As a Tulsa plumber, we often get questions about water filtrations systems. Are they worth the cost? Do they actually work? Are they even necessary? Let’s talk about that.
Water Consumption in the United States
On average, Americans drink approximately 39 gallons of bottled water per year at a total cost of roughly $16 billion. Given that bottled water is 300-times as expensive as tap water, and with growing recognition of the potential health and environmental impacts of plastic packaging, many people are turning to home filtration systems instead.
As reported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 25% of Americans use some type of home water filtration—from simple and inexpensive carbon-filter pitchers to whole-home, reverse-osmosis systems that can run as much as $10,000.
Three Questions to Help You Decide if Water Filtration Systems are Worth It
So now let’s go back to that first question: Are water filtrations systems worth it? As with most things in life, it depends. Here are three questions to ask:
Is your local water supply safe?
The EPA requires water providers to provide a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) to their customers by July 1 every year. This report shows all contaminants found in your local drinking supply and how those levels compare to the agency’s drinking water standards.
Notice we said, “all contaminants found.” The reality is all public water supplies have yuck; the question is if the levels of contamination are acceptable. The CCR will tell you. (Note: If you use a household well, it’s wise to test at least annually for bacteria and nitrates and to talk with your health department about potential groundwater concerns.)
While most tap water in the United States is safe to consume, the unfortunate truth is that some local systems violate health standards—nearly 6% of them serving 21 million people, according to a recent study. If your water doesn’t meet or exceed EPA standards, a carefully chosen filtration system may be beneficial.
How much of your home water use is for drinking?
A 2016 study indicates the average American household uses 300 gallons of water per day. Interestingly, only 17% of that comes through our faucets—and only 1% of the water coming into our homes is used for drinking. The rest is used for bathing, laundry, flushing our toilets, watering our yards, and so on. In fact, more water gets wasted through leaks than gets consumed! If you’re primarily concerned about the quality of your drinking water, a whole-house system is probably overkill.
Does anyone in your household have a compromised immune system?
If you have a family member whose immune system is weak because of illness or medical treatment, water filtration is wise. Certain parasites, such as Cryptosporidium, are resistant to the chlorine-based disinfectants used in public water systems, and if your water comes from surface, rather than underground, sources this could be of particular concern. The best way to remove Cryptosporidium is to boil the water for 60 seconds before cooking with it or drinking it. Otherwise, the EPA recommends a high-quality point-of-use filter at minimum. In this case, be diligent about selecting a system certified by NSF International for the particular contaminants of concern.
What kind of water filtration system do you need?
When selecting a water filtration system, it’s helpful to keep your goals in mind. If you simply don’t like the taste of your water, an inexpensive solution will help. But if you have higher-than-acceptable levels of contaminants and/or an immunocompromised family member, something more comprehensive than a water pitcher is worth it.