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The Benefits of Good Water Quality
Water and Health Are Linked
Bad water is bad for you, but safe water is key to life— and good for you! Water has so many health benefits that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
Water and health are linked. According to the CDC, the top causes of disease outbreaks related to drinking water are Giardia intestinalis, hepatitis A, norovirus, andShigella. Bad as that sounds, it’s far from a complete list. There are also health risks related to water contaminated with organic and inorganic matter, other bacteria and viruses and other pollutants.
Some studies link high levels of lead in drinking water to delays in physical and mental development, short attention spans, and learning difficulties in children. There’s also evidence that arsenic in drinking water can lead to nerve, heart, skin, and blood vessel damage. And Cryptosporidium is responsible for potentially life-threatening diarrhea.
Still, water is essential. The human body is, after all, 70% water, and although a human being can survive a month or more without food, a week without water can be fatal.
Good for Appliances, Too
High quality water is good for your home and appliances. Softened water can save you money by keeping appliances at top efficiency, and making them last longer. The amount of dish and laundry detergent you use can be cut by half, or even more, if you use softened water. You can also lower wash temperatures from hot to cold without a drop in performance, according to two other independent studies.
A 2009 study commissioned by the Water Quality Research Foundation (WQRF) and conducted by the Battelle Memorial Institute found that adding a water softener helps water heaters and major appliances operate as efficiently aspossible, while preventing clogs in showerheads, faucets, and drains. For example, researchers ran dishwashers and washing machines for 30 days and 240 wash cycles. They ran softened water through half of the units, while using a hard water source for the others. At the end of the month, the washers using softened water were nearly free of scale buildup, but the washers using hard water required scale removal to work well.
As for water heaters, the researchers found that when they used softened water, the units maintained their original factory efficiency rating for as long as 15 years. Running hard water through the units cut efficiency by up to 48 percent. Scale buildup shortened the lifespan of the heating elements inside electric water heaters, and some tankless water heaters using hard water failed after just 1.6 years.
The researchers found that showerheads performed well on soft water, but those running with hard water lost 75 percent of their flow rate in less than 18 months. When running hard water through faucets, the strainers on the faucets clogged within 19 days.
Studies conducted by the independent test firm Scientific Services S/D, Inc., of New York, revealed the following benefits of softened water:
In washing machines, softened water can reduce detergent use by 50% and save energy by making it possible to wash in cold (60ºF) rather than hot (100ºF) water. Cold water washes with softened water achieved the same or better results when it came to removing stains and whitening fabrics.
In dishwashers, softened water can achieve the same cleaning results as unsoftened while using less than half as much detergent.
Basics of Water Treatment
Water quality improvement entails the disinfection and purification of untreated ground and surface water.
At the Community Level
The purpose of a public or private water treatment facility is to make water potable (safe to drink) and palatable (pleasant to taste) while also ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of water to meet the community’s needs.
Raw and untreated water is obtained from an underground aquifer (usually through wells) or from a surface water source, such as a lake or river. It is pumped, or flows, to a treatment facility. Once there, the water is pre-treated to remove debris such as leaves and silt. Then, a sequence of treatment processes — including filtration and disinfection with chemicals or physical processes — eliminates disease-causing microorganisms. When the treatment is complete, water flows out into the community through a network of pipes and pumps that are commonly referred to as the distribution system.
Public vs. Private
What’s the difference between public and private water treatment facilities? Public, municipal systems are owned and operated by the cities or towns they serve, and they’re typically under the management of a mayor or other elected official. Private systems range from individual wells serving a single household, to small corporate associations that provide water to a small group of homes, or to large corporations that have their own water service divisions. Whether public or private, all U.S. water utilities that serve more than 25 people must adhere to water quality standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as state and local regulations.