We often take our tap water for granted – it’s always available in a seemingly endless supply. But there is a lot more to tap water than you might imagine. Here are some of the most interesting facts about tap water.
Tap Water Is Safer Than You Think
Although the taste (and even appearance) may make you believe otherwise, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the U.S. has the safest drinking water supply in the world. More than 286 million Americans get their water from a community water system. These systems are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which means that they have to meet strict safety standards. No matter where you live in the U.S., the tap water supply is safe according to EPA regulations.
[Related: Is Tap Water Safe To Drink?]
Not All Tap Water Comes From Ground Water
Many people have the idea that the water under ground is the only source for local tap water supplies. While ground water is the source for some areas, many communities actually get their tap water from surface water, which is what collects in streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. In fact, 68 percent of community water system users get their tap water from a surface water source. Surface water is always treated first to remove possible contaminants and to improve its taste, so it’s just as safe to drink as ground water.
Bottled Water And Tap Water Are Sometimes The Same Thing
According to the EPA, some of the bottled water you pay a dollar or more for per bottle actually contains water from a municipal water supply, which is the same source that tap water comes from. These reports estimate that more than 25 percent of bottled water is the same as tap water.
[Related: Different Types Of Bottled Water Explained]
Tap Water Costs You Next To Nothing
Getting water straight from the tap is practically free. That can add up to some huge savings when you choose tap over bottled water – drinking the recommended 8 glasses of water per day from your tap costs you about 50 cents per year. If you drank the same amount from bottled water, it would cost up to $1,400 over the course of the year. Next time, save money by bringing along your own water bottle from home rather than shelling out extra for bottled water.
[Related: Water Versus Sports Drinks: Staying Hydrated]
Tap Water Can Potentially Make You Sick…But It’s Unlikely
Even though tap water supplies are closely regulated by the EPA, there is still the chance that your water supply could become contaminated. Some of the most common sources of contamination include:
- Sewage releases
- Arsenic, radon, uranium and other naturally occurring minerals and chemicals
- Manufacturing processes involving heavy metal cyanide and other harmful substances
- Land use practices such as fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, etc.
- Malfunctioning septic systems or other on-site wastewater treatment
These contaminants can potentially cause those who drink the dirty water to become ill. Possible health issues from drinking contaminated water include gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems or neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women and the elderly are most susceptible to these health concerns. However, instances of illness resulting from contaminated water are very rare so drinking from the tap isn’t a major concern.
You Can Look Up Reports On Your Local Tap Water
Every community water supply has to release an annual report on the quality of the local drinking water. This includes information about contaminants in the area and the water’s source. If you have any concerns about drinking tap water, check out the report on your local water supply to see how safe the water really is.
The Cost Of Tap Water Is Rising
Although it’s still “dirt cheap” by most standards, the cost of tap water is rising as a result of the aging infrastructure through which many community water systems operate. There are also rising costs of complying with health and safety regulations as well as the cost of expanding service areas as more homes are built. Therefore, many homeowners may see their water bills slowly rising. However, even with increases in rates most water and sewer bills tend to cost only about 0.5 percent of household income.
Americans Use More Water Per Day Than Most Countries
The EPA reports that the average American uses about 90 gallons of water a day at home, which averages out to about 107,000 gallons a year. This is far more than people in other countries, regardless of whether those countries are developed or not. Europeans, for example, use about 53 gallons a day, while a Sub-Saharan citizen uses only 3-5 gallons daily.
In the U.S., we are fortunate to have a very safe drinking water supply. Take advantage of this by using tap water over bottled water, which will reduce waste from plastic water bottles. If you want to learn more, contact your local government to find out more about your local water supply.