Seeking better water quality

Published on May 30, 2019

For my Project Food as Fuel I have been focusing primarily on food and not so much on drinking. For drinking the choices are easy--coffee, broth, and water. No sense taking in extra calories or sugar through drinking. Considering the quantity of water I have been consuming and with my laser focus on better health, I decided to examine my water quality more closely. Yesterday I wrote about my recent investigation of the water quality in my home. Today is a summary of the outcome.

@nicksimard mentioned that he has water delivered to his home. I researched this option. A 5-gallon jug of spring water runs about $7.99 delivered. Assuming the eight-glasses-per-day rule, this means I'd be drinking at least 64 oz/day or 1 gallon every 2 days. For one month, this equates to about 15 gallons per month at a cost of $24/month or $288/year. 

There are a couple challenges with bottle water delivery. First, I travel quite a bit for work, so I would need to alter the delivery schedule based on my travel schedule. Second, there's the storage and lugging around of these bottles along with some type of water cooler or transfer to the refrigerator for cold water. Third, I live in Arizona. We like ice cold water or at least *I* like ice cold water. So there's the matter of filling ice cube trays constantly.

The next option that I researched is something called a reverse osmosis water filtering system. This system uses a combination of filters and a membrane. There is a pre-filter that removes chlorine, which has the potential to damage or lessen the life of the membrane. The water is pressurized and pushed through the membrane that does the heavy lifting of filtering. Lastly, there is a final filter designed to remove anything that would alter the taste or smell of the water if it has been sitting in the holding tank for awhile.

There are many advantages to this system. It is mounted under the kitchen sink with its own faucet, so it is convenient to have filtered water anytime. In addition, my house builder had the foresight to run a line from the sink to the refrigerator water line, so the filtered water will be pumped through the refrigerator for access to nice cold water and the ice maker (Yay!). This also means no more wasting money on refrigerator filters. 

The solution I chose based on the plumber's recommendation is an Ecowater system. 

Per the manufacturer, this system eliminates a range of 75.3% to 99.9% of the following elements:

  • arsenic
  • barium
  • cadmium
  • chromium
  • copper
  • cysts
  • fluoride
  • lead
  • nitrate plus nitrite
  • radium
  • selenium
  • turbidity
  • TDS
  • chlorine taste & odor
  • ammonium
  • bicarbonate
  • bromide
  • chloride
  • magnesium
  • sodium
  • sulfate
  • tannin
  • zinc

But the proof is in the pudding (water). The water certainly tastes better, although I became accustomed to adding lemon juice to my water so I don't really recall how the water tasted/smelled before but I'm sure it was not that great. I tested the water with my TDS tester to compare it to the readings I got previously. 

Tap water: 505 mg/L

Brita pitcher water: 455 mg/L

Fridge-filtered water: 404 mg/L

RO-filtered water: 24 mg/L

Clearly this filter is doing the job at least on this one measure. 

So let's talk cost. As you can imagine, a system like this is not cheap. The system plus the labor to drill the granite for the faucet and installation and a bonus discount as a repeat customer was $973. In terms of ongoing costs, the pre-filter needs to be changed once per year, which I can do myself at a cost of $45/filter. The same with the post-filter, which needs to be changed every 2 years. The system requires a professional cleaning maintenance every 2 years at a cost of about $100. The membrane lasts 3-5 years and will cost about $120 to replace. 

RO System

Initial investment: $973

First year cost: $45

Second year cost $90 + $100 = $190

Third year cost: $45

Fourth year cost: 90 + $100 = $190

Fifth year cost: $45

Total: $1488

Bottled water delivery:

First year $288

Second year $288

Third year $288

Fourth year $288

Fifth year $288

Total: $1440

Looking at the long term cost, somewhere between years five and six the RO system becomes more cost efficient. Not to mention the added convenience all those years of not lugging water bottles around and having clean water on tap.

On the road, I have no choice but to use bottled water. Yes, I know it's not the most environmentally-friendly solution. I did use the TDS tester on one brand of bottled water and it was 24 mg/L. I plan to research other options including reusable water bottles with built-in filtering.

Bottom line: Even if neither of these big solutions works for your circumstances, it is worth paying attention to the quality of the water you drink. Municipalities deliver the bare minimum for drinking water, and who knows what contaminants are lurking in there. People dump/flush prescription meds all the time. You think all that is being filtered out by the time the water gets to you? Get a TDS water tester. You can pick one up on Amazon for around $12. There are also other testers if you are even more curious or live in an area with a particular prevalence for harmful substances. 

I will be curious to see whether there are any measurable benefits to drinking this new pristine water. Ever get a bad fill-up of gas and your car runs like crap for awhile? Maybe water quality has been another factor affecting my health and performance. We will see.