If you know you need to filter your water, choosing a water filtration system needs to balance costs with the ability to filter out the specific contaminants you want to remove. Start with the data about your tested water before you go shopping.
But, Wait! Do You Really NEED a Water Filtration System?
The same day I posted about safe drinking water, I received my city’s annual drinking water report. Everyone in the U.S. who is connected to municipal water supply should receive a report like this. My report includes a detailed list of all contaminants, the likely source, and whether the range detected was in violation of federal regulations. Our city goals are sometimes lower than the levels allowed by regulation, so those are shown as well.
This glossy brochure also includes a couple of health warnings for vulnerable populations. Lead gets particular attention because of the problems it can cause for developing fetuses and young children. Though the city report can tell me what was in the water when it left the treatment plant, they note that service lines and home plumbing can add other contaminants. They suggest minimizing lead exposure by flushing the tap for 30-120 seconds before using the water.
If even my very careful city water system is concerned about lead exposure, that tells me that I should probably test the water out of my tap. If there is no trace of the worrying contaminants, I don’t need filter my water. The U.S. EPA and Health Canada both have more information about reducing lead in drinking water and minimizing lead exposure from drinking water to help you understand the risks and whether you need to act.
Do You Really WANT a Water Filtration System?
Just because you don’t need to filter your water for contaminants doesn’t mean you don’t want to filter for taste.
Yesterday, I visited a friend of mine who lives in a rural area on a mountain top. We noticed that she had no water filter, so we asked about it. Her water isn’t filtered at all. As a matter of fact, the water in her neighborhood won a rural water taste test. I drank the best tasting water in my state straight out of the tap.
Why does her water taste so good? She told me it’s because the water is very hard—that is, the water contains a lot of dissolved minerals. This is great for taste, but it makes some cooking more difficult. She told me how the descriptions of hard and soft water came about.
During the U.S. Civil War, camp cooks noticed as they moved around cooking for their troops that in some places the beans wouldn’t cook. They stayed hard no matter how long they cooked. In other places, they could easily cook the beans soft. Hard beans, hard water; soft beans, soft water.
Because my friend has hard water rich in all of the minerals that make it taste great, she can’t cook beans. She creates her own bean-cooking soft water with sodium bicarbonate. She does not, however, need or want a water filter. If you don’t have problems and you don’t mind the taste, neither do you.
What Kind of Water Filter Do You Need?
If your water tastes great and has no contaminants, you don’t need a water filtration system.
If your water doesn’t taste great but has no contaminants, you just need a simple water filtration system.
If you have contaminants in your water, you need to get professional advice about the right filtration system to make your water safe for your family.
The simplest, lowest cost water filters are water pitchers with activated carbon filters that your tap water passes through before it drips into the main body of the pitcher, where it sits waiting for you to pour out a glass of water. These systems filter out chlorine used in water treatment and some trace metals.
A faucet filtration system will also reduce lead and other contaminants that the water pitcher won’t. Though the cost is more than a pitcher, installation and maintenance is still quite easy.
There are other systems like distillation and reverse osmosis that can remove minerals from water entirely, but mineral-free water is not best for the health of the average person. Our bodies need many trace minerals to function well. This is another case of needing to avoid the fear that leads to clean freakery and look at the data.
Evaluate your water. Decide what needs to be changed. Then, choose your filter based on your specific needs.