Below are 13 elementary reasons we should be asking more questions about the quality of our drinking water and where it comes from:
When our most powerful telescopes scan the universe for evidence of life, the first thing they look for is water. Water is nearly synonymous with life itself. Certainly it is intrinsic to every aspect of human existence. So perhaps it’s time we took a closer look at the water right here on planet Earth—especially since severe water shortages are an increasingly severe concern around the globe, including in the United States.
1. Our bodies are 75 percent water.
Clearly we are what we drink, not just what we eat.
2. You can’t survive more than three days without water.
You can scrounge by for three weeks without adequate food, but lack of water will kill you in a jiffy.
3. We’re facing a quickly worsening global water and sanitation crisis.
Our escalating global water crisis and water-related diseases claim 3.4 million lives per annum (about the population of Los Angeles).
4. Only one in nine people have access to pure water.
Global water consumption has tripled in the last 50 years, leaving 780 million people currently without access to an improved water source.
5. Almost 75 percent of the United States will face water shortages in 2013.
Water shortages aren’t reserved for the developing world. Since 2008, nearly every region of U.S. has experienced a water shortage. At least 36 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages in 2013, even under non-drought conditions.
6. Water shortages affect the quality of tap water.
Already, some municipal areas filter toilet water into tap water within a 24-hour cycle. Meanwhile, other cities are quietly adapting this so-called toilet-to-tap strategy with minimal publicity (Wichita Falls, El Paso, and Orange County are all joining this dubious club).
7. Tap water is full of industrial and agricultural chemicals.
Not only do chemicals from tap water leach into ground water, but some of these health-harming substances are added intentionally, including cadmium (linked to kidney damage), fluoride (yes, good against cavities, but also shown to correlate with bone cancer and osteosarcoma), lead (great for shielding X-rays, but bad for blood pressure, kidney, and brain), percholate (explosive component of rocket fuel found in tap water in 22 states, found to produce tumors in laboratory animals), asbestos (linked to cancers of the gastrointestinal tract and larynx).
8. Tap water is becoming its own pharmacology.
Municipal waters from 28 cities test positive for pharmaceutical contamination, including painkillers, hormones, antibiotics, and antidepressants.
9. Water purifiers can be poisonous in excessive doses.
Chlorine, which is used to purify water, also produces disinfection byproducts (DBPs). In high doses, DPBs can cause liver and kidney cancer, heart disease, unconsciousness or death.
10. Bottled water is (for the most part) simply tap water. And potentially more dangerous.
Forty percent of all bottled water in the United States comes directly from the public faucet. Worse yet, the FDA reports contaminant issues in 35 percent of all bottled water. Bottled water manufactures aren’t required to list contaminants, and up to one third of commercial bottles provide no label information whatsoever.
11. Plastic water bottles contain their own deadly chemicals.
Plastic bottles have their own problems, including DEHP (plasticizer linked to organ damage and reproductive toxicity) and BPA (prenatal exposure linked to physical and neurological difficulties in offspring). The FDA finally banned the use of BPA in baby bottles in 2012 (after a 2011 study found BPA in 96 percent of pregnant women).
12. The water industry is a profit-extracting oligopoly.
The water manufacturers charge their consumers up to 2,000 times the actual cost of water. High-quality bottled water costs up to $600 per month.
13. Water regulation is lax or non-existent in the U.S.
Since water is such a profitable industry, corporate lobbies make sure regulations favor their interests. The chemical DEHP, for example, was banned in Europe in 2011 as “one of the top six chemical threats to humans.” But the U.S., thanks to the efforts of ExxonMobil and The American Chemistry Council, put only partial regulations into place in 2012.
The list goes on, but these 13 glaring facts make it clear that we need to educate ourselves about the water we drink just as much as we need to educate ourselves about the food we eat.
The Quest For Healthy, Reliable Water
The quest for water can be as damning as the quest for the philosopher’s stone (the legendary alchemical substance that could turn lead into gold). Water neophytes will quickly discover this unnerving truth.
The problem is, no one has your best interests at heart. The Department of Public Works is already overwhelmed by filling your water quota with the crappy water they have. Any new regulations would be anathema to them.
The water manufacturing industry cares even less; it is snug in its exorbitant profit cocoon. Why endanger the status quo?
The hundreds of independent suppliers of water filtering and processing systems all protect their individual, patented technologies. Every one of their solutions is the optimal one for you. Or so they claim.
Finally, we’ve got experts and academics. Some have stared at the water molecule for decades. But many also have a vested commercial interest in a particular solution, or a vested academic interest to protect a particular theory.
