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A look at the quality of drinking water and various methods of purification (including water distillation with images from a distillation experiment).
Tap water vs distilled water, tap water contaminants, hungry water, water purification.
Tap Water vs Distilled Water—You Decide!
Many people choose opt for tap water alternatives, or take measures into their own hands when it comes to water purification.
So what is it about tap water that some have issue with? Well, the answer to this will vary depending on who you speak with, but it essentially comes down to concerns over the trace elements that are present in our tap water.
Let’s take a closer look at the various water sources, water purification methods and their pro’s and con’s. I’ll also show you the results of my personal water distillation experiment to show you exactly what was removed from our tap water!
Water is collected from a variety of sources before being stored and treated in the local reservoirs. The standard treatment produces water which has an allowable ‘safe level’ of contaminants still present after prrocessing.
There are four main water sources prior to the purification process, they are:
Surface Water: Natural freshwater sources such as; lakes, streams, rivers, reservoirs, springs, boreholes and wetlands.
Ground Water: This is water that gathers beneath the earth’s surface filling cracks and other openings, saturating the soil, sand and rocks.
Storm Water: This water is generated by rainwater and snowmelt. This will typically contain pollutants like petrochemicals, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and other pollutants. Storm water usually ends up as surface water–contributing to the rivers and lakes.
Waste Water: This water results from storm water overflow, agricultural activities, urban water use, also known as sewage.
Tap water contains combinations of treated surface water, ground water and wastewater.
In developed countries such as the UK, tap water will typically meet local municipal quality standards for drinking water, however, this does not mean the water is free of all physical, biological, chemical and radiological pollutants!
Municipal purification of water removes the level of impurity required to meet local government standards—a standard that will be considered safe to consume (and one that varies between regions). These can include traces of:
Contaminants found in tap water can range from Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC’s) such as pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, chemicals from irresponsible manufacturers, as well as thousands of personal care and household cleaning products.
Then there’s the bacteria and viruses such as coliform and E-coli, heavy metals such as lead, mercury, copper, cadmium, aluminium and added chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride that are found in our water sources prior to treatment.
Despite treated water meeting the government standard and being ‘fit for human consumption’, tap water will still contain small trace levels of many contaminants (not considered to be a risk to health!). The water will also contain various amounts of heavy metals, added fluoride and chlorine as well as a few substances that may go unchecked.
Since water is recycled, many contaminants will end up back in the water system. Active molecules will be broken down during the filtration process, however, trace molecules are usually present. UK Water Filters states that:
‘In the United States reportedly over 80,000 different synthetic chemicals are in common use, for example in household cleaning products. The figure is likely to be similar in the UK and Europe.’
Heavy metals such as Lead (which enter the water system through rusting metal pipes and storage systems) can be difficult to remove from the body once ingested and can cause cellular damage and immune function issues.
There’s now growing concern about the increasing amounts of Pharmaceutical Drugs, Estrogens And Other Hormones showing up in our tap water. These can create a range of potential effects including fertility issues and reduced immunity.
Researchers found Oestradiol hormone in 80% of the water at the 50 tested sites.
Cocaine (with it’s availability and use reaching all time highs) has now been found to be prevalent in the Thames, with water treatment facilities not even attempting to remove it! What other recreational drugs can we expect to find untreated in our tap water?
Marcus Woo states (in his BBC article) states that:
‘With severe droughts and rising populations, we will have to accept “toilet-to-tap” schemes.’
This will increasingly become the case as water shortages rise. But what about bottled water options?
Many of us will attempt to ‘buy in’ higher quality water we believe to be clean and contain a high in mineral content. The problem with this, is bought sources tend to be stored in plastic bottles. The issue here is bottled water can become contaminated with micro contaminants from the local environment as well as from the plastic containers that they’re stored in.
A 2018 Study (published in Frontiers In Chemistry) concluded that:
93% of the 259 bottles from various locations around the world contained synthetic polymer (micro plastic) particles.
