Aesthetics in Drinking Water
Aesthetic water quality problems, like off-tastes, odors and discoloration, vary by tap and are influenced by personal preferences. For example, a slight chlorine taste in drinking water might be preferred by some, while others wouldn’t consider drinking it. The most common aesthetic problems include:
This results from suspended particles of dirt in water that make water appear cloudy. These particles range from larger, visible pieces to minute, invisible particles that can make water hazy. Particles can build up and eventually clog working parts of water-using appliances, such as ice makers, causing them to break down.
Approximately 85% of the US has hard water. Water becomes “hard” when it picks up calcium, magnesium, and other minerals, such as iron, as it travels through certain types of rock and soil. These minerals can build up in appliances and pipes, restricting water flow. Hard water also leaves a sticky film on shower tiles and inhibits the lathering ability of soaps and detergents.
MUSTY, EARTHY & FISHY TASTES AND ODORS:
These tastes and odors are caused by algae, molds, and bacteria that naturally live in most water sources, like lakes and rivers.
DISCOLORATION & STAINING:
Brown water is caused both by tea-like extracts of decaying leaves and by metals such as iron, manganese, and copper. Unpleasant tasting and looking, this water can also stain sinks and laundry.
ROTTEN EGG SMELL:
This is caused by hydrogen sulfide in water, produced by bacteria in deep wells and in low-use, stagnant water mains. Hydrogen sulfide is also highly corrosive.
RUST & METALLIC TASTES:
Excessive iron and other metals in drinking water change the taste and appearance of water. Water can taste metallic even though it appears normal at first, turning “rusty” after a few minutes of contact with air.
Chlorine, commonly used by municipalities to disinfect the water supply, often causes poor tasting and smelling water. Chlorine taste and odor is by far the most common aesthetic complaint.
The most common health related impurity problems in drinking water are listed below. Consider testing your water to find out which of these may be present in your water.
Asbestos was used in cement water pipes in the early 20th century, is naturally occurring in rock, and is commonly found in water supplies. Exposure to asbestos has been linked to cancer.
CYSTS, BACTERIA & VIRUSES:
Cysts, such as Giardia, Entamoeba, and Cryptosporidium, are parasites that cause cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Chlorine will not reliably kill these organisms because they are encased in a hard, protective shell. They can cause infectious diseases, such as typhoid fever and hepatitis.
Exotic toxins can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and nervous system, and are linked to cancer. Arsenic is commonly found at extremely low levels in many natural materials, including food. High levels, however, are toxic. Dioxins, the most toxic substances known, are unintentional by-products of pesticide development and the burning of plastics at waste dumps and power plants.
VOLATILE ORGANIC CHEMICALS (VOCs):
VOCs include components of gasoline, solvents, and industrial cleansers, which can cause many illnesses, including liver cancer and leukemia.
High levels of cadmium, mercury and lead in drinking water can cause nerve damage, brain deficiencies, birth defects, and cancer.
Lead is a heavy metal strongly regulated by the EPA. Lead poisoning can cause neurological deficiencies and birth defects.
SYNTHETIC ORGANIC CHEMICALS (SOCs):
SOCs include man-made organics, like pesticides, that are carried into groundwater by rain and irrigation. Consumption of these chemicals has been linked to circulatory, respiratory, and nerve disorders and at least four types of cancer.
THMs are formed when chlorine reacts with organic matter in water, like decaying leaves. They have been linked to a higher incidence of cancer.
(Content courtesy of Pentair Everpure)