With above caveats in mind, we consulted a dozen water experts and water processing manufacturers about three things we all need to know:
How to make sure our drinking water is safe
How to process unsafe water into clean, healthy drinking water
How to produce healthy water independently, should access to water become limited or threatened by a rapidly worsening water crisis
What Is Healthy Drinking Water?
In nine of 10 cases, you won’t be poisoned by drinking tap water in the United States. The problem is the odd town out. Since water quality varies drastically between towns, cities, and states, testing is the only way to know for sure whether your water is safe.
Submitting your water to the lab is easy. What’s not as easy is finding common agreement on what constitutes safe.
Aside from the fact that you are looking for minimal values of hazardous chemicals, the two most important factors are:
1. Water Hardness
The hardness of water refers its content of minerals, including calcium and magnesium. Harder water has a higher mineral content than softer water. According to Bob McCauley, a pioneering water expert who followed his father’s footsteps to become one of the most cited water quality experts in U.S., relatively hard water is the healthiest for animals and humans, because we require mineralization for our cellular functions.
The optimal value is close to 170 milligrams per liter hardness, McCauley says.
0 to 60 mg/L
60 to 120 mg/L
Moderately hard water
120 to 180 mg/L
Very hard water
Many companies, however, sell water softeners for households with these convincing arguments:
- Shampoos lather more easily
- Appliances last longer because the mineral buildup of hard water can damage washing machines, heaters, dishwashers, and plumbing systems
- Dishes, clothes, sinks look cleaner with less mineral deposits
- Some people don’t like the way hard water feels on their skin
- Women say hard water gives them “bad hair”
Certain experts argue that we needn’t really worry about mineralization in water because we get the majority of the minerals we need from food. But according to McCauley, this logic is skewed. If your drinking water lacks minerals, your system will rob those minerals from elsewhere in your body. In other words, soft water will deplete you first of calcium, then magnesium, then potassium. And if you’re already low on minerals to begin with due to things like too much junk food or mineral-depleted soil, then serious mineral deficiency becomes imminent and epidemic. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests that up to 80 percent of Americans are magnesium deficient.
And, says McCauley, soft water has another problem: large molecule clusters. For scientifically minded experts, water molecule clusters are a myth. But more holistic disciplinarians like McCauley, who is also a naturopathic doctor, master herbalist, and certified nutritional consultant, the size of the clusters may be one of the most important keys to our health. Large clusters don’t penetrate cellular walls, meaning a person could drink gallons of soft water and be dehydrated in the process.
2. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
This is a measure of the combined content of all inorganic and organic substances in the water, and is used as an indicator of a number of chemical contaminants.
The rule of thumb:
- Sea water has more than 5,000mg/L TDS
- Fresh water has less than 1,500mg/L TDS
According to McCauley, optimal healthy water has a TDS of approximately 300mg/L. But anything between 50mg/L and 1000mg/L is still acceptable drinking water.
Clear stream water that runs down a mountain naturally gathers minerals from rocks. This level of TDS is optimal for our bodies, which have acclimatized to spring water over millions of years of evolution.
Most artesian well and pure spring water are within acceptable levels on both hardness and TDS measures.
If your bottled water lacks proper labeling, switch to a water brand that has certified water hardness and TDS levels (50mg/L-300mg/L). Choose spring water and avoid plastic bottles when ever possible. And fill your own reusable metal bottles with water from a trusted source.
Transforming Tap Water Into Healthy Water
If your water tests poorly and you’re faced with the need for a purifier, look for one that uses:
- Reverse osmosis
These methods all have benefits and drawbacks depending on the quality and source of your water and the contaminants that you need to remove.
A simple one-micron filter will handle most water impurities while leaving finer chemicals in the water.
Reverse osmosis is a more thorough process that also removes contaminants such as arsenic, nitrates, sodium, copper, and fluoride. Unfortunately, it also removes all the good mineral particles, leaving the water tasteless and acidic. In natural health and medical communities, this sounds an alarm bell for degenerative diseases. (Note: In 1931 Dr. Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize by proving that cancer is caused by lack of cellular oxygenation due to acidosis in the body.)
Deionization uses a chemical process to remove mineral ions from the water, leaving it devoid of mineral content, while exposing the water to uncharged organic molecules, such as viruses or bacteria.
The Great Mineral Debate
Even with the right purification solution, you still face the problem of depleting your water of minerals in the process.
One solution is to add minerals back into the purified water by the pinch or by the squirt. You can actually purchase calcium carbonate as well as calcium and magnesium tablets and mix it yourself.