The dangers of storing water in plastic containers have now become more widely accepted. Most of us have experienced drinking water from a plastic bottle which has been exposed to heat or sun for a period of time (left in a car on a sunny day)… it literally tastes of plastic!
So with the many known potential contaminants in our tap and bottled water, some are now choosing to purify their own drinking water.
But what are the most effective methods of purification?
Removes: Bacteria, viruses and parasites.
Advantages: Free of all pathogens if done correctly.
Disadvantages: It’s slow and can significantly alter the taste of the water.
This is a method that has been used over many centuries. The boiling method requires water to reach a heat of 100 degrees (indicated by the rolling bubbles) which is sufficient enough to destroy almost every type of pathogen (as most pathogens can’t survive temperatures above 70 degrees if boiled for long enough). This is a form of pasteurisation.
Allow the water to boil for at least 1 minute continuously.
Tip: It’s best to avoid using water supplied by the ‘hot’ tap for drinking or cooking because it usually comes from a storage tank within the home and isn’t as fresh as water taken directly from the mains.
Removes: Sediment, bacteria, large parasites and some heavy metals.
Advantages: Easy to use and doesn’t dramatically alter its taste.
Disadvantages: Not effective against viruses.
The pore size of the filter is measured in microns and therefore tiny enough to filter out many contaminants. They use activated carbon and charcoal arranged in a cylindrical or round blocks to absorb contaminants while improving its aroma and taste.
Filtration continues to be a popular water purification system because of its affordability, durability and ease of use.
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) sets a standard for effective water filtration products, so look for their stamp when selecting a home filter.
Removes: Bacteria, viruses, parasites, impurities and heavy metals.
Advantages: Can improve the taste.
Disadvantages: They’re pretty expensive.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a process that forces water through a semi-permeable membrane to remove contaminants. They have been one of the standard water purification systems used by the bottled water industry. However, smaller, home RO systems are readily available. They’re installed under the kitchen sink allowing purified water to be dispensed through the faucet.
Home RO units typically run on a 3 (or more) stage system which includes a carbon filter, RO membrane, and re-mineralizing filter to improve its nutritional value and taste.
RO systems can be quite expensive and will require frequent maintenance.
Removes: Bacteria, viruses and parasites.
Advantages: Cleans water rapidly and effectively.
Disadvantages: Expensive, needs electricity and does not remove heavy metals.
ULtraviolet Light (UV) has been a standard in municipal water purification for decades and remains one of the most effective ways to eliminate pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and molds from water. It has recently become available for home use.
Because UV water purification systems produce more UV light than the sun, it’s more powerful than solar purification. In fact, a UV purification system will kill viruses such as Norovirus and Hepatitis instantly—much more so than chlorine disinfection (which takes around 60 minutes). However UV purification will not remove heavy metals and particles from your water supply.
Removes: Bacteria, viruses, parasites, impurities and heavy metals.
Advantages: Removes all pathogens and heavy metals.
Disadvantages: It’s a slow process which also removes beneficial minerals.
Although the materials used in the distillation process have altered over the course of time, the method has remained unchanged—one which has stood the test of time.
The distillation process involves boiling water into vapour and condensing it back into liquid via a separate container. The vapour acts to filter out the heavier substances such as chemical agents and other impurities while also destroying any residual bacteria and viruses before passing through a small coal filtration bag (these will need to be changed every few weeks or so).
I began distilling my water at home about four years ago after learning about the micro contaminants found in the average tap water supply.
Although distillation is an effective way to purify water, it also removes essential trace minerals (such as potassium, magnesium and calcium) resulting in demineralised—hungry water!
Because the distillation process removes much of the minerals from the water, distilled water has a tendency to pull them from whatever it touches to re-establish It’s mineral balance. So drinking distilled water, may pull tiny amounts of minerals from your body, including from your teeth. The distillation process literally makes the water ‘hungry’ and ‘aggressive’.
Distilled water should not be stored in plastic containers for this reason (as it will leech micro plastic particles), use a glass storage chamber instead.
