Out breaks of disease from drinking water that lead to serious or sometimes fatal illness still occurs in the U.S. Sometimes bacteria are the culprit, sometimes it's viruses, parasites, and there are also thousands of drugs, household and industrial chemicals that end up in rivers, streams, reservoirs and even in underground springs. However, the quality of drinking water in the U.S. is among the best in the world, according to the University of Arizona water safety experts.
It is estimated that 19.5 million illnesses occur each year from microorganisms in our drinking water. How do they get there? Sewage and storm water are carried in the same pipes in many regions, which contaminates surface water. Groundwater is now becoming contaminated by septic tank leaks, landfill leaks, and inadequate disposal of animal waste and wastewater. Stagnate water sitting in home faucets harbor bacteria. (Running water for 30 seconds to flush the lines in the morning will reduce bacteria from within faucets by 80%). It gets there by pets who lick the dripping faucets, children with dirty hands playing with the faucets, or handling faucets in the kitchen after handing meats, etc. Bacteria can enter the pipes and grow, creating a biofilm on the inside of the pipes.
Is bottled water the answer? Not really. Bottled water came from a faucet somewhere and contains bacteria also, which is why they display expiration dates. Even refrigerated, the bacteria multiply inside the bottles. Bottled water does not contain flouride, a necessary nutrient added to harden and help protect teeth from decay. Plastic bottles use natural resources to produce and ship, and end up in landfills - not very "green." Point-of-use water filters remove contaminates and can protect from lead and other pollutants, and some are certified for microbial purification. Check the Web site of the California Dept. of Public Health (cdph.ca.gov/certlic/device/Pages/WTD2009Directory.aspx) if you are looking to purchase an effective water filter. Basic information can also be found in the booklet supplied by the EPA, "Water on Tap" (www.epa.gov). Keep in mind, that most water filters remove healthy minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, etc.
Have your tap water tested to target known contaminates, or get a copy of the Consumer Confidence Report that most water utilities are required to publish and mail by July of each year. Some post them on their Web site. The EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) is also available for questions about your drinking water.
Boiling tap water is an excellent way to kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites in drinking water. It can be refrigerated and stored for days at a time. The Chinese immigrants survived the Cholera plague during the California Gold Rush because they boiled water to make tea - a staple beverage, before anyone realized that the source of the disease was the contaminated drinking water.
~Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2010