Drinking Water Quality: What You Need to Know
Most of us don’t think about the water we drink. We turn on a tap, fill a glass, and drink. But how much water do you really need to drink every day? Is the water you're drinking safe or would bottled water be safer? What can you do if your tap water suddenly became contaminated? Read on to find out how much you know about the drinking water in your own home.
How Much Water Do You Need?
Your body weight is more than 50% water. Without water, you couldn’t maintain a normal body temperature, lubricate your joints, or get rid of waste through urination, sweat, and bowel movements.
Not getting enough water can lead to dehydration, which can cause muscle weakness and cramping, a lack of coordination, and an increased risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In fact, water is so important that a person couldn’t last more than five days without it.
So how much water do you need? Enough to replace what you lose daily through urination, sweating, even exhaling. And your need for water increases:
- In warm or hot weather
- With vigorous physical activity, such as exercise or working in the yard
- During bouts of illness, especially if you have a fever, are vomiting, having diarrhea or coughing
You often hear that you need to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board recommended that women actually need 91 ounces of water daily, and men need 125 ounces.
It is a good idea to track how much water you drink for a few days just to get a feel for the amount needed. You can get enough water each day by drinking water and consuming fluids like soup and drinks, along with lots of vegetables, which contain water. Keep in mind that if you’re going to do something strenuous, like playing sports or running, you'll need extra water before, during, and after.
Water Quality: Is Tap Water Safe?
You need to stay hydrated -- that’s clear -- but is the tap water in your home safe? It is considered generally safe if it comes from a public water system in the United States, such as one run and maintained by a municipality. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to monitor all public water systems and sets enforceable health standards regarding the contaminants in drinking water.
When drinking water leaves a treatment plant on its way to your house, it must meet strict safety standards. That doesn’t mean that your water is free of all contaminants, but that the levels of any contaminants don’t pose any serious health risk.
Of course, accidents can happen. If the water supply becomes contaminated by something that can cause immediate illness, the supplier must promptly inform you. Suppliers also need to offer alternative suggestions for safe drinking water. In addition, they have 24 hours to inform customers of any violation of standards that could have major impact on health following a short-term exposure.