The CDC’s 4 Steps to Consider for Home Water Filtration
The Centers for Disease Control has a four-step process for homeowners to help them in a decision about home water filtration and selection of the proper system or components. Here is a summary of their recommendations.
Step 1: Know Your Water Source
Whether you need or want water filtration for your home depends upon your personal preferences for taste and odor, any special health considerations, and the quality of your water from the source. First, you should know the source for your home water supply.
- Private Well or Cistern – Private well owners should have their well water tested by a lab every year, as conditions change, and surrounding activities can change the quality of underground water sources. Use a certified lab to test for coliform bacteria, nitrates, dissolved solids, and other contaminants. Should you notice any changes in taste, odor, or water quality, get a test done. If you collect rainwater, there are other considerations, and you can get more information here.
- Public Water System – If you get your water from a public or municipal system, you shouldn’t need to do your own testing unless you want more detail, as you should receive an annual report with your water bill. It is the CCR, Consumer Confidence Report.
Once you know the source of your water and have a quality report in hand, you can move to the next step.
Step 2: Reasons for Choosing Filters
The most common reasons for choosing water filtration include:
- You don’t like the taste of your water – Often you can just buy a refrigerator or pitcher filter to improve the taste of your water, but these do not help with removal of other and more harmful contaminants.
- Lead in your water – Lead can be a critical concern if you have children in the home. Lead comes from the pipes in most cases. You should run cold water for a short time before using it for drinking or cooking to allow lead from water sitting in the pipes to get out. Avoid using hot water from the tap or boiling tap water if you have a lead problem. You can purchase filters with their main function to reduce lead water content.
- Arsenic in your water – Arsenic is a heavy metal and usually comes from ground water and wells, including municipal water supplies that use ground water. There are two types of arsenic, and your testing should tell you which you have, as the proper filters differ for each.
- Nitrates present in water – Nitrates are chemicals that get into groundwater from contamination with fertilizer, manure, or septic systems, sewage, or erosion of natural deposits. Nitrates make it hard for your red blood cells to carry oxygen. This can be dangerous for infants and some adults. If you get your water from a public water system, nitrate levels are monitored and controlled. If you have a private well, you need to have your well water tested to find out if nitrates are a problem for you.
- You have a weakened immune system – People who are immunocompromised, or have immune systems weakened by chemotherapy, AIDS, or organ transplants, should consult with their health care provider to determine whether they should consider installing a water treatment system to ensure their water has a low concentration of germs, especially the germ Cryptosporidium.
There could be other reasons for your consideration of water filtration, but these are the most common and some the most harmful.
Step 3: Home, Lifestyle, and Budget Considerations
As no one filter or system can remove all contaminants, there are decisions to make that involve not only what you want to accomplish but also your budget to get the job done.
- What does the filter remove – first, make sure that the filter is NSF-certified to remove the contaminants you chose it for. Read the labeling to see the contaminants the filter removes and to what level or particulate size.
- Cost of the system – costs vary from under $20 to hundreds of dollars, and some require professional installation. You should also consider the costs to maintain or recharge the system or replace cartridges. Consider how much water you need to filter, as this can influence the type or size of the system and its cost.
- How does it fit into your home – depending on what you want to accomplish, filters range from a simple pitcher filter to whole-house filtration that takes space in a utility room or basement.
Pull all of these considerations together and you should be able to find a system or filter that meets your needs, home, lifestyle, and budget.
Step 4: Filter or System Maintenance
A water filter or filtration system is only maximally effective if it’s properly maintained.
- Change cartridges as indicated or on a schedule.
- Replace or recharge any chemicals or salts that are required.
Test your water again periodically to make sure that your filter choices are working as expected.
There is a lot more detail and many references to technical and other information at CDC.gov/healthywater/.