How to Purify Your Water for Drinking


Water is essential for good health. But drinking contaminated water can make you sick, or cause long-term health issues. Whether you’re dealing with a recurring problem or a sudden community water supply emergency, it’s important you take the correct steps to address the issue to make your drinking water safe.

What water needs to be purified?

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.

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.

Importance of tests before solutions

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.

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.

Natural vs. alternative solutions

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.

Solution one: Filtration

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.

Whole house city water filtration systems
Whole house well water filtration systems

Solution two: Ultraviolet Filtration

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.

UV Filtration Systems

Solution three: Reverse Osmosis

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).

RO Systems

Natural solution: Chlorine

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.

EPA Guidance on Emergency Disinfection

Natural solution: boiling water

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.

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

Choose the proper treatment for the healthiest water

If your water has issues that make it unsafe to drink, it’s important to identify the contaminants in order to choose the most effective treatment. Whether you’re dealing with an emergency situation or a recurring nuisance, the proper water filtration solution can give you the cleanest, most healthy water.