— Your Drinking Water —
Are you concerned about the purity and safety of your drinking water
confused by all the different water treatment methods available
you wonder which contaminants are in your tap water - how can you tell
you know which home drinking water treatment method is best for you
(Distillation, Reverse Osmosis, Activated Carbon Filters, UV, Bottled Water, or)
alarmed about contaminants your children might be drinking
a member of your family pregnant
of this web site is to help you decide on the best water
treatment system for you and your family. I have tried to provide
the most accurate, unbiased information possible about drinking water
contaminants you might be exposed to, their health effects, and the
different Point Of Use (POU) water treatment strategies available.
There are LOTS of
exaggerated claims on the Internet about home water filtration systems and other
drinking water treatment methods.
information from hype can be a challenge!
Fortunately, the drinking water treatment needs for most
particularly those using municipal water, are often fairly simple.
|The Bottom Line:
||First you need some understanding of which
contaminants are in your water. If you are on municipal (public)
water, most water companies are required to provide an annual water
||There are only three main point of use water
treatment methods - Each process has its benefits and limitations:
||Distillation is the
most effective, slowest, most expensive water treatment
method, and requires
electricity or other energy source.
||Reverse Osmosis (RO) is
effective against most inorganic contaminants but requires
activated carbon to reduce some organic contaminants. RO requires
moderate to high water
pressure, is fairly slow and typically wastes more water
than it treats
||Solid Block Activated Carbon
(SBAC) is the least expensive process, easiest to
maintain and does not
require electricity or high water pressure. It significantly
reduces chlorine, a wide variety of organic contaminants
like disinfection byproducts and can be designed to reduce
levels of some inorganic chemicals like lead and arsenic.
Activated Carbon is ineffective against many inorganic
contaminants like salts, iron, fluoride, aluminum, calcium,
etc. My recommendation for most people on municipal
||There are other water treatment methods, KDF, UV, ozone,
activated alumina, sediment filters, ion exchange, granular
activated carbon &
boiling, but they have limited effectiveness and usually
need to be
combined with other methods. A brief
summary of other water treatment
||There is no reliable, reproducible evidence to support
that water can be treated in some manner —
with ionization, pi mag, oxygenation, hydrogenation, various catalysts, vortexes,
magnetism, microclustering, homeopathic succussions, chi generators,
intentions, photons, etc. — that will change
its physical characteristics or energy levels so that it has
more beneficial effects on the human body than regular,
||There are no federal regulations
regarding the effectiveness or design of water treatment products.
The FTC has created "truth
in advertising" rules, but they apparently are not enforced
except in extreme circumstances. Companies are pretty much free to
make exaggerated, unsupported claims to promote their products. You
are ultimately responsible for selecting an effective treatment
method and product.
||Careful selection of water treatment
products certified by
WQA provides assurance that treatment claims are valid.
Below are 4 detailed steps that
will explain the summary above and
help you determine the best water treatment method or methods for your specific drinking water needs.
1. Common contaminants; 2.
POU water treatment methods; 3. Contaminant reduction; 4. How to choose
This site emphasizes treating drinking water from
municipal water companies, not wells.
is available for those with more complicated water treatment needs.
about the contaminants that are in your drinking water.
There are really only two ways to know what
is in your drinking water:
Are Three Types Of
Drinking Water Contaminants:
most people on municipal water do NOT have a lot of harmful contaminants
to worry about in their drinking
||If your water is treated and distributed by a water company, it
will probably contain:
(chlorine and/or chloramine).
(which include the trihalomethanes like chloroform).
||If your home is less than 5 years old, or has lead pipes
(or copper pipes with lead solder), or has faucets or
fittings of brass, or your water is naturally soft or
acidic, or corrosive, a possible and serious drinking
water contaminant might be:
This page contains additional
information about lead.
||If you live in an agricultural region, potential harmful
Young infants or children, women who are pregnant, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are
at higher risk from many drinking water contaminates!
about these risks.
There are many
thousands of potential contaminants, both natural and synthetic.
A list and description of some of the more common and/or harmful
contaminants that can be found in drinking water can be Found
The lists of
contaminants on this page does not mean that all drinking water
contains them. Fortunately, any
given water supply will probably contain just a few (if any) harmful
contaminants, but it is important to have an idea which ones
before purchasing a water treatment solution.
