ALKALIZED, REMINERALIZED, HYDROLYZED, nutrient-enriched, carbon-removed filtration with reverse osmosis purification of organic spring waters from the depths of the Himalayan glaciers blessed by a sacred Guru of the mountains and personally bottled in trichloromethane-free plastics — is all the rage!
Don’t let fancy words confuse you.
Water makes up 60% of the adult human body and is critical for all major physiological systems :
- vital nutrient to every cell
- regulates internal body temperature by sweating and respiration
- moistens tissues (ie. mouth, eyes, nose, gut lining, skin)
- protects the body, organs, and vital systems (ie. brain, spinal cord, fetus)
- lubricates joints
- regulates digestion and your poo
- flushes waste products from the liver, lymph and kidneys
- supports blood to carry nutrients and oxygen to cells
- supports hormone and neurotransmitter synthesis
The brain and heart are composed of 73% water; the lungs are 83%; skin is 64%; muscles and kidneys are 79%; and even bones are 31% water . Unfortunately, most people are chronically dehydrated and often confuse thirst for hunger.
Drinking 6-8 glasses (2-2.5 liters) of water a day is a foundation to your health. Yes, coffee, tea, flavored water, and foods still count towards your hydration, however clean and pure water will always dominate.
Expert tip: Use elastic bands on your glass or water bottle to help you keep track. Put 6-8 bands on your bottle first thing in the morning. As you drink 1 glass of water (approx. 1 cup) take a rubber band off the bottle and put it onto your wrist. After consuming all 6-8 glasses, add the bands back to the bottle for the next day.
Unfiltered tap water, filtered tap water, and processed bottled water- purified, artificially mineralized, and natural- are now the five most widely consumed types of drinking water .
Not only are the levels of toxins, pathogenic microbes and heavy metals in some of these forms of drinking water potentially dangerous to our health but also the lack of nutrients from certain filtration systems may be alarming.
Eliminating harmful effects on our health over a lifetime and for future generations is the ultimate goal of improving drinking water. This article will cover the following topics:
- What’s in your drinking water?
- A closer look at Canadian bottled water products
- How to test your water
- What to be aware of
- Best water treatment systems
- Best water purification products
- Bringing flavor and fun into your water
- Kick start your morning with lemon water
What’s in your drinking water?
A study in China tested the 5 most common forms of drinking water, and these were their results :
1. Traditional non-filtered tap water is the world’s most popular form of drinking water. One of the most common tap water treatments to ensure bacteriological quality is the addition of chlorine.
Drinking water contains important minerals such as calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) and is suggested that these elements are more bioavailable in water (from 40% to 60%) than the Ca and Mg obtained through diet. Epidemiologic studies have found low Ca and Mg intake from drinking water significantly increase the risk of delivering a very low birth weight baby.
Tap water also supplies 10% of the average individual’s zinc intake. Zinc is a major element that supports healthy immune function, mood stabilization, eye and skin health and balancing copper levels in the body.
However, tap water remains susceptible to biological or chemical contamination; if the water contains organic matter, this may produce disinfection by-products (DBPs), especially trichloromethane (THMs). Potassium bromate (KBrO3) is another DBP that is often detected in tap water .
In addition, heavy metals such as lead (Pb) and copper (Cu) can be leached from pipes, so if you live in an old building ensure you check the quality of your tap water, even if it is filtered.
Arsenic (Ar) poisoning from ground water is rare, but still occurs in areas such as Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Vietnam and in some well water in North America [24, 11]. Although acute poisoning and chronic accumulation can be extremely detrimental to your health, Safe Water Restoration Programs demonstrate sufficient protection from arsenic exposure in tap water, as seen in a Florida study .
Accumulation of pesticide residues from crop runoffs also play a detrimental role to drinking water. Organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) were identified from potable water samples in Delhi, India .
2. Water filtration systems via a terminal water processor remove chlorine, other impurities and also significantly improves the taste and odor of public tap water.
Home water filters remove minimal amounts of beneficial minerals but effectively removed toxic metals by ion exchange.
