The physical, chemical and biological characteristics of water determine its quality. The question of how to improve water quality has become an important issue worldwide amidst depleting clean drinking water resources and environmental changes.
Water quality is measured by testing water with respect to biological, chemical and physical characteristics and comparing it against a set of standards that are created depending on the intended use or need of water.
The primary focus of municipal water providers is to ensure that your tap water is, above all, safe to drink. Sometimes, aspects concerning taste and odour may take a hit in favour of safety (e.g. chlorination).
Before we go into the different ways you can improve water quality both from a safety and palatability aspect, we’re going to discuss how water quality is measured and whether your tap water is safe to drink.
How is water quality measured?
Municipal water quality is measured by testing and analysing water sources and treatment works against more than 50 parameters to ensure the fitness of water for consumption. Water providers carry out thousands upon thousands of tests each year to monitor and improve the quality of tap water.
In the United Kingdom, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is the authority encumbered with the task of overseeing that water providers conform to the water safety and health standards laid down by legislation.
Water sampling and analysis is regularly carried out by water providers at treatment works, at source, at consumers’ homes and at service reservoirs with the aim to test water with respects to its chemical and microbiological properties.
Both on-site and laboratory tests will reveal valuable information about the chemical composition of water. Thus, for example, water testing can measure the level of chlorine, fluoride, turbidity, presence of bacteris, etc.
With some parameters, there is a certain threshold that is permitted (e.g. the standard for chlorine levels is 2,500 µS/cm), with other parameters, rules are much stricter (e.g. the standard for Enterococci and E. coli presence is 0 per 100 ml of water).
Regular testing and water quality monitoring is crucial to ensuring safe tap water for consumers. It allows water providers to take immediate action in case a contamination occurs (e.g. issue boil water notices, sanitise water, etc.) and prevent disease outbreaks.
Is tap water safe?
This is a question asked by many when it comes to using tap water as a source of drinking water. Although most people might use bottled water as their primary source of drinking water, tap water is generally still used for washing fruit and vegetables, cooking, making tea or coffee.
Water safety regulations in force in the United Kingdom are some of the most stringent in the world, thus, tap water in the UK is recognised as one of the safest in the world.
No municipal system, however, is impervious to contamination, be it contamination caused by abnormal levels of some type of contaminant or contamination caused by technical faults.
When contamination cases that may pose a health risk to the general public appear, water providers will alert the population and will provide instructions on water usage for drinking purposes.
Although municipal water contamination cases occur relatively rarely, other aspects related to the quality of your tap water my leave a lot to be desired. For example, some people report not using tap water for drinking because they don’t like its taste or odour, and not necessarily because they are concerned about its safety.
The presence of chlorine is one factor that may cause strange flavours and odours in water, but other factors like old, rusty pipes, algae blooms, mould, etc. can also alter the palatability of tap water.
Luckily, the water filtration industry has come up with several ways to improve water quality with respect to safety, appearance, or taste and odour control.
How to improve water quality?
If you want to switch from bottled water to tap, but you’re not sure whether your tap water is safe enough to be your primary source of drinking water, you can use several methods to improve the appearance, taste, and cleanliness of your tap water.
One of the most effective ways to improve water quality is to install a water filter in your home. But before you rush to order a water filter online, the first step you must take to improve the quality of your tap water is to assess its chemical and microbiological composition.
Submitting your tap water to an analysis will help to determine what’s wrong – if anything – with your tap water from a qualitative standpoint. This in turn, will help you purchase the type of water filter that works best for addressing the type of problems your tap water has.
While each municipal water is different, here are some of the easiest ways to boost the quality of your tap water:
Install a whole house water filter to improve water quality in your entire home
Whole house water are filters that clean all the water that is delivered to your home, which is why they are also called point-of-entry water filters (they are installed at water’s point of entry).
Whole house water filters are usually multi-stage water filters, acting against a wide range of water quality issues including chemical contaminants, organic contaminants, suspended solids, bacteria, taste and odour issues, etc.
Most filters will include activated carbon or ceramic filters with re-mineralising effect that are known to remove bad flavours and odours and create better-tasting water.
These types of filters have several advantages over point-of-use filters (filters installed at a single point of use), and some of their most important benefits are:
- Convenience: whole house water filters will filter water going to all water outlets in your home (kitchen tap, shower, bathroom faucet, etc.), which will ensure that all your house is supplied with quality filtered water;
- Multi-layer protection: since whole house water filter systems usually contain more than one filter cartridge, your tap water goes through several different filtration processes, which will result in filtered water of a higher quality;
- Cost-efficiency: instead of installing a water filter at every major water outlet in your home, you can have a single system to filter all the water you need.
- Filters with re-mineralising or pH balancing effect: some whole house water filters contain filter cartridges that were designed specifically to remove unpleasant tastes caused by chemicals or organic contaminants. These filters can also have a pH balancing effect, turning acidic water into alkaline water.
WaterFilterShop.co.uk recommends: Osmio PRO-III Ultimate Whole House Water Filter System
Install a point-of-use water filter to improve water quality in your kitchen or bathroom (under-sink water filters, countertop filters, shower filters…)
Point-of-use (POU) filters are filters installed at a single water outlet, thus, filtering only the water that runs at the tap they are installed at. The POU filter category includes under-sink filters, counter-top filters, shower filters, fridge filters, etc.
These filters allow for a more in-depth customization of the level of filtration you need at each tap. For example, you may want a more thorough filtration for the tap water in your kitchen, but not in your bathroom.
Some of the best advantages of point-of-use filters include:
- Variety: When it comes to POU filters, there is a filter for every need: under-sink and countertop filters for kitchens, fridge filters for water dispensing systems in fridges, shower filters for bathroom, etc.
- Easy installation: Both under-sink filters and countertop filters are known to be extremely easy to install. They can usually be installed by anyone, without any plumbing knowledge. Some countertop water filters are even dubbed as zero-installation filters.
- Easy maintenance: POU filters require little maintenance that involves replacing the filter cartridges in your system at certain intervals.
What about improving water quality in emergency situations?
Water filters are a straightforward way of improving the quality of your tap water in your home, but what about situations when you don’t have the possibility to rely on the filtration efficiency of a water filter?
If you find yourself in an emergency situation – whether you’re hiking, travelling or even when you’re at home – there are ways you can improve the quality of the water you have access to:
By boiling water for long enough, you can eliminate disease-causing pathogens that may pose a risk to your health.
Boiling water will not protect against certain contaminants (e.g. lead), but it’s a first line of defence against pathogenic bacteria, especially when you’re in a situation when you don’t have access to clean drinking water.
Other ways to improve water quality in emergencies: gravity water filters and water filter bottles
If you’re hiking or travelling to areas with no running water, as good measure, it’s advisable to have an emergency preparedness plan that deals with the question of access to clean drinking water.
Gravity water filters and high-performance water filter bottles are probably the best way to deal with such issues. These portable filters are designed to tackle all sorts of dangerous water contaminants and transform otherwise undrinkable water into clean water that is ready-to-drink.
Although cooling water to improve its taste, letting water breathe to remove chlorine, or boiling water are some ways you can improve water quality, these methods fade in comparison with the benefits you stand to gain by relying on water filters to remove dangerous contaminants and taste-altering water ingredients.