Blue to Blue-green
Cloudy, or Milky
Reddish - orange
Dark brown to Black
Spots, & Sediment
Spots on clothing
Spots on dishes
Spotting, mottling, of
Red - brown slime
Black - brown slime
Reddish - brown
pitting of metal
sinks and fixtures
Sharp chemical Alkaline
Oil or gas
about the benefits and limitations, of the POU water treatment methods.
There are thousands of brands
of POU drinking water treatment systems from hundreds
of manufacturers. You see them in shopping malls, discount
stores, hardware stores, and
mail order catalogues - and, of course, on the internet. Prices range from around $20 to thousands of dollars.
There are only 3 main (POU) home
drinking water treatment and purification technologies, distillation, reverse osmosis and solid block activated carbon
(SBAC), each with
its strengths, limitations, and associated costs. Some
treatment units use several technologies combined.
It is worth mentioning here that there is no
reputable scientific evidence that supports the numerous claims you
will see that specialty water treatments (ionization, oxygenation or exposure to
magnets, vibrations, photons, vortexes, thoughts or catalysts, etc,) can change the structure,
chemistry or energy of
the water molecules or endow them with special health benefits.
More details can be found
descriptions of each of the water treatment methods are available
by clicking on the link (if Java is enabled). To
save time, if you plan to read descriptions for more than
just one treatment type, leave the pop-up window open, click back
on this page, and click on another treatment method.
If you want to
read through all the treatment descriptions and limitations at
once or if Java is turned off,
can find a full description here.
Solid Block Activated
Carbon (SBAC) filters
Carbon (GAC) filters
Other types of filtration systems (KDF, sediment, ceramic, etc.)
Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Ultraviolet Light (UV light)
Chlorination (Not usually a POU solution.
Included because it is an important disinfection method)
Ion Exchange (Not
usually a POU solution. Included because water softeners are so
is also available from a staggering number of companies that
a vast range
Natural Spring Water (including Artesian)
Sparkling Water (Contains CO2)
More than a few brands are simply filtered tap water.
Some bottled water is untreated, but most
companies use one or more of the treatment methods
above to purify the water before bottling.
(oxygenated, magnetic, vortex,
and clustered water to name a few).
Discover which contaminants are
by the main Point Of Use (POU) water treatment methods.
(Selecting inappropriate technologies can result in
inadequate purification and/or spending too much money)
The table below just lists those contaminants commonly found in
municipal drinking water.
A much more
complete water treatment
table can be found
here for those who need it.
The extensive list
of qualifications (Ev,
Add, etc.) in the table below is a
of the fact that each water
treatment technology has its strengths and weaknesses.
There is no single, best drinking water treatment method for every
important: The same technologies from different
have very different contaminant reduction capabilities - certification
|| Not effective or not
recommended for reducing the level of a contaminant.
at reducing the contaminant level.
- bottled water quality
is entirely dependent on the quality of the company
it. At minimum, it must meet quality
requirements that are equivalent to those for tap water.
at reducing the contaminant level depends on design
& volume of the
at reducing the contaminant levels depends on the
characteristics of the reverse
osmosis membranes, the specific contaminants in the
water and their concentrations, and the
at reducing the contaminant level depends on the volume
of the filter media.
A filter with a larger volume of filter media will
reduce contaminants better than smaller filters.
- Ozone treatment oxidizes many organic chemicals and transforms
them into smaller
nontoxic or toxic byproducts depending, in part, on ozone
exposure and the
the original organic compounds.
effective at reducing the contaminant level.
|| Contaminant can be
concentrated by the treatment method.
|| Specific contaminant added
to the water by the treatment method.
|| Treatment method creates new
contaminants in the water.
|| Lead and copper are not frequently in water that
leaves the municipal water treatment plant. If
water is corrosive,
minerals (frequently lead and copper) can leach out of a
|| Nitrites, Nitrates, and Pesticides are
not typically in municipal water. These compounds are
regulated by the EPA, and if the water company is in
compliance the levels should be below the
EPA's MCL. There will probably always be some
companies, however, that are out of
compliance, particularly in heavily agricultural
regions. The water quality report should have
information about whether these contaminants are a
problem in your water.
| There are many specific
organic chemicals in each of these categories, many harmful,
The Key simply indicates treatment methods that are
listed in the literature as effective against
representative compounds or stated as a treatment
method of choice. Check with the specific
manufacturer (or certification organization) about
specific contaminant removal.
| Cation exchange - Water softeners use
cation exchange to replace positive calcium and
magnesium ions with a different ion (usually sodium)
that does not cause the problems of mineral deposits and
The table and
descriptions above provide a good overview of the benefits
of the treatment methods for simple water problems, but a
more extensive discussion of water treatment methods can be
is also possible, though thankfully rare, for harmful bacteria or
other pathogens to find their way into drinking water from a
municipal water source. If these organisms are in the water illness can occur.