Bottled water consumption has been steadily growing despite the health concerns for using soft plastics. In 2011, the consumption was approximately 32,500 million liters in the United State and 262 billion total liters around the world (90 countries).
3. Bottled purified water includes distilled water, demineralized water, deionized water and reverse osmosis water. It is typically tap water treated by a series of filtration processes to remove nearly all minerals and electrolytes, disinfected by ozone or chlorine and finally packaged in a bottle (see chart below for water treatment process).
With so many nutrients removed, purified water (H2O) tastes bad and is shown to not quench thirst. In order to improve the taste, small quantities of mineral salts such as potassium chloride and magnesium sulfate are added to the purified water, resulting in mineralized water.
4. Mineralized water has such low quantities of mineral salts added that it is often barely detectable. Testing showed very low mineral levels (or even none) detected in the bottled purified water and bottled mineralized water. This suggested that the marketed “mineralized water” may not actually be mineralized water.
5. Bottled natural water comes from high-quality underground or surface water sources. This water is also treated by serial filtration, usually disinfected by ozone and then packaged in bottles.
The total dissolved solids (TDS) and total hardness (TH), were lower in bottled natural water, which shows that the majority of minerals where removed during the filtration treatments.
Trichloromethane and perchloromethane were the most common disinfection by-products (DBPs) detected in all three bottled waters, all with similar levels. This indicates that the plastic bottle and cap may be the major source of organic pollutants, which were always disinfected by chlorine.
The following explains the water treatment processes (in China) for the 5 common sources of drinking water:
Overall, among the five drinking waters, filtered tap water had the lowest levels of pollutants and had the highest hardness, which means it was the richest in minerals. It should be noted that the organic pollutants were detected in all five waters.
A closer look at Canadian bottled water
A Canadian study from 2011, sampled and analyzed a total of 124 bottled water products (BWPs), representing 37 brands . One sample of each brand and type of plain BWP (purified, remineralized, spring, mineral, and artesian), flavoured BWP, and nutrient-enriched BWP sold in major stores in Ottawa, Ontario were reviewed and here are the results (get the full report HERE):
- Purified and remineralized water contained very low levels of magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium
- Spring and mineral water contained higher amounts of magnesium and calcium than did purified, remineralized, artesian, flavoured, or nutrient-enriched water
- Most plain BWPs contained little sodium and potassium, whereas 15% to 35% of flavoured and nutrient-enriched products had considerably higher concentrations
How to test you water
It’s important to know the current quality of your tap water in order to decide if you need a filtration system and what kind. There are so many models, systems and products out there.
Home water quality test kits are available to evaluate general mineral content. However, if you suspect toxic heavy metals or contaminates, for example, getting a professional to analyze your water quality is recommended.
- Lead (Pb)
- Nitrities/ nitrates
- Hardness (mineral content, especially calcium carbonate)
- pH (level of acidity and alkalinity)
Unfortunately, home test kits are not always accurate and they miss some harmful contaminants.
The consumer confidence report (CCR) will tell you about your water quality in your municipality, but not necessarily about what’s coming out of your particular tap. The CCR will be printed in your newspaper, posted on your local government website, or you can contact the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water (800-426-4791) for the state-certified testing labs or your local health authority, which might offer low-cost or free test kits.
Professional testing can also be done by asking your water treatment company to send a sample of your water to their lab. This is really only necessary if your water source is well water. In general, testing isn’t required for public water since the water treatment systems are frequently tested.
What to be aware of
- Bacteria – Escherichia coli, fecal coliform and fecal streptococci can cause severe diarrhoeal conditions .
- Lead – leaching of lead into your water from lead pipes in older buildings is toxic to the body, resulting in acute stomach pains and long-term physical and mental delays in children, and kidney issues and high blood pressure in adults .
- Arsenic – In addition to acute poisoning, arsenic causes chronic health effects, including skin diseases and effects on the cardiovascular, pulmonary, nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems, as well as cancers (skin, lung, and bladder cancer, among others) .
- Copper – copper pipes can leach copper into drinking water, which depletes zinc levels in the body and can lead to liver or kidney damage .
