The Importance of Water Quality: What Factors Affect Your Water

Water is an essential component of our daily lives. We rely on it for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and so much more. Its significance to human existence cannot be overstated.

“Getting enough water every day is important for your health,” says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Drinking water comes from a variety of sources including public water systems, private wells, or bottled water.”

When access to healthy water is plentiful, we tend to take it for granted, but it’s important to understand water quality and what factors affect your water.

“It is important to know where drinking water comes from, how it’s been treated, and if it’s safe to drink,” says the CDC.

Water: The Essence of Life

Water is indeed vital for human life, and here are some fascinating facts to underscore its importance:

  • Earth's Water Percentage: Approximately 71 percent of the Earth's surface is covered in water, most of which is found in our oceans, making it an abundant natural resource.

  • Daily Water Consumption: On average, a person consumes about 2 to 4 liters (64 to 128 ounces) of water per day through drinking and moisture in food, emphasizing the need for clean, safe water access.

  • Survival Time Without Water: While the exact number can vary depending on factors like temperature and activity level, a human can typically survive only three to five days without water. (Some cite a rule of “3”: a person can live 3 minutes without air; 3 days without water; and 3 weeks without food.)

“Water is an essential nutrient at every age, so optimal hydration is a key component for good health. Water accounts for about 60 percent of an adult’s body weight,” says the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We drink fluids when we feel thirst, the major signal alerting us when our body runs low on water.”

So, what factors affect our water quality when we need to drink as our body runs low on water?

15 Factors Affecting Water Quality

Water quality is a critical aspect of our daily lives, impacting not only our health but also the functionality of our plumbing systems.

A multitude of factors, including the source of water, treatment processes, and the condition of your plumbing, can significantly influence the quality of the water that flows into your home.

Here are 15 factors affecting water quality:

  • Source of Water: The origin of your water supply plays a significant role in its quality. Surface water from rivers and lakes might be more susceptible to contaminants than groundwater from wells.

  • Water Treatment: The treatment process the water undergoes before reaching your home is crucial. Proper filtration, disinfection, and chemical treatment are essential to remove impurities and pathogens.

  • Pipes and Plumbing Age: The age and material of your plumbing system can influence water quality. Older pipes may corrode, introducing metals and other contaminants into your water.

  • Municipal Infrastructure: The quality of water can be affected by the condition of the municipal water infrastructure. Aging pipes can lead to leaks and contamination issues.

  • Geographic Location: The natural composition of the soil and rock in your area can impact the minerals present in your water, affecting its taste and hardness.

  • Agricultural and Industrial Activities: Nearby farms and industries can introduce agricultural chemicals, heavy metals, and pollutants into the groundwater, potentially affecting your water quality.

  • Water Storage and Distribution: The way water is stored and distributed can also impact its quality. Stagnant water in storage tanks can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

  • Groundwater Contamination: Contamination from septic systems, landfills, and underground storage tanks can seep into groundwater and affect water quality.

  • Seasonal Variations: Water quality can vary seasonally due to factors like increased runoff from rainfall, which can carry contaminants into water sources.

  • Microbial Activity: Bacteria and microorganisms can proliferate in your plumbing, leading to unpleasant tastes and odors.

  • Corrosion and Scaling of Pipes: Over time, pipes can corrode or develop mineral scale buildup, which affects water quality by introducing metals or reducing flow rates.

  • Chlorine/Disinfection Byproducts: While chlorine is used to disinfect water, its reaction with organic materials can form disinfection byproducts, which may affect taste and odor.

  • pH Levels: Water pH levels can impact the taste and corrosiveness of the water. Highly acidic or alkaline water can lead to plumbing issues.

  • Sediment/Particles: Sediment and particles in the water can affect its appearance and may clog pipes and appliances, leading to maintenance issues.

  • Cross-Connections/Non-Potable Water Sources: Cross-connections with non-potable water sources or improper plumbing connections can introduce contaminants into your drinking water.

Defining Water Quality

Many times, it is not “black and white” when it comes to water quality.

“Although scientific measurements are used to define water quality, it is not a simple thing to say “that water is good” or “that water is bad.” So, the determination is typically made relative to the purpose of the water – is it for drinking or to wash a car with or for some other purpose?” says the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, part of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

Water quality is measured by several factors such as:

  • Concentration of dissolved oxygen
  • Bacteria levels
  • Amount of salt (or salinity)
  • Amount of materials suspended in the water (turbidity)

In some bodies of water, the concentration of microscopic algae and quantities of the following may be tested to determine water quality:

  • Pesticides
  • Herbicides
  • Heavy metals
  • Other contaminants

“Poor water quality can pose a health risk for people. Poor water quality can also pose a health risk for ecosystems,” says the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Maintaining Water Quality

Ensuring clean, safe water for your home is essential.

Here are some tips to maintain and improve water quality:

  • Regular Water Testing: Periodically test your water for contaminants, pH levels, and hardness. This will help you identify any issues that need attention.

  • Water Treatment Systems: Consider installing water treatment systems like filters or water softeners to remove impurities and improve taste.

  • Backflow Prevention: Install backflow prevention devices to safeguard against contamination of your water supply.

  • Proper Plumbing Maintenance: Schedule regular inspections and maintenance with a professional plumbing company like Pilot Plumbing. We can identify and address plumbing issues that may affect your water quality.

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