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Regardless of your water source – municipal, well, stream or cistern, every time you draw a glass, there is a chance it contains hazardous microorganisms. Thousands of Americans fall ill every year due to microbial contamination of their drinking water, with the Center For Disease Control citing contaminated water as the number one cause of gastrointestinal illness. Every day, public water systems pump water that violates the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act into homes across the country. In the EPA’s 2006 National Public Water Systems Compliance report, 27% of those served by public water systems received their water from sources which had reported significant violations.
Every year, the average American purchases 170 plastic bottles of water, creating an industry which generates, in America alone, sales of over $7 billion and mountains of waste – over 50 billion plastic bottles a year. However, the safety of this bottled water is even less certain, and much less regulated, than the water which flows from America’s faucets.
Many people choose filtration systems which may be integrated with their faucet, stored under their sink, or in their refrigerator. These systems often involve a carbon filter, which removes most large sediment, chlorine, and foul tastes and odors. In a well-maintained system, with a source free of hazardous dissolved solids and/or microorganisms, these filters are adequate and efficient. However, they do not address lead, sulfur, cryptosporidium, giardia, or a large number of contaminants.
People who live in areas with high amounts of dissolved solids in their water often make use of a Reverse-Osmosis system, which utilizes a large number of prefilters; a thin membrane, to remove the minerals; and a storage tank to hold the water produced, since the rate of production is usually measured in gallons per day. However, even these advanced systems are not without their drawbacks. Viruses and bacteria slip through the membrane and grow, unimpeded, in the warm and dark habitat of the holding tank, while the membrane indiscriminately removes nearly every mineral from the water, both good and bad.
-- New York Times, 12/16/2009 (click on quote to open article)