Tap water in the UK is among the safest in the world; it goes through rigorous screening processes, which test for multiple parameters including bacteria and water-borne diseases.
If you’ve been drinking tap water all your life, you may be wondering if a water filter would make a difference in the quality of the water you’ve otherwise never had a problem drinking all these years.
Likewise, if you’ve been a fan of bottled water, you may wonder if a filter would make tap water a better alternative for you.
So, is switching to filtered water worth it? Should you consider installing a tap water filter, or is tap water ok to drink? And why should you switch to filtered tap water anyway?
This article examines all these issues and more to help you decide whether a water filtration solution is right for you.
Potential Issues with Tap Water
Tap water is great. Just think about it – it’s literally at your fingertips, it’s available around the clock, and it’s extremely cheap! Plus, tap water in the UK passes 99.9% of quality tests.
Then why would you think about filtering it?
Here are some reasons why you might reconsider drinking or bathing in unfiltered tap water:
Chlorine is a chemical that’s used to eradicate harmful bacteria from public water supplies. It has a strong, unmistakable odour, and it’s harmful to all aquatic creatures.
Chlorine added to tap water disinfects water not only at the source but also in transit while it reaches your home.
Water supplies add this chemical to the water in a concentration that’s considered safe for human consumption.
Still, chlorine is not completely harmless, especially for certain categories of people. Constant exposure to chlorine over a long period of time is not without harmful consequences either.
People with sensitive skin like newborns, people prone to skin irritations or with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis may find that bathing in chlorinated water exacerbates their condition causing further irritation or flare-ups.
Apart from the effects of chlorine on skin, eyes or lungs, ingesting chlorine over a long period of time can cause various conditions from gastrointestinal disturbances to more serious complications.
Pregnant women, infants, the elderly, and people with a compromised immune system should avoid drinking chlorinated water.
The presence of chlorine is one of the reasons why people avoid drinking tap water and choose bottled water instead.
Along with chlorine, fluoridation has also been around for quite some time. It seems that while the benefits of chlorination are undisputed, the jury is still out on the benefits of fluoridation.
Those in favour argue that fluoride is added to water to help prevent tooth decay, others argue that its effects are marginal at best and that topical application by using toothpaste is far more efficient.
Because fluoride is also a toxic chemical, its ingestion should be avoided as it can cause a series of health problems including neurological issues and thyroid-related diseases.
Many countries have weighed the pros and cons of fluoridation and determined that the negatives outweigh the positive effects of fluoridation, therefore, deciding to discontinue fluoridation of municipal water supplies.
If you don’t like the idea of having fluoride in your tap water, there are various filters for fluoride removal that you can install in your home.
3. In-Transit Water Contamination
Besides being a cheap and relatively efficient way of eradicating harmful bacteria, chlorine is also used because of its staying power in water.
This means that chlorine will remain in water throughout its transit to your home, continuing to be efficient against bacteria that it encounters en-route to your home.
Still, in-transit water contamination can still occur through seepage through old or faulty water pipes, pipe corrosion, or contamination with chlorine-resistant microorganisms.
Therefore, while water treatment at the source may be efficient, water in transit to your home may not be of the same quality as it leaves the water treatment facility.
In this scenario, water treatment at the point of use becomes warranted.
4. Accidental Contamination at the Source
Although a rare occurrence, accidental contamination at the water treatment facility cannot be entirely excluded either.
Once the problem is discovered, the water treatment company will act swiftly to notify the public of the contamination, issuing water boil notices or notices to refrain from using tap water.
While a filter can’t protect you from all contamination issues, it reduces the risk of encountering problems from an accidental contamination at the source of water treatment.
5. Water Palatability
Let’s face it, tap water tastes bad. Whether it’s chlorine or other taste issue, tap water usually has an off-putting taste.
As with harmful contamination issues, more innocuous contaminants that cause taste and odour issues can also be solved with a filter.
If taste is the only issue standing in the way of you drinking tap water instead of bottled water, rest assured that a filter will help you overcome this hurdle.
As you can see, even though tap water has many benefits lined up in its favour (it’s convenient, it’s cheap, it’s eco-friendlier compared to bottled water), it still has its shortcomings. Nothing that can’t be fixed, though, especially with the help of water filtration.
6. Private Water Sources
Private water sources (wells, boreholes, etc.), don’t go through the municipal water filtration system, and therefore, should always be tested for contaminants and filtered accordingly.
Benefits of Water Filtration
Filtering tap water has several benefits that once you’ve become familiarised with, you’re bound to view filtered tap water as a far superior choice compared to bottled water.
Here are the benefits that make water filtration an appealing alternative to plastic bottled water:
1. Customisable Contaminant Removal
Yes, filters can remove a wide range of contaminants, but one of the key benefits is customizability of contaminant removal.
What this essentially means is that you can have chemical-free hard water flowing from your kitchen tap (if you want to drink hard water for its cardiovascular benefits) and have chemical-free and limescale-free water for your water heater, washing machine and other large equipment that uses water.
Since there are so many filtration devices both for point-of-use and whole house water filtration, it’s easy to remove undesirable contaminants regardless of the point of use.
2. Easy Access
Even though bottled water is convenient and available at every store, tap water also allows easy access to potable drinking water.
Plus, you never have to worry about running out of water or remembering to add water to your shopping cart. With portable filters, you can even filter water on the go regardless of your destination.
Plastic pollution has become a major issue worldwide. Oceans, rivers, landfills are all contaminated with microplastics to the extent that they have been found even in organisms living in the deepest trenches of the ocean bed.
It’s no secret that the plastic bottle industry is one of the major contributors. In addition to this, only a small fraction of plastics ends up recycled.
Having a plumbed-in filter system or a portable filter significantly reduces your need for bottled water, which is great news for the environment.
It’s a misconception that filters are expensive. The emergence of newer filtration technologies and the competition between different manufacturers has led to better and more affordable solutions.
You can find reliable filters at every price range to enjoy superior quality water without having to buy any bottled water.
Potential Issues with At-Home Water Filtration
Those that argue that water filtration has no added benefits and tap water is already professionally filtered, also point out that any added benefits may be undermined by the failure of filters owners to replace filter cartridges on time.
As contaminants accumulate and get trapped into the filter material, the capacity of these filters to remove further contaminants decreases, hence the need to replace the filter material.
If it’s not replaced, bacteria can develop along with mould, both of which can transfer into the drinking water.
This can lead to problems that go beyond water taste and odour issues, causing health issues even.
Therefore, it’s crucial that if you install a water filter, you also make sure it’s operating as intended. Namely that you replace all its cartridges on time and perform any other maintenance related task that’s required.
Water Filters that are Worth It
Any filter that can improve the quality of your tap water and help you transition from bottled water to tap water is worth it in our opinion.
However, in some cases, certain filters are more worth it than others. For example, undersink filters that feature mixed-media cartridges or multiple cartridges are preferable over filters or filter jugs that have a single type of filter material.
If you’re going to install a filter in your home, make sure it’s one that integrates filter cartridges that can remove all the harmful or undesirable contaminants from your tap water or private water source.
If you want to switch to tap water without having to worry about the long-term effects of chlorine, fluoride and other chemical by-products, water filters can help you with that.
Same goes for purifying drinking water sources in areas that don’t have municipal water. If you install a filter that’s going to remove problematic contaminants from your water supply and you’re going to make sure it’s well maintained, then installing a water filter is absolutely worth it for you.