Much of British Columbia has excellent quality source water. The water delivered to your faucets can in many cases also be significantly better in quality than in most major cities worldwide. However, there are still strong reasons to consider filtering:
Downstream risks – however good a job a water company may do, there are risks to the water as it travels from treatment to your faucets. The most obvious dangers are where things have gone wrong, such as from ageing pipes and other infrastructure – it has been estimated in Toronto, for example, that 13% of households are at risk of lead poisoning from old pipes. Click here for a more detailed breakdown of how water can be turned from excellent quality at source to a health risk at your tap.
Ad hoc environmental risks – the tsunami of March 2011, and resulting nuclear accidents at Fukushima, remind us of natural and man-made disasters that are not within the remit of water companies to address. The Fukushima Daiichi plant, for example, continues to put out an estimated 300 tons of radioactive water into the ocean every day, and experts are expecting to find measurable levels of Cesium-137 on the BC coast any time soon (check out, for example, this balanced report, which does not attempt to stir up the fear that some internet sites do!). Many disagree on what those levels are likely to be, and the extent to which this represents a health risk. What should be clear, however, is that there is indeed some level of risk. These radioactive particles are not designed to be removed either by water companies or by most domestic water filers. Sadly there is also a risk of other disasters, and one thing can be guaranteed – water is the ultimate transportation device, and so any contaminants affecting the environment will end up in your water supply.
Zero compromise – On average we live longer than we used to, but dramatically escalating chronic illnesses reduce the quality of life (when seen purely from the standpoint of health). If you are passionate about your health, you likely have realised already that your body is under attack from a vast range of pollutants and stresses – and more and more people accept that these contaminants are the root cause of those health problems.
Why, for example, would you deliberately expose your body to any chlorine? Check here why in our opinion you should not!
There are similar arguments for any other contaminants that might get in to your water. Check out the many articles in the Blog and FAQ section for more detail on what risks you run by exposing yourselves to various contaminants.
No sensible alternative – many people understand the risks of drinking municipal water, but try to address them by turning to bottled water. Click here to find the arguments for why we think this is a bad idea…
What does the law say about water quality?
The law defines what is safe to drink, for example in order to set the level of purity that water companies must attain before transporting water to you. The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality set suggested maximum levels of each of 91 chemical contaminants that remain in the water, plus seven microbiological and seven radiological contaminants. There are, of course, tens of thousands of pollutants and contaminants that exist, but the law chooses to ignore these in the hope that none exist in a sufficient concentration to be harmful to health. This is partly an economic argument, since many of these contaminants are viewed as simply too expensive to remove – for example, the argument goes “why build costly systems for removal of radioactive particles, when it’s extremely rare for such particles to be present in water in significant concentrations?” However, radioactive Radium particles ended up in our water supply in rain, in the week following the 2011 tsunami, from the Fukushima nuclear plant, and if there are further failures at that plant you can guarantee that further radioactive pollution will follow. This is one of many examples where “extremely rare” events still have a likely impact of us.
As explained above, the law currently looks at levels of 91 chemical contaminants. In the 1970s it looked at considerably fewer, and set lower targets for their concentration in water. The law tends to be framed in terms of what is economic for water companies to produce, and it follows from this that the water we drink is close to the legal minimum quality. It also means that the water we drank back in 1970s was unsafe to drink by today’s standards. In turn this makes it highly likely that the water we are drinking now will be considered to be unsafe by future standards.