, visit the EPA’s website for private well owners. If your kids are at a summer camp with well water and you’re concerned, ask the camp owners if they’ve tested their water.
- If your water has specific issues, like discoloration or odors, consult this EPA Home Water Testing Fact Sheet to see what your test should cover.
Results will dictate what if any further steps to take. If you need filtration, our Find the Right Water Filter Easy Step will help you secure a safe water supply—the only kind worth drinking to!
Special thanks to Aisha Ikramuddin, who wrote the original June 2007 post from which this has been adapted.