What is Potable Water?

Potable water is the most valued resource in the world. What is potable water? Simply, it is water that is safe to drink. You drink it daily, possibly without giving it a thought. Potable water comes in many forms, clean and crisp spring water to heavily treated tap water. Although some drinking water is more desirable than others, all forms are deemed safe for consumption through testing.

Access to potable water determines societies’ health around the world. Diseases are spread easily through water contamination and bear a significant problem in developing countries. At this time Haiti and Africa are just two countries whose populations are dealing with potable water issues, or the lack of it. Heavy metals, synthetic fertilizers, diseases, human waste and garbage are just some of the dangerous impurities found in water. Unfortunately, people will drink unclean water out of desperation.

The good news is that there are ways to turn contaminated water into drinkable water. Boiling water is the best way to help make water safe. Rocket stoves are particularly helpful tools for boiling water and cooking food because they require minimal fuel (a few dry sticks will do) and little smoke is created. Another low technology solution is using the sun’s rays to clean water that has been collected in reused plastic liter bottles. Leaving unsafe water out in the sun for several hours can decontaminate the water and make it potable again. A little amount of bleach is another way to kill pathogens in water. Bleach and other chemicals are used in large treatment facilities that are responsible for ensuring the drinkability of our tap water.

Local drinking issues in the United States is also a concern. Although potable water is deemed “safe” it is not always pure…or safe. Tap water in the United States has been shown to have hundreds of pollutants, many which have not been evaluated by the EPA for safety. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a study of tap drinking in 42 states and found over 260 contaminants all together. 141 of these found chemicals are unregulated, or “off the radar” by government standards.

In times of a natural or man-made disaster potable water is often difficult to access. People will go to their hot water heaters or even toilet water for their needs. Having an emergency set of bleach tablets to transform non-potable water into drinkable water may be a good idea. Also, re-filling up milk gallons or water jugs with tap water to have on hand may help one day during an emergency period. Often in the case of hurricanes or earthquakes, major pipes can break or leak and your tap water may not be potable until the problem is fixed. -BEN TERRINGTON

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