If an emergency situation has caused your regular water service to be interrupted, such as a hurricane, flood, or water pipe breakage, your local authorities may issue a boil water advisory. In this situation, you’re warned to only use bottled water or boil any tap water before use, because your community’s water is, or could be, contaminated with microorganisms that could make you sick. This temporary situation needs immediate treatment to protect your health.
What water needs to be purified?
You may also want to look into water treatment or filtration if your water has recurring issues with taste, smell, or stains. Untreated water issues can shorten the life of your plumbing and appliances, stain your laundry and fixtures, affect the taste of your cooking and the health of your hair and skin.
Whether you get your water from a municipal supply or a private well, If there’s a sudden change in your water, you should test it immediately for your safety.
A water test is the only way to determine exactly what is lurking in your water. While certain types of issues leave definite clues - such as the limescale on your shower head pointing to hard water - some symptoms can result from multiple causes, such as the smell of rotten eggs, or metal. Other serious issues leave no clues at all, such as high levels of nitrates or lead in your water. Each type of contaminant may need its own specific solution.
Importance of tests before solutions
You also need to verify you’ve identified all the contaminants in your water in order to choose the most effective treatment to solve all your issues.
The choice of treatment for your water contamination will depend on the source and severity of the issue, as well as your confidence in handling the issue yourself versus relying on professional treatment.
Natural vs. alternative solutions
If the contaminant you’re dealing with is something other than microorganisms, physical and chemical filtration may be a good long-term solution. You can install whole house filters at the point of water entry to your home, to treat contaminants including pesticides, chloramines, hydrogen sulfide, and even acidic water.
Solution one: Filtration
Whole house city water filtration systems
Whole house well water filtration systems
When you need to disinfect your water of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, or parasites, the most effective long-term solution is to install an Ultraviolet (UV) Filtration system. UV light deactivates the microorganisms so they can’t reproduce in your water supply. A UV system can also be installed as the final stage in a filtration system that addresses other issues as well.
Solution two: Ultraviolet Filtration
UV Filtration Systems
If the contaminant you want to treat is only of concern in your drinking water, you should consider installing a Reverse Osmosis (RO) System. RO systems are an effective treatment for contaminants including nitrates, nitrites, sulfates, lead, copper, mercury, barium, cadmium, chromium (III and IV), fluoride, radium, selenium and total dissolved solids (TDS).
Solution three: Reverse Osmosis
One of the reasons the U.S. has one of the safest water supplies in the world is the fact municipal water supplies use chlorine to kill off disease-causing microorganisms. In the emergency situation where the system has failed and you’re faced with this health risk in your tap water, chlorine can be a temporary solution. Water can be purified using chlorine tablets or liquid chlorine, but there are important precautions to doing so. People suffering from thyroid problems should consult their medical practitioner before using chlorine products, and all should follow all label directions and precautions.
Natural solution: Chlorine
EPA Guidance on Emergency Disinfection
When you’re told or suspect your water is unsafe in an emergency situation, the advice to boil your water applies to ALL water you use - including water to cook, bathe, wash dishes, and brush your teeth.
Natural solution: boiling water
CDC recommendations include bringing water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes), then allowing it to cool before use. Boil tap water even if it is filtered, and replace the filter after the emergency has passed.
Boil water advisory information