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Low Cost Ways For Home Owners To Treat Contaminated Tap Water

tap water home value

Tainted, poor quality tap water not only works against your wallet, but also your health. The dangers of drinking contaminated water is terrifying. According to the World Health Organization, contaminated drinking water is the cause of 500 000 diarrhoeal deaths each yearSo taking them time to find low cost ways to treat contaminated water takes some effort, but the rewards are well worth it.

Arsenic, lead, noroviruses, cysts, these are just some of the viruses, chemicals and toxins that have been found in public water systems across the US. If you live in the state of California, or spend a portion of your year there, you’re already aware of the growing water crisis there.

Despite federal regulations forbidding the use of lead pipes in home construction, small traces of lead can still be found in many high-grade metals used for residential plumbing. Homes built after the EPA ruling in 1989 should be relatively lead free. The presence of lead, however, is impossible to detect without testing.

You can have your water tested, or if you’ve already tested your tap water and are looking for water treatment methods on a very tight budget, check out the ideas below.

1. Boiling Water Method

how to purify water

One of the oldest water treatment methods in the world is actually the simplest: the boiling method. Sterilizing contaminated water can be done quite effectively by boiling. Most bacteria cannot survive in temperatures above the boiling point, which effectively kills them. If you boil a gallon of water each day and leave it to chill in your refrigerator, you could have a supply of clean drinking water ready to go for no cost at all.

While boiling is highly effective, there are a few drawbacks. For one thing, boiling water isn’t always the most practical solution. Waiting for it to boil, then cool, so you can enjoy a refreshing glass of iced tea on a hot day seems like a lot of work. Extremely high levels of sediment can’t be removed from water by boiling either.

And even though the boiling temperature for water is high enough to dissolve or kill most bacteria, chemical elements like lead and iron dissolve at much higher temperatures. Lead can actually seep into your hot water after sitting idle in your water heater, or in your pipes where it is stored for later use.

This is why it’s recommended that you never use hot water directly from your tap for cooking or drinking.

2. Water Dispenser

Simple to assemble and set up, a quality dispenser is a relatively low cost kitchen appliance that will instantly provide your home with a supplemental source of clean drinking water on demand. They come in a wide range of models and brands, sharing many of the same basic functions. Prices vary, but you can find one for as low as $50.

The key to a quality water dispenser is ease of replacement and quality construction. Top loading water coolers and dispensers can be awkward to load. Poor quality brands can experience leaks and other manufacturing defects you won’t see until you start using it.

3. Chlorine Drops

Widely available in department stores and hardware stores, chlorine drops are an inexpensive way to kill bacteria lurking in tainted tap water. It only takes a few drops to purify an 8 oz glass of cold, crisp H2O, and even a small bottle can go a long way before you need a replacement.

Disinfecting water with chlorine is a very common practice among municipalities and many public services such as your local swimming pool [1]. In highly concentrated doses, it is poisonous to consume. At the right concentration, chlorine works to kill off bacteria but is still safe to consume.

If you treat your tap water with chlorine, you may notice the distinct taste and odor of the chemical. Chlorine is safe for humans in small doses, but it should never be used to treat water in your aquarium. Chlorine and chloramine are both toxic to aquatic animals, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Your pet dog, however, should be fine. If the water is safe for you to drink, it’s safe for your cat or dog, as well as other mammals.

4. Iodine Tablets, Solution, Or Crystals

Iodine as a drinking water disinfectant is one of the most low cost and effective water treatment solutions for removing harmful viruses and bacteria from your tap water at home. Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter and Shigella are examples of viruses and bacteria that can be removed by iodine tablets, crystals, or solutions.

Noroviruses (winter vomiting bug) and roto viruses, both highly contagious, can be spread through contaminated food as well as water [2]. A drop of iodine in your glass of water, however, can thoroughly kill these viruses and germs.

Inexpensive and easily accessible, they come in a variety of forms so you can choose the one you prefer. Using them is very easy. You simply add to your water, let sit, and then drink.
Pregnant women, however, should never consume iodine, which is harmful to the fetus.

You should also be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes for the iodine to activate before drinking.

5. Ultraviolet Light

Water purification by ultraviolet has become increasingly popular as a low-cost method for treating tainted tap water. UV filtration systems can be found online, designed with digital features and membrane filters for removing sediment that can’t be removed by UV light.

Essentially, UV light is the same light emitted by the sun every day. Across the light spectrum, UV rays are invisible to the naked eye, and harmless to human beings. Focused at high levels on certain types of bacteria, however, and they become fatal.

It only takes a few minutes for UV light to kill bacteria once they are exposed. Flooded with UV rays, the bacteria can no longer reproduce and die off. The UV light bulb used in UV filtration systems is a highly specialized type made specifically for water treatment. It’s always encased in glass, with a reflector positioned to intensify the rays.

You’ll need to replace the UV light, usually every 2 -3 years, depending on the manufacturer. It’s also a good idea to periodically dust the UV light gently. Vacuum the grate protecting
the UV light, where dust can accumulate as well.

6. Biochar Filter

Arsenic is one of the most common contaminants found in drinking water. Proven as a cause of cancer, this global pollutant makes its way into fresh water sources and our public water systems in several ways.

Using iron-enhanced carbon heated from hickory chips, Dr. and his team at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have pioneered a new method for removing this widespread toxin. Affordable and accessible, water treatment plants could save money by using large biochar filters Homeowners, as well, could attach a small biochar filter to their tap.

Biochar filtration media are currently being assessed for their effectiveness as a less costly alternative to current methods used by most cities [3].

Final Thoughts

There aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to ensuring safe drinking water from your taps at home. Drinking, cooking, washing and bathing all require clean, filtered water. If you’ve tested your water for contamination but don’t have the means for a dedicated whole house filtration system, there are alternatives.


[1] Disinfection with Chlorine (CDC)
[2] About Norovirus (CDC)
[3] Assessment of addition of biochar to filtering mixtures for potential water pollutant removal (NCBI)

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