- Iron – yellow or orange discoloration with a bitter taste .
- Manganese – black or purple discoloration with a bitter taste .
- Fluoride – high intakes can cause dental fluorosis (brown mottling of teeth) and skeletal fluorosis (excess bone density leading to fractures and skeletal deformation) .
- Pesticides – organophosphate (OP), carbamate, organochlorine, pyrethroid and herbicide compounds have the potential to affect the physical growth, neurobehavioural development and respiratory function of children .
- Hard water – heavy mineral deposits, especially calcium carbonate
- Nitrite – contamination from fertilizer runoffs can cause severe lung and cardiovascular damage to infants .
- Disinfection by-products (DBPs) – Trichloromethane, perchloromethane and Potassium bromate are the most common water treatment contaminants [2, 24]. They have been associated with cancers (bladder, colon, rectum), spontaneous abortions, low birth weight and congenital malformation .
Best treatment systems for drinking and bathing water
There are so many water treatment systems out there. Depending on the current quality of your tap water will dictate the type of treatment system required. All water treatment products should follow an NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) or ANSI (American National Standards Institute) certification:
- Filtration (NSF/ANSI 42 and 53)— Contaminants are trapped in the pores, adsorbed or broken down by the filter media system. Carbon filters use this technology to remove some chlorine and hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs odor) but are not effective at removing VOCs, metals, pesticides or fluoride.
- Water softeners (NSF/ANSI 44) — Cation exchange resins regenerated with sodium chloride or potassium chloride is used to reduce hardness (e.g. excess calcium and magnesium) from the water. These minerals are replaced with sodium or potassium ions, depending upon the type of softening pellet used.
- Ultraviolet disinfection (NSF/ANSI 55) – UV light either disinfect water (Class A) or treats heterotrophic (non-disease causing) bacteria in the water (Class B).
- Reverse osmosis (RO) systems (NSF/ANSI 58) — RO systems reverse the natural flow of water so that water passes from a high to low concentrated solution through a semi-permeable membrane. Most pair with granulated activated charcoal to remove contaminants but not volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or pesticides (unless a carbon block filter is included). A large amount of water is wasted through the RO system, including some minerals like Ca and Mg.
- Gravity-fed drip (NSF/ANSI 42, 53 and 61) – Combine ceramic and carbon block to remove contaminants, VOCs and pesticides. This process of filtration is slower than other methods but does not require electricity.
- Distillers (NSF/ANSI 62) — These systems heat water to the boiling point and collect the steam as it condenses, leaving many of the contaminants behind, particularly the heavy metals. Some contaminants that convert readily into gases, such as VOCs, can carry over with the water vapor. This filtration is also slow and requires electricity.
- Shower filters (NSF/ANSI 177) — These systems attach to residential shower heads to reduce chlorine levels in shower water.
- Whole house/point-of-entry (POE) systems typically treat all or most of the water entering a residence. They are usually installed after the water meter (municipal) or pressurized storage tank (well water). A water softener is an example of a POE system.
- Point-of-use (POU) systems typically treat water at the point of consumption, such as at the kitchen sink, refrigerator or shower head. Some may install inline while others will dispense filtered water through a separate faucet.
The best water purification products
Again, the quality of your current tap water (and budget) will guide your choice in the most appropriate water purification product for your home or office. Note that the differences may be substantial in the removal of contaminants but minimal in added nutrients.
Note that these recommendations are compiled from product review sites (Reactual, Consumer Report, Top 10 Reviews, Water Filtration Comparisons) and you should speak with a company representative to get specific guidance.
Five considerations to keep in mind when choosing your water treatment system are:
- Contaminants required to be filtered
- Performance features – water pressure, filter replacement timeline and ease of notification, certification of quality
- Cost – including set-up and filter replacement frequencies
- Design, size, portability or installation (self or professional)
- Help, support and warrantee
PORTABLE WATER FILTERS (ideal for travel and camping)
- Lifesaver Bottle 6000: Filters down to 0.015 microns removing all pathogens out of water, including viruses.