Because most of the minerals we need are ingested through our diet, drinking distilled water shouldn’t make you deficient. Many people who rely on water distillers to purify their water feel satisfied that they obtain enough trace minerals from their diet—particularly if they enjoy a raw plant-pased or vegan diet rich in organic or home grown produce. So if you’re choosing to drink distilled water, it’s even more essential that you get your recommended daily mineral intake through a balanced diet.
Another sensible option would be to supplement your mineral intake with products like Mega-Mag, Natural Ionic Magnesium with Trace Minerals (118 m), Trace Minerals, 40,000 Volts! Electrolyte Concentrate (237 ml), BioCare Nutrisorb Liquid Trace Minerals (15ml) which are easily added to your water after distillation. Likewise, precious stones such as Magnesium Oxide Precious Prills, Santevia Prills / Santevia Mineral Stones and other Mineral Stones can be used to remineralise your water.
Distilling your own water could not be simpler (once you’ve invested in the right appliance). I’ve been using my trusted MegaHome Water Distiller for the last four years or so (and it’s still going strong without any issue thus far!)
It’s a slow process, so it’s advisable to get started in the morning and leave it to work it’s magic throughout the first half of the day—it’ll switch itself off automatically once the distillation process is complete.
Fill the main chamber to its max fill line with tap water and start. You’ll be provided with 4 litres of freshly distilled water each time.
The newly distilled water will slowly drip into the the glass jug below it’s water outlet.
The process does produce a fair amount of heat, so bear this in mind when using the distiller.
There are a few key points to consider when looking at the pro’s and con’s of distilling water at home, they are:
I really value being able to clean my water so easily (and with very little ongoing costs). It’s also a great way for my 11 year old to understand more about health, potential water contaminants and the importance of clean water. He’s able to involve himself in the process of purifying his drinking water at home and observing the murky residue that’s left behind through his own eyes.!
In fact, he helped carry out a home experiment to see how much contaminant is collected over 6 weeks. Take a look…
So my son and I have been distilling our water for 4 years now. Each time we process the water, we rinse away the caramel coloured foamy residue from the water chamber before beginning the process again.
We decided to collect this residue over the course of 6 weeks to get a clearer impression of what was being removed— just for fun!
I set about steadily collecting the squidgy residue into a glass jar after each cycle. Needless to say the building caramel mass was way more than I’d ever want to consume in my entire lifetime!
Now this foamy residue is made up of the heavy metals, moulds, chemical additives and other types of residue that may somehow make it into our tap water!
We’re all well aware of the presence of this caramel substance in its hardened form—better known as limescale. A label we’ve become all too accepting of! Well this is what limescale looks like in its pre-hardened form. We’ve somehow become desensitised to the fact that it’s a nasty byproduct of the various contaminants contained in hard water!
Now, I’m no scientist, but this clay like mass doesn’t feel like something that my child and I should consume on a regular basis—particularly over the duration of our entire lives!
This is just 6 weeks worth of residue, how much might be removed over the course of a year?
What potential effects might this limescale cause when in contact with the delicate tissues within our bodies—particularly if it begins to harden inside us?
What effects might it have on the flexibility and health of our blood vessels (and circularatory function), our organs and other sensitive tissue structures?
Would it’s presence make it easier for fats to attach to the walls of our arteries and other vessels?
How hard are our bodies having to work just to expel it? So many questions (and not enough answers to ever validate me wanting to willingly drink tap water again in any significant volume)!
So that’s a visual snapshot of what we’ve chosen to ‘NOT’ consume in a 6 week time frame!
So which is best—Tap water or distilled? Only you can decide that.
I’m happy with the ease and cost efficiency of home water distillation—particularly as it produces the most complete result in eliminating contaminants across the board. Yes, it does remove beneficial minerals from the water, but this is easily replaced using mineral drops or mineral stones.
I am well assured that distilled (remineralised) water is contributing very nicely to my wellbeing—after all, that’s the primary consideration of any purification method… isn’t it?
Ultimately, our choices should resonate well with us in a way that serves our personal needs (or reasoning).
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