If tap water is regularly suspected to contain harmful pathogens, there are several
point of use treatment options that can be considered for home drinking water.
||Distillation - A good
distillation system effectively removed all pathogens.
|| Solid block activated carbon or reverse
osmosis filtration (to reduce non-living contaminants and turbidity) followed by UV or
ozone treatment to kill the pathogens.
Distillation is probably more
expensive than filtration and UV/ozone treatment.
Bottled water is a good emergency
source of safe drinking water, but often, by the time a problem
has been discovered and an emergency boil order has been issued,
many people have already been exposed to the contaminated
water. A better solution for municipal water
(or well water for that matter) is to
install and maintain a permanent treatment system for all water
consumed in the home (including tooth brushing).
Reusable bottles can then be carefully cleaned and filled
with the home-treated water to drink away from the home.
Decide on the best treatment
your specific needs.
||Things to Consider when Selecting
a Purification Solution:
||How much purified water you would like to use per day for
drinking and cooking and watering pets and plants (a family of four can easily use
3 to 6 gallons per day).
||Which contaminants are actually in your water (and which
ones might occasionally show up). The only way to know this for sure is to
request a report from your water supplier or have your water tested.
||Which contaminants you are interested in removing (the
information in the other areas of this site should help). The plan I
adopted was to go with a solution that provides the best protection from most of the
potential contaminants (for the lowest cost and least maintenance) - even though most of the
contaminants are not currently, and hopefully will never be, present in my tap water.
||The cost of the solution you decide upon, both the initial cost
(which may be relatively high for some filtration systems, ion exchange units,
distillers, etc.) and the
ongoing costs (which might be high for distillers,
bottled water, pitcher/faucet filters, etc.).
Treating your water is probably not
something you will do for a few months. Providing safe, good tasting water is typically a
long term commitment. Look at the total amount you will spend over
the next 10 to 40 years based on the amount of pure water you would like to be able to use for drinking, cooking, washing
||The overall value of the product. Is the product certified to
perform as advertised (or in the case of bottled water, is it certified to be free of
contaminants). Does the product provide you with safe, good tasting water at a reasonable cost.
Is there minimal maintenance required. Is the company reputable
of Long-Term Costs for Water Treatment:
Most people, when they make the decision to invest in a
||Have you considered how much it will cost to obtain pure, safe water
for the next 5, 10, 20, or even 40 years?
When you decide to protect yourself and your family from drinking
water contaminants, 40years may seem like a very long time to think
about treatment costs.....
||If you plan to use just 10 gallons of purified
water a week (less than 1.5 gallons per day), the water treatment method you select can mean the
difference between spending about $1,700 over 40 years or spending
more than $31,000 for pure, safe, good tasting water!
Click below on the amount of purified water you
use (or would like to use) per week. This will display a table and
graph comparing the average costs of some common treatment methods
(bottled water, distillation, reverse osmosis, SBAC filtration, and
Recommendations for a POU Water Treatment Solution:
||The most important consideration for
selecting a water treatment solution is that the treatment
method effectively reduces the contaminants of concern in
||Always check the manufacturer's certified
contaminant reduction table to make certain any treatment method you are considering will significantly reduce the specific contaminants you are concerned about!
