home Forums Kitchen Chit-Chat single topic: water quality

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  • #23798
    gteague
    Participant

    i already know my supplied water source sux badly. it ruins everything it touches, corrodes pipes and water heaters, and most people in the neighborhood buy bottled water and the others boil it.

    when i first got here i drank it straight, but the weight of public opinion convinced me to boil my drinking water and thus i got a 4 liter vacuum water pot for just this use. the fly in the ointment in summer is that my icemaker doesn’t have a filter and thus i’m drinking probably more than a quart every day just in ice. some people install charcoal filters, but i can’t afford that.

    i finally got around to trying to quantify the suckiness of the water, but the results, now i’ve read what they mean, are inconclusive and disappointing.

    http://www.safewater.org/PDFS/resourcesknowthefacts/TDS_AND%20_pH.pdf

    “Why is it important to monitor TDS and pH?
    It is important to monitor the TDS level and the pH of drinking water for several reasons. When
    a water source has a high level of TDS or a low pH, it is likely that there are other harmful
    contaminants in the water. Both TDS and pH are also easy to measure and if something is
    happening to a water, such as pollution, chances are both TDS and pH levels will change so
    keeping track of those changes can act as an early warning signal that something is happening to
    the water. For these reasons, it is important to monitor the TDS and pH levels, so that if they
    change, action can be taken immediately. ”

    i have a tds meter i got years and years ago when i lived in dallas/fort worth and bought a britta water filter. the city water there tested under 400 (ppm?). so that’s the only benchmark i have.

    i now have a ph meter and today i used both of them to sample a cup of tap water and a cup of boiled water. here are the results:

    tap: tds level: 800
    tap: ph level: 7.6

    boiled: tds level: 350
    boiled: ph level: 8.6

    so the results follow the gist of the article as i understand it–i think i failed high school biology. in other words, they say the recommended figure for safe drinking water is below 500 tds and boiling seem to take it from unsafe to safe based on that criteria alone.

    but ph doesn’t seem to be that useful unless you’re a gardener. boiling shows that the water went from neutral to somewhat alkaline and is considered ‘hard’ water which is why it destroys everything it touches, if i understood the article correctly.

    anything anyone might add to this to help me understand the results is very welcome. but for now i’ll continue boiling and maybe someday i can get a filter so i can feel better about drinking the crap. /guy

    #23820
    Laura Pazzaglia
    Keymaster

    Guy, you came to the right place. My last job was heading an IT group at San Francisco’s Water Department. How did you quantify the suckyness, and what brought you to the safewater.org page?

    When we first moved to Italy I drank, and gave my very small children water laced with arsenic for YEARS. I only realized something was wrong when I started to loose large amounts of hair. Basically, since and arsenic is a heavy metal that does not evaporate, when I was boiling water for tea I was concentrating it and raising it’s already-high percentage. Thankfully, no one else in the house was drinking tea.

    I then found out that Italy asked the EU to temporarily raise the minimum arsenic above WHO minimums so that Rome didn’t have to turn off the tap/ancient Roman aqueducts. Now the water suppliers have added filters and what not (at least they’re charging us for it) but we’re not taking any more changes.

    At least in Europe, bottled water is not any better. It’s not even as heavily regulated as drinking water. It’s not even considered a “food” it’s a “dietary supplement” which is why some labels say that it helps digestion, or recommended for those with diets low in sodium. I don’t know how well bottled water is regulated in the US.

    The problem with distillation (is that what your vacuum water pot, does?) is that it removes ALL minerals and elements that the body needs from water. We couldn’t afford a tap-filter (which are popular here) so I started looking into filtered jugs. Although they’re not rated to filter heavy metals (only osmosis is) by the physical action of passing the water through filters and carbon the metals are diminished while some of the minerals remain – plus it tastes great!

    I started with a cheap and pretty jug (Bobble) but it took forever to filter. Now we’re three months in with a special (non-Brita) jug by Electrolux/AEG (yes the appliance manufacturer) which filters really quickly using 3M technology. It’s so good, I don’t even see any mineral deposits on the bottom of the pot. I don’t see it on US amazon, but when you shop for a water-filtering pitcher the important thing to look for is that it filters quickly!

