World Water Day takes place on March 22. Each year this global event focuses on a specific aspect of our relationship with water. The theme for 2017 is WASTEWATER. ‘There ...
A guide for residents of Greater Vancouver
You know bottled water isn’t the answer. So you’re either filtering your tap water, or you’re thinking about it. But how do you choose from the confusing deluge of water filters and treatment methods that are flooding the market these days?
Knowing what is and isn’t in your water is imperative
Have you ever wondered what exactly is in your tap water that needs to be filtered out?
Water filters are not like other appliances. A blender is a blender. But a water treatment system needs to be tailored to the water coming out of your tap. Why? Because every city, every water district has different water conditions.
Chlorine, chloramines, fluoride, arsenic, radon, lead, trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, herbicides, pesticides, gasoline additives, parasite cysts, pharmaceuticals, nitrates are just a few of the many hundreds of contaminants found in North American water distribution systems.
Which of these are in your water?
And what are the consequences of drinking them day after day and year after year?
Consider yourself fortunate if you live in Greater Vancouver, as your water contains only a few of these noxious contaminants – but which ones?
An accurate answer to this question gives you the key to making a safe and informed choice for a drinking water system that can treat your water effectively.
Where does your water come from?
Drinking water for Greater Vancouver* comes from wilderness watersheds in the North Shore mountains and is captured in the Capilano, Seymour and Coquitlam reservoirs.
Except for wildlife, access to these watersheds is highly restricted protecting our source water from contamination by human activity.
Birds and animals that live in the watershed areas can transfer parasite cysts called Cryptosporidium and Giardia into the source
water. Though not usually fatal, these cysts can cause illness.
Although chlorine is introduced to the water as a disinfectant at the water treatment plant, it is not very effective at killing Cryptosporidium cysts.
The consequences of using chlorine
Chlorine (and ozone at Coquitlam) is the disinfectant used in our water. It ensures that drinking water is microbiologically ‘safe’. That means no harmful bacteria and no viruses.
However, the use of chlorine (itself a poison), especially with surface water rich in organic matter like ours, results in the formation of highly toxic chlorine by-products that are clearly linked to cancer, miscarriage and negative effects for pregnancy. Recent studies indicate that damage occurs at lower levels of exposure than considered ‘safe’ by current drinking water standards. Learn more.
Health hazards in Vancouver’s water
Tap water in the Greater Vancouver area may contain the following potential health hazards:
a biological poison
- Trihalomethanes (THMs) and Haloacetic Acids (HAAs)
chlorination by-products known to cause cancer and birth defects.
- Cryptosporidium and Giardia
parasite cysts cause intestinal and immune system disorders.
(especially in homes built prior to 1989)
not found in the water supply itself but introduced into water from pipe fittings and plumbing fixtures containing lead.
Bottled water isn’t the answer
Despite its tremendous popularity in recent years, bottled water is often just municipal tap water. Under regulated and exorbitantly over priced, it is toxic to the environment and often to human health. Learn more.
The basic requirement for safe water
You now know the basic requirement for choosing effective water treatment if you live in Greater Vancouver: select a system that is capable of protecting you from chlorine, cryptosporidium, giardia, THMs, and lead.
It should have the capacity to do so for a reasonable length of time, calculated by the number of gallons of water that can pass
through it before loosing effectiveness for filtering each particular contaminant.
When you think about it, these points are so obvious, but rarely addressed in the world of buying and selling water filters.
Most water treatment systems don’t match local conditions
There is a confusing array of water filters and water treatment systems competing for your attention. These products are made and shipped here from all over the world.
Do the manufacturers and vendors of those systems know about the unique characteristics of your local water supply? Unlikely.
Guidelines for choosing your water treatment system
Every type of water filter or purifier has strengths and weaknesses. Here are some important tips on choosing a water treatment
system that will ensure your protection.
Choose a water treatment system capable of reducing hazards specific to Greater Vancouver’s water. Be certain the system can protect you from all know contaminants in your local water.
Find out the capacity of the system for each contaminant. How many gallons/litres can the filter handle before its capacity for that contaminant is exhausted? For example, capacity for Trihalomethanes (THMs) is usually exhausted long before the capacity for chlorine.
A multistage system with several different filters with the right characteristics can cover all the bases. This is because high quality filter cartridges are specialized. Each cartridge will perform a special function.
Avoid systems that are designed for contaminants not found in Vancouver’s water. For example, protection from fluoride is not necessary in Vancouver.
Make sure your water treatment system can filter particles one micron in size or smaller. The system should be able to do much more than just make your water taste better. It should do the filtering, not your kidneys.
Reverse Osmosis systems are not recommended for Greater Vancouver’s water conditions.
Be diligent about maintaining your system and replacing cartridges at recommended intervals. Fouled cartridges can introduce contaminants back into your water.
The moral of the story…
Don’t waste your money and your health on water treatment that doesn’t address Vancouver’s unique water conditions.
Make your water treatment system is an exact match to the contaminants coming out of your tap – no more, no less.
*The Greater Vancouver Water District services Anmore, Bowen Island, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley (City), Langley (Township), Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver (City), North Vancouver (District), Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, West Vancouver.