The suggestions below are in order of my
preference. The criteria I use for ranking the methods are:
the best performance (the product effectively reduces contaminants of concern),
at the lowest price (initial + ongoing costs),
Solid Block Activated Carbon (SBAC)
filtration system - A high quality SBAC water filter will
provide decades of service for a treatment cost of typically under
$0.10 per gallon, and it will require minimal maintenance (a periodic cartridge
change) and no electricity use. Highly Recommended if your water treatment needs
are met by the characteristics of these filters. Most
municipal water is effectively treated by SBAC.
page provides details and ordering information on an excellent value SBAC filtration
system that my family and I have used since 1996. These were the highest rated under counter filtration systems by
Consumer Reports in 2012 and again in 2013.
|| Reverse Osmosis - Recommended in
situations where the water contains contaminants of concern, like
nitrates, salinity, and/or those heavy metals that can not be reduced
by activated carbon. A high quality activated carbon filter should be part of the package to reduce organic compounds not removed by
RO. The cost per gallon is about double SBAC, and there is
somewhat more maintenance involved. Electricity is not ordinarily
required for proper functioning, but relatively high water pressure is. Details on a good RO system with an excellent
SBAC post filter can be found
Distillation - Recommended
in situations where the water contains contaminants of concern,
like nitrates, salinity, and/or heavy metals that can not be
reduced by activated carbon. Distillation is an excellent,
highly effective water treatment solution for "really
ugly" water. The reason I do not highly recommend it is
because distillation is typically a slow process
(requires hours to treat several gallons of water), around twice as expensive as RO
(about 4 times more expensive than SBAC), and most systems require
electricity to operate - when the power is out they are completely
This page addresses the various misrepresentations about distilled water.
Quick summary of other water treatment
A complete description can be found
|| Ultra Violet (UV)
Light - Not recommended as a single, stand-alone
water treatment solution because it is only for killing biological
contaminants and does not reduce other harmful contaminants that
might be in the water. A good option, however, to provide additional protection for water filtered by a good activated
carbon or RO filtration system to kill bacteria and viruses that
may make it through the filters.
Bottled Water - Usually a good choice for
safe water, excellent for emergencies, but most is very expensive
compared with other alternatives ($0.25 - $6.00 or more per gallon).
Bottled water, unless you fill your own bottles, will
unnecessarily waste resources.
|| Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) counter-top
or under-counter filters - Usually better than nothing if
manufacturer recommendations are followed. Large pore size
and granular nature of the filter media make them less effective
at contaminant removal than a SBAC filter. They are,
however, usually much less expensive than SBAC systems.
Faucet- Mount Filters - (Can be SBAC or
- SBAC faucet-mount filters typically have a pore size of about 1
micron - able to effectively reduce cysts. They are smaller
than most counter-top or under-counter SBAC filters and therefore
not as effective for contaminant reduction at the same flow rates. GAC faucet-mount filters have essentially the same effectiveness as Pitcher
Filters. Both kinds have relatively expensive replacement
cartridges that do not last very long and can easily cost more
after several years of use than a more expensive, more
effective SBAC system.
Pitcher Filters - Better than nothing and
most will reduce chlorine and sometimes lead to acceptable levels.
Large pore size and relatively small amounts of granular media
make them ineffective for effectively reducing the levels of many contaminants. Relatively expensive replacement cartridges do
not last very long and can easily cost more after several years of
use than a more expensive, more effective SBAC system.
Water Softeners - Reduce hardness (calcium
and magnesium ions) and usually add sodium ions. They are
mostly ineffective against other contaminants of health concern.
Sediment Filters - Good for what they are
designed for - removing particles from water - No other
contaminant reduction takes place. They are often used as a pre-filter for more expensive filtration systems to keep them from
Ceramic filters with a very small pore size (around 0.2
micron) are a special case of sediment filter and can be used in
emergency situations to significantly reduce biological
contaminants from water. They are ineffective against
chemical contaminants or viruses.
|| KDF Filters - A granular
filter media which is promoted as changing free chlorine into
non-irritating chloride, for reducing bacteria, and for
precipitating some heavy metals like lead. Works with hot
water, and is often used in shower-head filters and in combination
with activated carbon in household filtration systems.
|| Boiling -
Effective for emergency disinfection of water only.
Pathogens are killed and volatile contaminants may be driven
off, but many contaminants will remain.
advised that the information on this page and on this site is for
general educational information only and is NOT intended to make any
specific health claims or recommend any specific treatment method or
preventative advice for any health issue or problem. Consult
your physician or a health specialist for specific steps to take for
your specific health requirements!
Copyright © 2005 Randy Johnson. All rights reserved.Top
Point of Use
Water Treatment Methods Description
Reduction by Treatment Method
What is the Best Drinking Water
Summary of Other
Faucet Mount Filter
Drinking Water Information