    What you could do, in the meantime. Is turn off the water supply to the icemaker and make cubes in trays that you dump in the ice-maker service-shoot.

    Ciao,

    L

    #24027
    HelenAdams
    Participant

    I have a filter under my sink attached to my tap.
    It was expensive at $150 and I think the filters are $30 but the first filter lasted 3 years with 2-3 people using it.
    It has an electronic filter monitor.
    There are other cheaper ones but this is the most convenient for the price

    #24030
    Anonymous
    Participant

    I can’t really comment here. There are too many variables. Why is your water considered “bad”? If it is hard that is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that the minerals in it interfere with the suds in action of soap. Also the minerals can precipitate out over time and block the pipes. Long term problem but not a short term one. Remember that things like Evian the posh French bottled water are just mineralized water. If on the other hand it contains heavy metals – zinc, cadmium, lead, copper. Now they can be very damaging to health and I would definitely be using bottled water for everything, including ice cubes. Or moving somewhere else.

    You said the water eats the pipes. That is pointing to acidic water (ph<7) which will eat the metal pipes, but your tests indicate alkaline (ph >7) water which are more likely to simply clean the impurities off the metal. So.mething else is going on here. It needs an industrial chemist, a laboratory and a sample of the water to find out what.

    #24032
    gteague
    Participant

    the water company just asked me to pull a 1L sample a few weeks agao and i got a letter from them about a week ago. i got disgusted and threw it away, but i think it had the following figures:

    0.0015 (?units?) mercury and/or lead

    they claimed that this was ‘good’ since they only had to take action if the figure was 0.025 (?units?)

    and how can it be possible that my ph indicates water which doesn’t destroy anything it touches? i have countless anecdotes from my neighbors and my own observations to disavow that. you know those spray nozzles in the kitchen sink? mine was new when i moved in and completely plugged up in 3 months. every container that touches water has nearly a 1mm white scum coating it. everyone has to replace their water heater elements every year because a white crust grows around them. it really beggars belief.

    i guess i was too casual when i said it ‘destroys pipes’. what i meant is that it clogs them up. this destroys their function but i suspect it’s not how you interpreted it. sorry.

    #24033
    HelenAdams
    Participant

    Well guy get after them if you can. Write your government representative, start a petition.

    I know it is easy for me to say, but I am currently in a bad situation of which water is the least of my concerns. And my water is pretty bad, not to mention I have to carry it in buckets to flush my toilet.
    There are compelling reasons against taking action, but I think I have to do it nonetheless.

    MY sympathy

    #24034
    gteague
    Participant

    oh, i’m sure they conducted this test because of all the community pressure. everyone detests them. but the city water is ok and there’s only a relative few of us outside the city water pipes. but they have been investigated and sued several times i understand–to no effect.

    their headquarter is in new jersey and while that means absolutely zero to you (unless you watch the abomination called ‘desperate housewives’ or any mobster series), what it means to most of us in texas is crime and corruption and rudeness and we expect no better from companies based there.

    #24043
    Anonymous
    Participant

    It sounds like you just have really hard water. That means lots of dissolved minerals, in particular calcium and magnesium salts. This is very common if you are in limestone country, and there’s not a lot anyone can do about it. These minerals are not particularly harmful, but they play havoc with pipes and pots.

    From the wiki:

    The World Health Organization says that “there does not appear to be any convincing evidence that water hardness causes adverse health effects in humans”.[1] In fact, the United States National Research Council has found that hard water can actually serve as a dietary supplement for calcium and magnesium.[9]

    Your only real option is bottled water unless you want to set up a still for your water. (I can think of better uses) Rainwater can be a solution, but you need to have unpolluted air or you can make things worse as rain will pick up airborne pollutants. We get away with rainwater here as we are on the western edge of the developed area and most of the pollution blows away from us.

    There are water treatments that soften water, but they work on ion exchange and replace calcium with sodium. Do you like your water salty?

    #24044
    gteague
    Participant

    no thank you sir. in italy there was a vineyard sitting on top of the volcano runoff and the wine smelled of sulfur. didn’t stop me drinking it at about 75 lira (35 cents) a bottle though! i sure do miss cheap wine as i have no wine snobbery or taste discernment whatsoever–i’m a cheap drunk. [g]

    #24063
    HelenAdams
    Participant

    I have a poor palate for cheaper wine, although I have had some $100 a bottle wines that knock your socks off. Chateau Neuf de Pape et. al..

