The Importance of Drinking Water Quality

POSTED February 13, 2023

Humans have basic needs. Human needs shouldn’t be confused with human rights. Needs are biological and rights are social. Human needs are what a human must have to survive. This consists of water, food, shelter, sleep, and clothing. Preventing a human from these basic qualities can have detrimental effects. It can lead to mental illness or physical illness. Among all these needs, one of the most important is fresh water. Either to drink or to clean yourself. No matter the situation, everyone should be provided with a good water quality source.

Historically, people have died from diseases like typhoid illness and cholera. Between the 1900s and 1920s the cases decreased dramatically as water plants began disinfecting and treating the water.  Since then, water quality has been a more important topic in communities.  Recently, the water in some prisons has been tested and deemed to have potentially unsafe levels of arsenic. Tribal areas of South Dakota are facing contaminated water and have very little access to running water. 

What is water quality and what causes bad water quality?

Water quality is the condition the water is in. In order to know the quality, the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics are tested for contaminants. Long term ingestion of contaminated drinking water can lead to many things like reproductive or nervous system effects and even chronic diseases like cancer. This type of water can come from a number of things. Some of the most common causes are:

  • fertilizers and pesticides running off into nearby water
  • cracks in pipes
  • soil that has natural chemicals and minerals (like Radon and Uranium)

Fertilizer runoff can come from either overfertilizing or fertilizing at the wrong time of the year. This can be avoided by doing it at the right time of the year with the right method. Cracks in pipes most often occur from temperature dropping or corrosive metals. Follow tips that can help you prevent cracks in your pipes, like wrapping your pipes with insulation for cold weather. Lastly, common chemicals in soil can pose a threat to our drinking water. The groundwater travels through the soil and rocks allowing for toxic chemicals to enter the water. 

How is tap water filtered?

In order to filter tap water, we use many filters. Water purification plants use filters in different sizes and made of different materials. Some unexpected materials are sand and gravel. This filters out all of the visible contaminants. We get our tap water from lakes and rivers. This is how our water can get contaminated. Even though some contaminants are not visible, we are still able to filter them out. 

There are two main ways water filters purify water. An active or chemical filtration changes whatever is contaminating the water in some way and the physical filtration physically filters out the contaminants. Due to this method, we are able to get most, if not all, contaminants out of our water. Some water treatment plants may add a chemical to clean and kill all the remaining bacteria as a last step (chlorine or chloride dioxide). They add a very small amount so that when it leaves the treatment plant, there is barely any left. The remnants kill the germs living in the pipes from the plant to the tap. Furthermore, they can disinfect the water with UV light. UV light is very good at killing all the germs, but it doesn’t continue to kill the germs as it makes its way through the pipes unlike certain cleaning chemicals.

How was tap water regulated and how far has it come?

Before the regulation of water became an option, bad water quality was among one of the most common causes of deaths. People tried their best to stay away from places that might have bad quality, like marshes. A few thousand years ago, we were not able to test the water, so it was a guessing game. 

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was the first step to really addressing the water quality of the US. This act provided states with funds in order to research their water quality and make the water safe for consumption. The act’s main goal is to create safe  water in swimming and fishing areas. The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 helped set standards to protect public drinking water. Although we previously had a water control act, this act actually helped the public drinking water and not just their groundwater quality. Some cities treated their water before it was a law.

What states have the worst and best water quality? (South Dakota?)

According to US News, Hawaii is first place for water quality in the US. Most of their water is naturally purified through years of running down soil and volcanic rock. This results in some of the purest water in the country. NBC News states Florida has the worst tap water in the country. After testing the water in the last five years, forty-five chemicals have been detected. Twenty-one of them were over healthy amounts. South Dakota is listed in 11th place in US News. South Dakota tap water comes from the ground and surface water.

South Dakota has a Wellhead Protection Plan. Since SD receives 78% of water from groundwater, the water needs to be protected. It eliminates or monitors the sources of pollution surrounding groundwater or water wells. This plan is an inexpensive way to protect our water that will make an impact in the future. The last few years, South Dakota has had a large number of impaired lakes and streams. This means that they contain certain contaminants above the healthy amount. Hopefully, the Wellhead Protection Plan can help to repair those bodies of water. 

Although South Dakota is listed as 11th place for water, the quality in the Tribal areas are not acceptable. South Dakota spent $470 million dollars on the Mni Wiconi pipeline. One-fourth of the pipeline’s water goes to white citizens. The rest goes to the Tribal areas and Native Americans. The pipeline was left incomplete from overspending. Terribly enough, the unfinished parts are in the Tribal areas. The bill for the pipeline to be made was signed in 1988. It was estimated to take seven to nine years. Instead, it took over two decades. 

How to be sure your water is safe and what you can do to help?

Some people may still be weary about their water quality. Flint, Michigan’s pipes contaminated the drinking water causing a lot of problems. The water crisis led to people being more strict about their water quality and access to clean water everywhere.

 If you are worried about having potentially unsafe water, here are some ideas you can try:

  1. Buy water quality test strips – You can test your water at home by yourself. Go to your local Wal-Mart or Home Depot to get a water quality kit. Most kits have you take some tap water and fill a container. Dip the test strip in and allow the test strip to sit in the container for a while, then take it out. After, you compare the color to the chart the kit typically comes with. This test will help tell you the true quality of your tap water.
  2. Buy water filter. – If your water is not up to your standard or proven to be harmful, you can buy water filters. There are many types of water filters. You can buy filters that are built into the faucet under the sink. Another type is a filter that can be put on the faucet. 
  3. Buy bottled water – You can buy packs of water bottles at your local store. Many people have the common misconception that bottled water doesn’t expire. This is not true. The water itself does not expire, but the plastic does.,individuals%20to%20preventable%20health%20risks.

Best & Worst Tap Water in the US: State-by-State Analysis,to%20land%20near%20the%20water,chronic%20diseases%20such%20as%20cancer.,parasites%2C%20bacteria%2C%20and%20viruses.

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