Water Filtration: What You Should Know

Bottled water is definitely out and tap water is in, but with concerns of traces of metals, pharmaceuticals and other chemical residues in our water supply, shouldn’t one be filtering?

There is no perfect one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a water filter. You also first need to decide what you are wanting to remove from the water – which means knowing water filtrationwhat’s in your tap water in the first place – and then matching this with an appropriate filtration technology.

Know what’s in your tap water

The quality of our tap water generally ranks among the best in the world, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it is all that good – remember, concerns around the quality of tap water in developed countries, such as most of Europe, are a prime cause for the boom in the bottled water market.  But bottled water is not without its problems in terms of quality, and so if you are concerned about your tap water you would still do best to look into a filter rather than turning to a bottle.

Aside from general water problems such as unpleasant taste or odour – which are not uncommon with treated water supplies – there has also been much written about the presence of trace levels of potential endocrine and immune system disruptors in treated water supplies.  Where do they come from?  Primarily, they come from human excretion or pharmaceutical by-products into waste water.  So this is only really a concern where wastewater is recycled for domestic re-use.  Common in the UK, for example, where water is estimated to be reused at least seven times – this still does not occur widely in South Africa, as yet.  Nevertheless, even if you decide that you are not concerned about the quality of your water from a health perspective, treated water can also have unpleasant taste or odours from time to time which you may still wish to remove with a filter.

Match your filter with your needs

Having decided on what you want to remove from your water, you can then select a filter that will be up to the job.  Some filters are good at removing metals and other minerals while others are best for removing biological contaminants.  Sometimes, more than one filter type is needed in a hybrid system to achieve the desired effect – this is particularly the case when you need to remove both microbial and mineral contaminants.

Most commonly, one is looking for a filter system that purifies one’s daily drinking water, for which there are a variety of pitcher, or faucet-mounted, options on the market.  But sometimes it is desirable, or necessary, to treat the entire water supply to one’s house – a job that will naturally require a much larger system as well as, most likely, a modification to your plumbing.

Follow the schedule

Without doubt the most common cause of filter failure is neglecting to change the filter cartridges regularly.  Each type of filter cartridge has a specific capacity to remove contaminants.  With time, as the maximum capacity is approached, the performance of the filter can decline.

Using the filter cartridge beyond its capacity can actually result in your water quality deteriorating, even to the point of potentially being a health risk in the case of microbial filtration systems.

So when you are choosing your filtration system, be sure to ask the cost and frequency of filter replacement as this will be the most significant on-going cost associated with your choice.

Reasons for considering a water filter:

  • You, or someone in your family, is highly susceptible to illness (infants, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems)
  • You get your water from a well, spring or poorly treated source.
  • Stains or mineral deposits form on plumbing & discolour laundry.
  • Your water has an unpleasant taste or smell.
  • You have a known problem with water quality

Source: Simply Green November/December 2010

Now read: Water Filter Types: Choose The Right One

Many of South Africa’s municipalities are being poorly managed due to corruption and ineptitude; often this also results in sub-standard water treatment management.  It is therefore highly recommended that water for drinking is filtered.  White River (Mpumalanga) municipal water is often discoloured and/or over-chlorinated.  Borehole water, especially in urban and industrial areas, can no longer be considered safe from chemicals and bacteria such a E. Coli.  Before buying a water filtration system, it is advisable to have your water tested so that you can make the right filter cartridge choice.  Read Water Quality Testing for information on why and how water testing can be done.

Also related: 4 Best ways to ditch bottled water.

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