Clean water is essential for all of us, but unfortunately, not a guarantee. An increasing number of people across the globe are experiencing high levels of pollutants in their drinking water. In 2014, the residents of Flint, Michigan noticed that their tap water was an unpleasant brown colour, a thicker consistency, and it tasted like metal.
It turned out that this change in the water was due to corroded water pipes that had resulted in high levels of toxic lead seeping into the water supply. Now known as one of the worst public health disasters in US history, over 10,000 Flint residents suffered poisoning as a result of drinking their tap water.
Drinking contaminated water over a long period of time can have a serious impact on your health. If you have concerns about the safety of your home’s water supply, here are six tell-tale signs that your water supply might be contaminated.
How clean is your home’s water supply? Home water filtration systems ensure your water is safe to drink and water softening systems make sure it doesn’t do damage to your body or your home appliances.
1. Your water is cloudy
Safe drinking water is usually clear, tasteless, and it shouldn’t have any odour. While it may not necessarily mean that your water isn’t safe to drink, cloudy water could be an indicator that it contains chemicals or unsafe pathogens. If you’re concerned about cloudy water, try a water filter or water filtration bottle. You may notice an improvement and it is a more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly option than switching to bottled water. While not always a sign of contamination, if your water develops a metallic taste, this could be due to elevated levels of lead, copper, or other metals in your water (as was the case for the people of Flint).
Look out for changes to the consistency, smell, or flavour of your water.
2. You have hard water
Hard water is usually due to a buildup of minerals, heavy metals, or other chemicals. Hard water can damage household appliances and clothes by leaving a residue, it can cause brittle hair and nails, and it can also irritate the skin, especially in those with skin conditions. A tell-tale sign that your water is hard is that it will often leave your hands feeling slimy after washing them.
If you do have hard water, it’s important not to panic. While the people of Flint noticed that their water was harder than normal (due to excess heavy metals), it isn’t always a sign that your water source is contaminated. In many cases, hard water is a result of too much calcium, magnesium, or fluoride and shouldn’t cause any long-term health issues.
Hard water can cause issues even if it doesn’t contain excess heavy metals, so it’s best to tackle the issue. Water softening systems are a great way to remove hard water from your house and get rid of the pesky side effects it leaves such as brittle nails, dry hair, and damaged clothes. The best thing about these softening systems is that they are quick and easy to install and they give you the peace of mind that your drinking water doesn’t contain excess metals or minerals.
With a home water filtration system, you can wave goodbye to planet-destroying bottled water and enjoy BPA-free water whenever you want.
3. Your water is yellow, orange, brown, or blue
Discoloured water is another surefire sign that your water source is polluted. Water with a yellow tinge could indicate that your water supply contains chromium-6. If you’re a fan of Erin Brockovich, this chemical might ring a bell. Chromium-6 is a dangerous chemical that can cause cancer with long-term exposure. If you notice a slight yellow tinge, don’t panic, this could also be a sign that there are excess metals such as iron, copper, or lead in your water.
If you notice that your water has an orange or brown shade to it, this could be an indicator that there is rust, lead, or iron in the supply. While not immediately dangerous, over time this can cause health issues and rust can actually breed dangerous bacteria.
Another telltale sign that your water supply may be contaminated is blue or green water. This is usually a sign of too much copper in your water source and is often a result of corroded pipes. It’s important to look out for these changes to your water and to address them immediately. Long-term exposure to high levels of copper is extremely dangerous to the liver and kidney.
Any changes in the colour of your water should always be investigated; call your landlord, local council, or water supplier for assistance.
4. Your water smells like bleach, eggs, or fish
Perhaps one of the biggest signs that your water supply is contaminated is a change in its smell. For example, if your water has a strong smell of bleach, this could indicate that there is too much chlorine in the water supply. In many parts of the world, such as the US, a small amount of chlorine is added to the water supply to kill bacteria and parasites. However, this can sometimes result in byproducts such as cancer-causing trihalomethanes (THMs).
Water that smells like rotten eggs is often as a result of hydrogen sulfide. This foul smelling gas can convert into sulfate and cause diarrhoea and dehydration. Another red flag to look out for is a fishy smell from your water supply. If your water smells fishy, there may be elevated levels of the chemical barium. Exposure to too much barium can cause damage to the vital organs, high blood pressure, and muscle weakness.
If you think your water has a funny smell, pour yourself a glass and go into another room. If you still smell fish after moving rooms and swirling the glass around, there could be contaminants in the water making it unsafe to drink.
Contaminated water is a big concern for many people. While it can be tempting to switch to bottled water, bottled water is not only expensive and damaging to the environment but also contains high levels of the chemical BPA. If you have concerns about your water supply, it’s important to monitor it regularly, looking out for changes in colour, consistency, and smell. As well as regular monitoring, investing in a home water filtration system and a water softener system will ensure that your home’s drinking water is safe to drink and free of excess metals and minerals that could cause long-term health problems. If you want to take it a step further, get to know your water supply and familiarise yourself with water quality reports from your local water supplier.