Water filters for a cool carefree drink
The season’s tropical storms can bring floods, and, as often follows, contaminated drinking water. And even in normal weather, as the New York Times recently reported, traces of pharmaceuticals such as pain relievers, antibiotics, and anti-depressants can be found in the water supply of 24 major cities.
While it’s more environmentally friendly to drink from the tap than buy bottled water, tap water can be purified and made more palatable with water filters, available in all price ranges. Before you invest in a filter, though, find out if you need one; learn what contaminants, if any, are in your water supply by calling your local water utility, or try www.epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo.htm. You can also test your own taps for lead, particularly if your pipes are old.
There are many different filters available, ranging from simple Brita and Pur carafes to elaborate whole-house distillation and reverse osmosis filtration systems. What kind you choose depends on what contaminants you wish to remove and how much you want to spend. Consumer Reports has a guide that includes price ranges as well as pros and cons of each type.
A basic carbon filter, found in Brita and Pur systems, will eliminate lead, chlorine byproducts, some parasites, some pesticides, and some organic chemicals, but it won’t remove other heavy metals, arsenic or pathogens such as bacteria or other microorganisms. Faucet-mounted filters and countertop models also use a carbon filter, which must, in all cases, be changed at least once every three months. Under-counter systems, which attach directly to your water pipes and provide filtered water from a separate tap in your sink, only need changing twice a year, though they tend to be more expensive.
Avoid water filtration systems that use reverse osmosis or distillers, as these waste an enormous amount of water, energy and time.. Distilling water, for example, basically boils it until it becomes steam, which is then condensed back into water; a whole-house distillation system would increase energy use by 378 kilowatt hours per day. You can purify your water yourself by boiling it for 1 minute and then letting it cool, according to the U.S. EPA.
And while you’re at it, remember, it’s never too late to kick the bottled water habit. Bottled water is a $100 billion dollar industry in America, the country with both the best tap water quality and the highest per capita bottled water use in the world. Not only is it silly to pay for what you get for free in your own home, it’s also environmentally disasterous. Seventeen million barrels of oil were required in 2006 to produce the plastic for all those bottles, and that doesn’t even take into consideration the oil needed to transport the bottles to the drinkers. And as most of you know, some types of plastic bottles can leach chemicals into their contents, making your bottled water less healthy for you than tap.
GreenerPenny recommends reusable nontoxic bottles—click here for our list We also want to tell you about a nifty new idea, a water-filtering sports bottle by Water Geeks It’s made of BPA-free plastic and comes with a carbon filter built right into the lid, good for three months. Although there aren’t any toxins in our tap water, the Water Geeks bottle took away some slight chemical undertones and made the water taste great. Unfortunately, the filter makes it a bit difficult to draw water out of the bottle, so while it’s okay for sitting and sipping, you might be frustrated if you really need to hydrate, fast and easy, on the go. Still, a handy item to have on hand for emergencies, the sort of thing Katherine Hepburn might have whipped out of her carpet bag on the deck of The African Queen.
Certain ideas in this current green revolution have reached the tipping point and become decidedly mainstream: eschewing plastic bags for bring-along reuseable cloth totes at the grocery store; organic food and farmers markets; Jack Johnson. And now, buying less water in disposable bottles. There’s still a long way to go, but every day, strides are being made toward a more sustainable world.
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