Proper hydration is very important to a healthy lifestyle and proper functioning of the body. Water is the best source of hydration, making up the majority of human body weight and acting as one of the body's most important nutrients. The human body can only last a few days without water, and when the body is not receiving the appropriate amounts of water daily, it can lead to health complications like hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease.
It is generally recommended that the average person drinks 64 ounces of water per day, and the most accessible water supply for the majority of people is tap water. But, is tap water safe to drink? Here is some information regarding tap water as a source for regular hydration.
Tap Water Source
Municipal water, better known as tap water, comes from either ground or surface water sources. Those living in larger cities receive their tap water from a surface water source like rivers, lakes and reservoirs. According to the Drinking Water Research Foundation (DWRF), 70 percent of people in the U.S. get their water from surface water sources, while the remaining 30 percent get their water from ground sources like wells where water must be pumped.
Tap Water Treatment
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for setting the standards for tap water provided by public water systems. Most water treatment facilities use a filtration system to make tap water drinkable. The water filtration systems at these facilities also make water disinfection more effective. Tap water is typically disinfected before it is distributed to eliminate any harmful microbes in the water. Chlorine, chloramines or chlorine dioxide are most often use to disinfect water because of their cost effectiveness.
These public water systems are all subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act, and are regularly tested for any harmful chemicals or substances. However, tap water is not necessarily safe for all people. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those suffering from chronic illness with a weak immune system are quite vulnerable to the risks of contaminated tap water according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The NRDC suggests that these people with heightened risks to contaminated water should regularly obtain copies of their cities water quality report so they can review it with their physician.
Tap Water vs. Bottled Water
While the EPA is responsible for the regulation of tap water, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets the standards for bottled water. The EPA and the FDA use similar standards for regulating tap and bottled water, and as long as these standards are met, both water sources are considered safe. There are some cases where tap water receives more treatment than certain bottled waters and vice versa. It all depends on the bottled water distributor and the methods used to purify their water.
The Bottom Line
As long as a public water system meets the standards set by the EPA, tap water from that facility is considered safe to drink. It may be more cost effective to drink tap water that is potentially cleaner than certain bottled waters, but those who suffer from a heightened health risk from contaminated tap water might be more inclined to select bottled water known for better water treatment.