Countdown to Earth Day Tip #8: Take Back the Tap!

Countdown to Earth Day Tip #8: Take Back the Tap!

  • There’s no need to wait until Earth Day on April 22 to start celebrating our planet and becoming more engaged in taking care of its precious resources. This article is part of a series of tips on how to “go green” in Kane County — 15 in all, one for every business day before Earth Day. Use them to tap into your inner eco-mindfulness and let your green spirit shine brighter than ever!

Tip #8 — Take Back the Tap!

American consumers drink more and more bottled water every year, in part because they think it is somehow safer or better than tap water. They collectively spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars more per gallon for water in a plastic bottle than they would for the H20 flowing from their taps.

As Earth Day draws near, it’s good for Kane County residents to understand the pure, clear truth:

Plant Operator Mike Bourgerie monitors the process in the control room at the city of Elgin Water Treatment Plant.

Bottled water is no cleaner, or safer, or healthier than tap water.

But how do we really know that our municipal water is safe to drink?

The city of Elgin Water Department Director Kyla Jacobsen explains it this way.

“Tap water is regulated for water quality — bottled water is not,” he said. “If there are irregularities with municipal water, they have to be identified and stated as such.”

In fact, the federal government requires far more rigorous and frequent safety testing and monitoring of municipal drinking water than it does for bottled water. In 1996, the U.S. Congress and the president amended the Safe Drinking Water Act. They added a provision requiring that all community water systems deliver an annual water quality report to their customers.

Yet, people are willing to pay way more money for the convenience of bottled water than to simply fill a reusable bottle — even when as much as 40 percent of bottled water is actually just tap water that has been bottled for you!

“Tap water is cleaned, treated, made potable and delivered to your tap for less than a penny a gallon,” Jacobsen said.

The Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources is urging residents to “Take Back the Tap” in 2017. What does that mean? It means kicking the habit of drinking bottled water, using re-usable containers and supporting clean water initiatives in your community. Check out this previous article Is Bottled Water Better than Tap Water? written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland.

Common Questions and Answers About Tap Water

Q: Why should I drink tap water instead of bottled water?

A: Over the course of a year, tap water costs hundreds (or even thousands) less than bottled water, and is just as clean and healthy as bottled water.

Q: How do I find out whether my tap water is safe?

A: Contact your local water utility to request a copy of the Annual Water Quality Report, also referred to as the Consumer Confidence Report. This report is required by law to provide information about contaminant violations in the water system. EPA posts many of these results on its website, as well.

Q: Can a filter remove chlorine and fluoride?

A: When it comes to chlorine, the answer is “yes.” Most water filters remove or reduce this chemical disinfectant. On the other hand, fluoride is more of a challenge. Typically, only reverse osmosis filters and distillation units reduce or remove it.

Q: My water tastes funny. What can I do about it?

A: Odd tasting water does not necessarily mean that it is unhealthy or contaminated. The taste could be due to chlorination or to the mineral content in the water, depending on the region of the state or country. A home filtration system is the best solution to this problem.

Q: What kind of re-usable bottle should I use to carry tap water?

A: Many people have concerns about plastic food containers and beverage bottles because certain chemicals in the plastic can leach into the contents. For this reason, Food & Water Watch recommends either stainless steel or lined aluminum bottles.

Q: Should I reuse disposable plastic bottles?

A: The disposable PET #1 plastic bottles in which beverages are sold cannot be properly cleaned and, over time, may leach chemicals into the water. Therefore, they should not be reused.

Q: What is a contaminant?

A: Water is very rarely pure H2O. It tends to grab particles from things it passes and brings them along for the ride. Whether flowing in a mountain stream or pouring out of your faucet, water usually contains more than just oxygen and two hydrogen atoms. Some of these piggy- backers are harmless, but many are not.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the safety of tap water, regulates 87 contaminants. The agency recognizes, but does not regulate an additional 51 contaminants.