Throughout history, water has been crucial for sustaining life, both for humans and other organisms, making it a significant part of the world. There are many areas of the world where humans do not have access to sufficient potable water or rely on water sources that are contaminated with toxins, suspended solids, pathogens, or disease vectors.
Either drinking this water or using it to cook can lead to both chronic and acute illnesses, which is one of the major causes of suffering and even death around the world. Therefore, reducing waterborne diseases with developing safe water sources has become a major goal for public health, particularly in developing countries.
But even here in the United States and Canada, a natural or man-made disaster could deprive large areas of the country of potable water. What then? How would you and your family survive without a reliable source of good drinking water?
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Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to the importance and availability of potable water:
You may be asking yourself what is potable water, but the answer is fairly simple. Potable water has been filtered, cleaned, or treated to meet the standards for drinking water, meaning that it is reasonably clear of contaminants and harmful bacteria. This makes the water safe for drinking and cooking. Water purified via reverse osmosis, distilled, or UV filtered and water treated within municipal water systems all qualify as potable water.
Most non-potable water will be raw water from ground wells, springs, ground water, rivers, or lakes that is not treated. It is not safe to drink as there are unknown contaminants in untested water. It is possible for non-potable water to taste normal, but carry health risks.
It is common to worry about getting sick after drinking tap water, particularly because of news stories, such as those related to the Legionella outbreaks. Some people will choose to install a water purification system or simply drink bottled water.
Bottled water can be an expensive item to purchase and it can actually be dirtier than the tap water, depending on where you live and the bottled water you buy. To remain safe, ensure that what you buy is potable water by making sure that the company supplying the water is part of the IBWA (International Bottled Water Association) as this ensures that they live up to the rigorous testing requirements for drinking water. Every year the IBWA sends inspectors to visit each of their companies, ensuring that the water produced by the plant is potable and safe.
You can also spare yourself the additional cost of bottled water by having a private lab or your local health authorities test your tap water. If you discover contaminants, then simply purchase a unit that removes this specific contaminant.
How Does Potable Water Become Contaminated?
There are various contamination sources for water systems. The most common sources which lead to contamination include:
- Malfunctions in wastewater treatment systems (such as nearby septic systems)
- Sewer overflows
- Manufacturing processes
- Use practices on local land (such as concentrated animal feeding, livestock, pesticides, and fertilizers)
- Chemicals and minerals which occur naturally (such as uranium, radon, and arsenic)
750 million people currently lack access to clean water, and 840 thousand die each year from water-related illnesses. Make sure that you and your family do not join these alarming statistics by protecting your source of potable water!