Sunday, March 8, 2009

Drinking Tap Water

Some of my earliest memories involve water. Weekends were often spent in the creek next to my childhood home. My brother, sister and I would walk the creek in either direction, stopping only to submerge our heads in our favorite swimming holes. After the ice melted each spring and the vicious water of melting snow subsided we were always anxious to see how the creek changed. We would find our favorite swimming holes filled with rocks or a newly fallen tree across the stream changing the way the stream flowed.

One summer I remember asking my parents if I could drink the water. Through my young eyes the water seemed fine—it looked clean, so I figured it would be fine to drink. I went against the advice of my parents and drank the water anyways. Over the years I continued to drink from the stream with no adverse effects on my health. Of course the stream was not my main source of drinking water. Drinking water from the stream just seemed like the natural thing to do when we were on our creek walks.

I moved away from the stream shortly before my 18th birthday. I returned twelve years later to find the stream a changed place. Much of the forest surrounded the stream had been culled and the where there had once been vineyards, now lie homes. The stream flow seemed reduced, though admittedly, this may be my perception of the creek through adult eyes. I walked the creek with my brother and sister once again. Our “go to” swimming hole was gone and the creek had a layer of brown algae growing on the bed of the stream. It was no longer the creek of my youth; now it was now just another creek. Needless to say I could not imagine drinking from the stream.

Around the same time I started drinking water from the tap again. In the United States the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) protects tap water. The SDWA protects sources of drinking water and ensures contaminants are within safe levels for human consumption. After researching the way we treat water in the United States I felt reassured that tap water is safe to drink, though I still filter the water before I drink it. The problem with drinking water where I live in Maryland is that it has a hint of chlorine. Chlorine is a common disinfectant. An activated carbon effectively removes chlorine along with a host of other contaminants.

Do you fell safe drinking tap water? Do you use a filter? When you travel to different cities within the United States do you feel safe drinking the tap water?