    But as you can guess, I am not usually in a position to afford those and have better uses for the money.

    At home I make my own wine, as it is usually better than what I can buy at a reasonable price and about $1.75 a litre. Here I buy a light wine by the box.

    When I was in Europe in 2003 the wine was very cheap still. Cheaper than coffee in the pubs, and ironically a bottle of wine imported from Canada was about 1/6th the cost in England or France. Of course wine is much cheaper in the US than Canada.

    #24065
    gteague
    Participant

    oh yeah! it’s no secret why europeans are buzzing all day long. when i was there a tall glass of vino di tabula (hope i spelled that right–house or ‘table’ wine) might be 10 cents. a very small bottle of coca cola was 2 dollars. not to mention that ice wasn’t considered a ‘food’ in italy and thus not checked for safety.

    but what i’m hearing @greg saying about my water is that boiling is doing absolutely nothing for me except making me feel i’m doing something. or killing some microbes that are going undetected. am i wrong in this?

    #24066
    HelenAdams
    Participant

    Probably this is correct although getting rid of the microbes is not necessarily bad. But when I boil water or sous vide in a metal pot there are a lot of mineral deposits on the pot and sous vide controller. Even letting water sit in a metal pot seems to coat the pot. And any mineral sticking to the pot is no longer in the water.
    Here there is a fair amount of mud in the campground water which I use to wash dishes etc. I fill big bottles at the restaurant for drinking and cooking.
    Many people here have no wells and have to pay $100-$200 a month to have their water tanks filled. AFAIK the tanks are not flushed regularly so who knows what lives in them after a while. And the older ones can rust.

    The water is pretty hard in North Vancouver too, I use tap filtered water for sous vide because I don’t have to clean the minerals of the Anova.

    #24067
    gteague
    Participant

    i also have a little portable survival tool (battery powered) that when inserted into a liter or two of water, floods it with uv waves to ‘purify’ it. i always thought this was a substitute for boiling, but i’m not entirely sure. i’m much better at tech than biology!

    #24068
    Anonymous
    Participant

    Boiling water will kill some, but not all the bugs in water. That’s why some foods need to be pressure canned as the higher heat is needed to destroy some of the baddies.

    For other stuff it gets tricky. Some things increase their solubility with heat. Sugar for example dissolves better in hot water than cold. These will stay in solution with boiling. I’m not saying your water has sugar in it mind. Just an example. Other things decrease their solubility in water with heat. Carbon dioxide is an example here. So boiling will precipitate those thing out or in CO2’s case, outgas. Still others don’t change appreciably. Salt is fairly insensitive to water temperature for example.

    You can also get ion exchange with heat. Which explains Helens deposits in metal pots. And on the element of the anova gear.

    What will happen is that you will concentrate any of the heavier minerals. Yhey will stay put, or perhaps precipitate out, while the quantity of water will decrease. The lighter materials like carbon dioxide and alcohol however will be removed, though not entirely as they will out gas.

    Your uv lamp will kill some but not all of the bugs, depending on the strength of the uv. But it will not remove anything. It may also trigger some chemical reactions in the more unstable minerals.

    There are commercial filters that take a multi pronged approach using several types of filters and a uv stage that will turn pretty much anything into clean potable water. But the filters clog up and will need replacing regularly. I use a two stage filter on my drinking water, but don’t bother with a uv stage. Nor do I bother to do any more than a coarse single filtration to remove sediment on water not intended for drinking.

    The other option is to distil the water, but this is energy intensive and will still leave a sludge behind that will need to be cleaned up

    #24069
    gteague
    Participant

    thanks! i think the bottom line is ‘soaking in’.

    <sorry couldn’t resist>

    #24070
    Anonymous
    Participant

    Btw I am using “bugs” to include any living things like bacteria, viruses, protozoans, spores etc. strictly speaking, bugs are insects with sucking mouth parts.
    http://www.mdavid.com.au/insect/whatisabug.shtml

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