The Mystery of City Water – Is it Safe?

Recent Blogs

Posted on December 09, 2013

Mystery.  The water that comes into my house in the city is pushed through by mystery.  It is an interconnected line of pipes that somehow arrive to my home and get instantly triggered by turning on a tap.  Truth is, I never really gave it much thought till I started working at VIQUA, an ultraviolet water purification company.  I certainly never really thought about where the water comes from or how it actually gets to my house – I only cared that I could run the bath at will and the water would be clear.

However, every day it is reported that there are 1000 boil water advisories in Canada at any given time.  This means that the water is unsafe in about 1000 communities. People in major cities need to worry. People in flood basins need to worry.  You need to worry. Why do boil water advisories occur? This earlier VIQUA post explains.  For the record, clear water doesn’t mean it’s safe, either.

Get to know your own water, be proactive in protecting your water.  You don’t need a science degree, you just need to know the basics – at minimum – to protect yourself. Get your water tested. It is not mystery, it is not something to look past. It is something that you have to know – look at the tragic cases in Milwalkee with it's cryptosporidium outbreak from city water and in Walkerton with deaths from ecoli - you could potentially suffer the effects of pathogens in your home from antiquated pipes in your city. Both of these instances are on the large scale but there is potential. These issues are also bad for the municipality's operating budgets. The total cost of outbreak-associated illness in the Milwalkee crisis was $96.2 million: $31.7 million in medical costs and $64.6 million in productivity losses. The average total costs for persons with mild, moderate, and severe illness were $116, $475, and $7,808, respectively. 

You can start getting to know your water and your risk by exploring this US Drinking Water Interactive Map to see your own city (US only) and getting a water test.  Questions to find out:

water quality map USA

It’s great we have water treatment plants to safeguard our municipal water, but what about the infrastructure from there to my house?  Sadly, it’s not mysterious.

  • How long have the pipes been there from the treatment center to your home?
  • How are they maintained?  Have they been replaced?  What is the system for replacement?
  • What about the pipes in my home?  How do I know they are ok?  Water test?
  • What about showers – can I get “something” from showering via aspiration?
  • Does it matter that I’m at the bottom of a hill?  That my house is over 100 years old?
  • Are they using UV systems to disinfect the water from pathogens?  Do I really need my own whole home or point of use UV water system to ensure I’m safe?
  • What is the worst case scenario?  What can happen to me if I drink it?  Is tap water safer than bottled water?
  • What if there’s a boil water advisory?  How do I ensure I have clean water?

Most of the distribution of water infrastructure is aging in most municipalities.  VIQUA makes UV water disinfection systems , under the brands UVMAX and Sterilight, by the tap or for your full home.  It deactivates common eColi, cryptosporidium and giardia alongside other pathogens that can get in your municipal water system as the treated water gets carried to your tap through a network of pipes that could potentially be old and/or damaged.  Water quality is not magic and we need to take responsibility for our own water.  On an average system you replace the UV lamp once a year and check the quartz sleeve for build-up depending on your water quality.  It’s a no brainer, it’s low maintenance, it doesn’t add chemicals to your water, it is monitored so you know it’s working, and if you have small children, elderly or immune compromised people in your home you have to do everything in your power to protect them.

Here’s a video that dives in depth of water infrastructure issues that everyone who lives on city water should watch:

Water Quality Documentary:  Liquid Assets