5 On Your Side

What's in your water? Here's how to see if it's safe

Posted January 23, 2020 6:15 p.m. EST
Updated January 23, 2020 6:40 p.m. EST

Most people just expect the water from their tap to come out clear and clean.

According to EPA data, most municipal water in the United States appears to be safe to drink, free of harmful
contaminants. But how can you be sure the water passing through your pipes and into your tap is safe?

“Finding out if your water is safe enough to drink can take some time, effort and money. But it’s definitely worth doing,” says Perry Santanachote of Consumer Reports.

Those connected to a community water system who pay their own bill, should receive an annual water quality report called a CCR, or Consumer Confidence Report.

If you don’t have one, call your local water supplier. If you rent, contact your landlord.

If you’re on a non-community public water system or use a private well, you won’t get a CCR.

In that case, Consumer Reports recommends getting your water tested once a year and anytime you notice a change in taste, color or odor.

You should also get your water tested if your home was built before 1986, when lead-free pipes were mandated.

The EPA recommends having your drinking water tested by contacting a laboratory certified by your state or territory.

If tests show contaminants, it’s time to get the right filter to clean it up.

“For multiple or high levels of contaminants, a reverse osmosis system is recommended," said Santanachote. "If your main concern is improving taste and odor, the filters that are used in pitchers are actually really affordable and work great. Some can even handle more serious contaminants like lead.”

In Consumer Reports’ testing, only one pitcher-style filter rated excellent: the PUR Ultimate with Lead Reduction.

No matter which filters you choose, make sure they meet standards set by NSF International and the American National Standards Institute for removing the contaminants you’re concerned about, and that's certified by an independent lab.

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