- Costs about $215
- Sawyer Products Complete 4-Liter Filtration System: Filters down to 0.1 microns. This includes almost all pathogens, except certain viruses.
- Costs about $180
- Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter: Filters down to 0.2 microns.
- Costs about $340
- LifeStraw: Filters down to 0.2 microns, ideal for camping.
- Only $35
CARAFE/ PITCHER-STYLE FILTERS (1-2 persons)
- Brita: Granulated activated carbon filtration properties
- This cheap up-front option but with frequent cartridge replacements (40 gallons is $7-$10 each)
- Aquasana: Ion-exchange with granulated activated carbon dual-filtration system
- About $130
- Santevia: Mineralized alkaline gravity-fed system to reduce chlorine taste and odour, heavy metals, industrial chemicals and agricultural contaminants
- Costs about $60
- Brita: Granulated activated carbon filtration properties
- Costs about $30
- Pur: Combined carbon and ion exchange filtration system
- Costs about $47
- eSpring: Ultraviolet-light within a carbon block system to reduces more than 140 potential health-effect contaminants
- Costs a huge $1060
- ProPur: combination of ceramic and carbon block in a gravity-fed drip water filtration system.
- Price ranges from $129 to $299 and periodic scrubbing the carbon block can extend the usage of each filter
- Big Berkey: Gravity-fed drip water system that system removes pathogens, extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes, and reduces nitrates, nitrites and heavy metals such as lead and mercury.
- Costs about $258
- Santevia: Mineralized alkaline gravity-fed 8-stage system of natural filters, including filtration to 0.3 of a micron
- Costs about $199
- Megahome: Electric distillation process with a carbon filter to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Cost from $150-219
- WaterWise: Steam distillation system with carbon filtration
- Costs from $299-399
PERMANENT MOUNTED UNDER-SINK SYSTEMS
- WaterChef: filter more than 50 contaminants and adds back in essential minerals, but does not remove mercury, bacteria or asbestos.
- Costs about $315
- Aquasana: NSF certified and reduces up to 60 contaminants, including heavy metals, chlorine and organic chemicals with easy installation
- Costs about $175
REVERSE OSMOSIS FILTERS
- GE: A basic filtration system that only removes 16 contaminants from your water
- About $150
- Kenmore: Can reduce up to 25 contaminants, including sodium, arsenic and cystsdoes, but does not reduce herbicides, bacteria or mercury from your drinking water
- Approximately $170
- Culligan: Sediment filtration system with granulated active carbon and reverse osmosis features
- Inquire about costs
- APEC: Various options to treats all types of water, including hard water, well water and water with various pH levels (ie. UV treatment, improves alkalinity, remineralization)
- Costs from $199-290
WHOLE HOUSE FILTERS
- Pelican Water System: Sediment filtration, granulated active carbon with zinc-copper oxidation media to reduce bacteria and alga growth
- Costs about $799 for 1-3 bathrooms
- Culligan: Sediment filtration system with granulated active carbon and pH balance features
- Inquire about costs
Bringing flavor and fun into you water
Cucumber Lime Mint Water – cut up some fresh cucumber, limes and mint for a fresh and flavorful glass of H2O.
Berry Delight – add fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries into your water to shake things up.
Fruity Splash – add in your favorite fresh or frozen fruits to help with your water intake: orange, kiwi, berries, grapes, mango, peaches, nectarines, cherries.
Mineral Chill – to get a mineral boost into your water, mix your favorite mineral powder with a little water and pour it into an ice cube tray. Let the ice set and then add it to your water to cool down and nourish up.
Lemon water – is my most favorite (and easiest) way to make water delicious with added nutrition. See more below:
Save the caffeine for later… Kick start your morning with lemon water
Lemon water is an ideal way to start your morning with energy, hydration, and endurance. Simply squeeze the juice of an 1/8- 1/4 wedge of lemon into a glass of room temperature or slightly cool water. Here are some of the extensive benefits of starting your day off with lemon water:
Click here to read “10 Mores Scientific Reasons to Drink Lemon Water“.
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