Drinking Water is meant to Taste Great and Support Health. Here we articulate the rationale for domestic water testing and unfold indications of urgency for home water filters by focusing on Drinking Water Sources and Drinking Water Contaminants.
Drinking Water Sources
As the main Drinking Water Source for many people in Australia we focus first on Town Water. We will also investigate drinking water quality and associated health effects from other sources –
- Tank Water
- Ground water, Bore water, Spring Water or Well water
- Surface Water, Dam, River or Creek Water
- Desalinated Water and Recycled Water
- Plus – Filtered Water, Recycled Water, Bottled Water, Zippy Wall mounted dispenser, Water Coolers, Public Water fountains and Carted Water and the integrated contribution from home plumbing and faucets
Drinking Water Contaminants
The unwanted stuff with adverse health effects potentially found in our Drinking Water. Natural Geological elements like Arsenic and Uranium, Other Heavy Metal Pollutants, Disinfectant-By-Products (DBPs), Industrial, Mining and Agricultural Chemicals, Domestic Waste Products, Leaching from Community Garbage centres, Recycled and Desalinated Water Contaminants, Legacy Persistent Organic Pollutants(POPs), Domestic plumbing contaminants like Lead (Pb) and more.
To get your head around some of the contaminants possible in drinking water, the USA has the EWG database and Australia has the Australian Drinking Water Map
This article was started on 1st January 2020. It is in response to a confluence of factors that have increased the need to pay closer attention to our drinking water; both its availability but more importantly, its quality.
In Australia, many of us take for granted that we have access to clean, healthy water. But 2019 was a wake-up call; a rude awakening to the realities of water shortage, water theft, mismanagement of water resources at the highest levels, fish kills and contamination of town drinking water potentiated, in part, by dwindling reservoir water reserves.
Living in Armidale, NSW over the past decade has allowed plentiful access to reasonably clean drinking water. However, 35Km to the north, the township of Guyra has run out of water and in late 2019 water was being trucked and pumped in with local residents complaining of a bad smell in the water.
Then on December 18th 2019, Uralla, a town 30Km to the south of Armidale, was warned not to drink the town water as Arsenic levels were 4 to 5 times above the recommended levels and 40,000 bottles of water were being trucked in daily. Investigations are under way but the cause is in part due to mobilisation of sediment in the town dam (Kentucky reservoir) as water levels drop below 40%; in part due to historic gold mining activity in the area more the 100 years ago (known to be associated with arsenic contamination) and in part due to natural geological deposits of arsenic in the area. As of January 2020, this situation is still unresolved.
Arsenic is a nasty toxic heavy metal that has long-term cumulative adverse health effects. But this is only one of the possible hundreds of toxic chemicals that can end up in drinking water – whether it be tank water, bore, river or indeed, town water.
This ongoing report seeks to raise awareness of changing water quality, consequential health effects, affordable testing options and evidence-based state-of-the-art home filtering technologies.
Toxtest has been testing water for the public since 2015 and in the later part of 2019, due to factors mentioned earlier, we have investigated the best home point-of-use water filters and in conjunction with our highly valued support, made these available on our online store, hartgoods.com
Water pollution is a major global problem which requires ongoing evaluation and revision of water resource policy at all levels. It has been suggested that water pollution is the leading worldwide cause of deaths and diseases and that it accounts for the deaths of more than 14,000 people daily
Ref: Environmental Pollution by Heavy Metal: An Overview, 2019
Drinking Water Sources
Quality of Town Water is informed by the latest Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) yet maintained and to some degree enforced, by the states and territories, water boards/authorities and local councils. States like NSW, also have their own, more specific guidelines.
It is important to note that Australia has the highest water standards in the world and with the utmost respect, because they do an amazing job, the water authorities try very hard to minimise unnecessary chemicals in our drinking water by adhering closely to the ADWG.
Water treatment by these authorities serves to accomplish the following –
- Disinfection of bacteria and other pathogens
- Removal of toxic chemicals via treatments like coagulation, precipitation, filtration & adsorption
- Water softening, aesthetic and pH adjustments and corrosion control
During these processes the following chemicals may be used by the water authorities for purposes shown in the tables below. From the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG, 2018).
Click above table to enlarge. It is in 2 parts
Table from: The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG, 2018) and shows chemicals recommended for use in the treatment of drinking water by town water authorities. These additives were approved in 2004 and updated in 2018 in the ADWG.
These additives can also be converted to other chemical metabolites and disinfection by-products (DBP) that are known to have adverse health effects.
In addition, and as an example, Aluminium chlorohydrate (ACH), shown in the table above and added to reservoir water for coagulation purposes, can come with some or all of the following impurities and contaminants when added to water. Note that many of the other water additives shown above can also have similar or other impurities.
Further, contaminants from our water catchment areas and groundwater like pesticides, nitrates, heavy metals, atmospheric fallout from coal, petroleum, power-stations & smoke, pharmaceuticals and PFAS chemicals must all be removed or at least minimised to conform to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG, 2018) has 1172 pages with extensive information on possible water contaminants. Importantly, the guideline values are based on current research and toxicology models that some argue are outdated; and no guideline value is zero, even for known carcinogens. Additionally, there are chemicals that end up in our drinking water that are not covered by the ADWG. The maximum allowed levels of toxic chemicals, however, are revised from time to time.
And finally, a challenge that faces many areas of medical, human and environmental toxicology at the moment, is that we don’t fully understand the accumulative and combined synergistic yet harmful effects of all these low dose chemical exposures from unfiltered drinking water.