Boiled, Bottled, and UV: What's the Best Way to Filter Your Water?
Too often, we blindly trust the drinking water that we buy from the grocery store or even get from our own faucets without questioning the filtration or safety tests it’s gone through. Why? Because We need eight glasses a day alone to keep our body temperature regulated, resist dehydration, and maintain daily functioning of our organs.
What we put into our bodies isn’t always publicly known. Even though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have set regulations that keep public distribution of water in check, how much do we really know about what kind of water we are receiving and what kind is best for our health?
For far too long, we have heard about or experienced public health advisories about boiling water, but how many people actually stop to think how or if that works or why these advisories are given so often? For example, in 2018, Austin, Texas experienced severe flooding. Two weeks of intense flooding caused the municipal water system to be contaminated with silt and sediment. When the city could not filter the water quickly enough for its residents, people either had to run to the stores for bottled water or take the time to disinfect their tap water through the boiling process.
But was buying or boiling water the best way to avoid all the contaminants in the unsafe drinking water? Let’s take a look at the differences between the well-known process of boiling water, the newer process of ultraviolet (UV) filtration, and the simple purchasing of bottled water.
Analyzing Boiled Water
During the time of Austin’s 2018 boil-water advisory, the city’s municipal facility could not guarantee that the water sent to each home was free of contaminants. Not only was the water full of silt and sediment, it was also possibly teeming with harmful microorganisms.
We all know boiling to be one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to disinfect our water. But how does it actually work to kill those microorganisms within?
First, it is important to know what you will find in untreated water. The three main categories are bacteria, viruses, and/or protozoans. With these come specific microorganisms which include:
- Bacteria: Organisms and parasites such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Vibrio cholerae.
- Viruses: Infectious microorganisms such as rotaviruses, Hepatitis A., and Adenovirus.
- Protozoans: Single-celled organisms such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
Many of these cause digestive problems, flu-like symptoms, or even serious illness in humans. The good thing is that these organisms cannot survive over a temperature of 100° Celsius (212° Fahrenheit)—otherwise known as the boiling point.
However, there are a few disadvantages to boiling water. Water must be boiled for at least one minute for ultimate purity. This is a slow process that cannot produce large amounts of disinfected water at once for a family.
Additionally, boiling is not a form of sterilization, but pasteurization. That means it does not kill all the organisms and contaminants in the water. For example, boiling leads to the evaporation of water, which serves to concentrate lead rather than boiling it off. Chlorine and chloramines, on the other hand, are killed only with higher boiling points and longer boiling times.
So while it’s helpful to boil the bacteria and viruses out of their drinking water, this is not the more effective solution for the removal of silt, sedment, and 100% of microorganisms. Because common household filtration systems are not fully equipped to clean water thoroughly, many people during the Austin crisis opted for bottled water.
Analyzing Bottled Water
When it comes to bottled water, it has always been easy to buy, transport, and maybe too easy to trust. There is a lot we do not know about its production.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the standards and regulations of tap water. This agency enforces water testing, public reporting of water sourcing, and the suppliance of “Performance Data Sheets” demonstrating the products’ ability to remove certain contaminants. The result is trustworthy home water treatment.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about bottled water. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the regulations concerning bottled water. Although they have similar standards to the EPA, oversight is notoriously slack on the FDA’s part: According to a report from the New York Times, “the FDA does not require bottled water companies to disclose to consumers where the water came from, how it has been treated or what contaminants it contains”.
In other words, the FDA treats bottled water as a food; therefore, while regulated more strictly, it is principally a self-policed industry. This means no certified lab testing or violation reporting is necessary.
What the FDA does offer consumers are different regulations for the many classifications of bottled water, as well as purification treatment standards that originate from municipal sources.
The following are deemed as acceptable forms of treatment:
- Distillation: Water is heated, evaporates, and molecules left behind are separated from the vapor before the vapor is cooled back down.
- Reverse Osmosis (RO): Pressure is forced upon water; the water is pushed through a semipermeable membrane to remove molecules.
- Absolute 1-Micron Filtration: No particle in water larger than 1-micron can pass through this kind of filter.
- Ozonation: Ozone (O3) is used as an oxidant at different points during treatment and can remove bacteria or other organic and inorganic pollutants.
The FDA enforces a limit 5 parts per billion (ppb) of lead in bottled water, whereas the EPA must maintain a higher limit of 15 ppb due to the water’s increased exposure to lead pipes. While it has the tendency to be trustworthy, bottled water can become expensive; not to mention, we must monitor the build-up of plastic used to contain it.
If boiled water cannot fulfill the job and bottled water still has its risks, then filtration must be the answer. However, bottled water can often be an easier solution for times when not at home such as camping, backpacking, or traveling. What kinds of drinking water filtration systems will ensure that every family is safe—even during a boil-water advisory?
Analyzing UV Filtration
Ultraviolet filtration is the environmentally safest ways to kill harmful microorganisms in water. The UV filter alters the DNA of microorganisms via UV light, destroying microorganisms and their ability to reproduce. This process is also EPA approved and does not use any added chemicals during the process.
How does it work? A UV bulb within a filter gives off ultraviolet light. As water passes around it, the light penetrates the cell walls and damages the DNA of the microbes present in the water. Under such conditions, the viruses, bacteria, and protozoa mentioned above cannot reproduce and spread to humans at dangerous rates.
In addition to all these benefits, a UV filter can easily installed in less than an hour, is hidden away, and is long-lasting and leak-proof. Although it requires electricity to work, you only need a little bit of energy to get it clean 100 gallons of water per day. It is 99.9% effective against over 300 impurities—and all you need to do as a homeowner is change the UV lamp for upkeep every 6-12 months.
Like all technologies, not all filters and UV lights are created equal, so we recommend choosing a system that:
- Is certified to NSF standards P231 and 244 (meaning it has been tested and proven effective for the reduction of microbiological contaminants in boil-water advisories)
- Has been independently tested to kill or remove bacteria and viruses, like our reverse osmosis systems with UV Filters that remove 99.99% of viruses, bacteria, and cysts.
While all three methods discussed work to disinfect water, it is clear that UV filtration is the most trustworthy solution for the purification of drinking water in your home. It offers the protection necessary for pure, clear, and healthy water that keeps your body going strong every day.