The other solution for water mineralization is water ionization. Not the opposite of deionization, but a completely different, more holistic concept altogether. If you Google “water ionization,” you will find one article after another debunking the technique. But more alternative communities vouch for the healing effects of ionized water.
“Have you seen fish survive in distilled water?” McCauley asks, defending ionization. “Pure water is a chemical substance that is harmful to the body. It will leach alkaline minerals out of your body, while ionized water detoxifies with its alkaline qualities, and dehydrates with its small water molecule clusters that easily penetrate your cellular structure.”
A large portion of the scientific community would disagree. The easiest way to find out the truth? Test ionized water yourself.
Some users who drink ionized water for the first time complain of headaches caused by excessive alkalinity. The more probable cause for the headache, McCauley says, is that it is a natural reaction to toxins leaving your body. You’ll quickly get used to it and feel a significant improvement within a week or two.
The other boon of ionized water is that the machines also produce an acidic water variant. Don’t drink this acidic water byproduct—it’s toxic if ingested. But it’s great as an antibacterial cleaner, plant food, and for cuts and scrapes on your skin. In fact, Walmart has cleaned their floors successfully with ionized acidic water, without using a drop of chemicals. You can do the same at your home, without worrying about toxins.
Bottom line is that filtration solves 90 percent of the issues in tap water, and for more heavily contaminated water, reverse osmosis and deionization work well. For open-minded pioneers wanting to experiment with the true healing qualities of water, HoneyColony recommends ionized water as the non-mainstream alternative, specifically the Aguatonic 300 as a reliable water ionizer solution.
The DIY Water Option
Now for the DEFCON 2 alternative in water sourcing. This is what you need if:
- Your water source is compromised or beyond repair
- You don’t have proper access to streaming water, well water, or safe public waterworks
- You simply want to complement your present water source with an emergency alternative
What is this alternative? The oldest and most reliable of all techniques for accessing pure water—i.e., extracting it out of thin air. This method was used regularly more than 2,000 years ago by the Incas, Egyptians, and desert tribes who regularly satisfied their water needs.
The technique is simple. Take cool humid air below its dew point, and it will naturally condense. Incas collected the dew and channeled it to cisterns. Others used “air wells” and “fog fences” to reduce air temperature, and thereby increased air’s capacity to carry water.
The modern solution is called an Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG). It’s built like a dehumidifier, but designed to render the water potable. HoneyColony tested the WATAIR Atmospheric Water Generator with great success.
But before you go ahead with this option, a few caveats:
AWGs work efficiently when temperatures exceed 65 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity is above 30 percent.
The water produced by AWG is basically the same as distilled water, i.e. it has very low TDS values (40-70mg/L). If you believe in mineralization, you’ll want to treat the water further by either adding minerals to it or, as Bob McCauley would recommend, ionize it with a separate unit. Notably, however, a one-year study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that residents in San Ysidro, New Mexico, who drank low-TDS water for a year reported no ill health effects.
AWG machines require access to electricity—not the optimal solution for the hunting cabin out in the woods, unless it’s equipped with solar panels.
HoneyColony has successfully tested two different AWGs. The water is absolutely pure and tasteless. The question of mineralizing it hinges entirely upon your personal beliefs and preferences. We strongly suggest testing simple mineralization options before committing to AWG water in the long term.
Meanwhile, AWG is probably the most cost-effective alternative for generating at least six gallons of pure water every day; machines this size run between $900 and $1,800. Larger systems are designed for underdeveloped countries, ships, and other remote areas with limited or compromised water access.
Test Your Ideal System, Risk-Free
Ultimately, the best way to determine the right system for purifying, improving, or independently producing reliable water involves some testing. To make that possible for our readers, we’ve assembled some choices for you to consider, with special introductory discounts from the manufacturers.
The Aguatonic 300 is a HoneyColony tested water ionizer that we recommend if you want to experiment with the healing qualities of alkaline water.
The WATAIR Atmospheric Water Generator is a solution that generates up to six gallons of distilled water from humid air, an optimal solution when you don’t have access to reliable tap water. The end result is absolutely pure water that lacks minerals. Separate solutions are available for adding minerals back into the water. HoneyCony tested the WATAIR system and found it to be reliable.
Good luck with the water hunt!
Jan Wellmann is co-founder of HoneyColony, an entrepreneur and producer primarily focused on alternative health and energy solutions. He was born in Helsinki, Finland, in a very cold atmosphere and escaped to California early on. Submit your story or essay to Buzzworthy Blogs.