Municipal Water: To (Con)serve and Protect

By , June 27, 2014

Writing recently about our water catchment system (see Let It Rain) reminded me of this essay I wrote for another blog a few years ago. It’s a little more applicable to those readers of this blog who don’t live off grid as we do.

If you draw water from a municipal source, you have a right to expect a reasonable amount of safety in your water supply. However, it’s prudent to protect one’s self and family from water contaminants. Doing so while conserving water, an increasingly precious resource, is important.

First, the protection:

Hopefully, you know better than to drink hot water out of the tap. Heated water passing through the pipes dissolves and collects toxins, metals, and other contaminants that you consume directly. Hot water comes from a kettle or other device that heats cold tap water.

Likewise, water that sits in your plumbing overnight can absorb contaminants. Before using water from your faucet for consumption, be sure to run the tap until the water feels very cold to the touch.

Both of these precautions can easily lead one to waste water. Thus, the conservation:

Wash your hands first thing in the morning. This isn’t a bad idea, even if you’re not trying to flush your pipes. If you wash your hands for a minimum of 30 seconds with soap, any water sitting stagnant in your pipes should be flushed by the time you’re done. A quick run of full on cold after that should get you to the cleaner, cold water.

Keep a container handy in your kitchen to collect the water you don’t intend to drink. It could be a plant watering pot, a rinse basin for dishes, or any container to set aside the water you don’t intend to drink. At the very minimum, you can dump it down the toilet, which will replace one flush of clean water it otherwise gets.

For further family safety, consider using a water filter for the water you drink. Some of these will even screen out giardia—unlikely a problem in your neighborhood, but giardia cysts are tiny, so if the filter screens that, it should get anything in your municipal water.

If you live in a drought area, you should be taking more drastic measures than this. Under normal circumstances, these are a few ideas to conserve water and protect your family without becoming obsessive about it.

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