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These Common Causes of Water Pollution Might Surprise You

According to the NRDC, 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is dumped and largely untreated back into the environment, polluting rivers, lakes and oceans.

Water pollution refers to any number of contaminants not normally present in water that enter the water supply through surface water exposure in lakes and rivers. Because water is a universal solvent, it is uniquely designed to absorb any chemicals and contaminants it comes in contact with, some of which can be harmful and hard to contain.

Water can be polluted in a variety of ways, though the most common in Southern California include wastewater, agriculture, and factory and fuel emissions.

Water Pollution and Contamination

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The different types of contamination can create different problems for the environment and those of us dependent on it:

Wastewater Pollution (including sewage, agricultural runoff, and fertilizers): can cause reproductive damage for wildlife in affected areas and contribute to increases in algae growth which disrupts the entire ecosystem. For exposed human populations – whether that exposure occurs via swimming, washing and bathing, or drinking and cooking —wastewater pollution can cause reproductive issues, rashes, stomach illness, even cancer and thyroid issues.

Industrial Chemical Contamination:  Chemicals produced as a byproduct in manufacturing can leach into water and accumulate in fish and other seafood. Depending on the specific chemicals in question, effects can vary from mildly harmful for human consumption, causing stomach irritation and upset to more severe and lasting issues like mercury poisoning (especially threatening for women and children).

Contaminated Water and Its Effects

Problems with water have been making the news more and more lately, as issues with contaminants like lead can be dangerous in addition to being problematic. Lead solder was regularly used in pipes before its dangers were widely known, so it’s often older homes that are especially at risk for lead contamination.  It can be hard to know if your water has a lead problem because it’s generally odorless, colorless, and tasteless.

Bacterial contamination, like E.Coli, cryptosporidium and giardia, can also be dangerous and hard to detect in your water. This type of contamination is more likely if you rely on well water, or if your water comes from a surface water source like nearby lakes or rivers.

Reverse osmosis water filtration systems will typically remove chemical contaminants like lead, as well as bacterial contaminants like giardia, from water effectively.

If you’re concerned about your home’s water quality, the best thing to do is start drinking drink bottled water immediately and schedule a home water test. You can schedule a complimentary home water test with Culligan, and we’ll provide more information and solutions for your home based on your results and your specific water needs.

Home Solutions for Water Contamination

  • Reduce use of plastics, and reuse plastic as much as possible
  • Properly and responsibly dispose of paint, chemical cleaning supplies, gasoline, and other toxic chemicals used around the house
  • Keep vehicles well maintained to avoid leakage of toxic chemicals like coolants, oil, and antifreeze

In addition to doing our part to help curb overall water pollution, ensuring the water that comes directly into your home is safe can be achieved in several ways:

Whole home water filtration systems — If you live in an area of the country where water contamination issues are common (you’ve experienced one or more boil orders, for example) you may want to consider installing a whole-home water filtration system. These types of filtration systems are installed at the point of entry to your home, so all the water that gets used in your home — whether that’s in the shower, kitchen tap, or washing machine, is filtered and fit for consumption.

Point-of-use drinking water systems — Another option to protect your home from water pollutants can be point-of-use filtration systems that filter the water where you use it the most (typically the kitchen sink).  

It’s important to understand what kinds of contaminants the water filters you consider are designed to address. Some filtration systems, for example, are specialized to solve specific problems, like iron, arsenic, or sulfur contamination.

  • Reduce use of plastics, and reuse plastic as much as possible
  • Properly and responsibly dispose of paint, chemical cleaning supplies, gasoline, and other toxic chemicals used around the house
  • Keep vehicles well maintained to avoid leakage of toxic chemicals like coolants, oil, and antifreeze
According to the EPA, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of septic systems fail at some point in their operational lifetimes.

Aesthetic Water Problems Caused by Water Contamination

Odor is one of the most noticeable and commonly-reported home water problems, for good reason. It can be hard to turn on the tap and stomach a rotten egg smell, or an earthy or otherwise unpleasant odor. When water smells bad, that’s usually an indication of dissolved sulfur in your water supply. While a trace amount of sulfur is safe and normal, elevated levels are responsible for that memorably foul smell and can make drinking, or just using your home’s water for just about anything, pretty unpleasant.

If, on the other hand, your water smells fine but looks a little ‘off,’ you’re likely experiencing some elevated sediment in your supply, which can make water appear cloudy or grey. Water that comes out of the tap with a reddish or brownish tint is typically associated with higher iron levels, and you might also notice this as staining on your sinks, faucets, or fixtures.

For all kinds of aesthetic home water problems, the right water filter can improve the taste, smell, and overall quality of the water by targeting the impurities that are responsible for the specific problem you have.

Contamination and Hard Water

Many Americans have hard water problems, and they’re especially common, and hard to deal with, in arid climates where water is more likely to come from a ground water source. Hard water is the result of dissolved minerals in the supply like calcium, magnesium, and iron. And the problems generally aren’t as much with the water itself, but with what it does around your home. From clogging pipes and fixtures to wearing out your large appliances, the effects of hard water can be seen in just about every room in your house.

It happens to coffee pots, teakettles, showerheads, bathroom and shower fixtures, dishwashers, washing machines, hot water heaters, garbage disposals, hoses and sprinklers, even humidifiers and diffusers —hard water is hard on just about everything it comes in contact with. It can leave white, chalky residue behind, slowing down processes, and making everything work overtime to compensate for it. Many people also notice that hard water is hard on skin, hair, and nails, and can sometimes have a ‘metallic’ taste, making life at home even more uncomfortable.

Point-of-entry water softeners for hard water problems at home are popular, especially in places like Arizona. These systems remove the minerals responsible for the build up from your water before it even enters your home.

Culligan can help answer any questions you may have about water filtration systems, and which types can work best to address the specific needs you have in your home, and your region.