It's Not Just Water Under the Bridge
Americans want better drinking water -- and are doing something about it
Did you know nearly 90 percent of Americans have a serious drinking problem? The problem? Significant concern about the quality and taste of their drinking water.
That's according to the results of a new 2001 National Consumer Water Quality Survey which analyzed respondents' perceptions about their household water supply and other home water quality issues.
This study, conducted and released in May 2001 by the Water Quality Association, found that nearly nine out of 10 American consumers have serious, overall concerns about their drinking water. In particular this included:
Two-thirds have aesthetic problems with their water: its smell or taste, hardness or appearance
More than half are concerned about possible health contaminants
Almost half are worried about sediments in their water
In addition, nearly half of all respondents (49 percent) believe federal drinking water laws should be stricter, and one in every three Americans (32 percent) believes household drinking water isn't as safe as it should be.
The study also noted a significant increase in both the uses of bottled water and home water treatment devices (the latter now up to 41 percent compared to 38 percent in 1999, and up from 32 percent in 1997). Respondents said they purchased and used filtration devices because they not only wanted to improve the taste of their tap water, but also because they believed it was safer.
"Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink"
The above cry was from a thirsty sailor at sea made famous in S.T. Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and that cry now echoes the feelings in close to half of America's homes, as evidenced by their purchase of some type of water filtering device. That number doesn't even include all the consumers who purchase bottled water, which is now close to being a $5.2 billion-a-year industry, according to the New York-based consulting group, Beverage Marketing Corp. However, home water treatment systems are gaining in popularity because of not only the high cost of bottled water, but also the ongoing maintenance of purchasing and transporting large bottles or heavy cases of the wet stuff.
This is why today's consumer has so many options to get better tasting and healthier water, thanks to a vast number of home water filtration devices now available. These come in varying degrees of style, convenience, filtration features, prices, and have different features and levels of necessary maintenance.
All are good for improving water taste and decreasing odors, with some also designed to filter out lead, chemicals and potential health risks like bacteria. Before purchasing a unit, check with your community's local water utility or have your water quality checked. Then you can look into a water treatment system that will meet your filtration, budget and lifestyle needs.
Some of the more popular options, and their 'pros' and 'cons' include:
Water pitchers or carafes: These allow you to directly pour water into them, then wait while the water runs through a filter.
Pros: This is the largest portion of water filtering category, because pitchers are cost effective (they start at under $20), and require little maintenance and no installation. Brita, Culligan and Teledyne are some of the more popular models and all provide varying shapes and sizes of pitchers as well as different levels of filtration.
Cons: Pitchers can take up considerable room on the countertop and in the refrigerator. Plus, there's often a lot of neglect refilling them (like the, "Hey, who didn't fill the water pitcher?" factor). It can take more than 7-10 minutes to filter just one or two gallons.
At-The-Tap systems: These models are faucet attachments that convert tap water directly into filtered water.
Pros: Also cost-efficient, tap attachments are usually available from $30 -- $100, and now, too, offer different levels of filtering. They provide filtered water with just a knob turn, and are fairly easy to install. PUR, GE and Culligan are among market leaders.
Cons: Perceived as big and clunky, faucet attachments tend to stick out, and usually do not mesh with most kitchen decor. They also provide a very slow flow rate, often under a half-gallon per minute.
Filtering faucet systems: One of the most recent introductions, these are single-unit faucets with filters directly built in the faucet.
Pros: These systems provide significant convenience -- Moen's PureTouch system, for example, filters cold water directly through a separate port and provides filtered water at the touch of a button. It also has a visual indicator to let you know when its filter needs to be replaced. These and other filtering faucets provide great tasting water with style and functionality, including some models with pullout and multi-function spray patterns. The filters tend to be easy to change, as they are often located right in the spout.
Cons: Initial cost on these units starts at $175, depending on choice of style, function and finish. But over the long run, they can actually save money compared to purchasing bottled water. In fact, they can produce filtered water for 95 percent less per gallon than the bottled kind.
Undermount systems: These models directly connect to the water supply lines and fit under the sink in the kitchen or bathroom.
Pros: These systems often feature larger, longer-lasting filters, which can also filter out more impurities. This means fewer filter changes, and increased filtration to eliminate more chemicals and contaminants. They sometimes provide a faster flow of filtered water as well.
Cons: You have to go under the sink to change filters, and they require installing a separate water spigot -- usually an unattractive, generic-looking fixture. However, Moen's new AquaSuite provides filtered water with a stylish faucet fixture available in 12 durable finishes (this system also provides great tasting water in the bathroom for taking medicine, brushing teeth or meeting those late night "can I have a drink of water?" requests).
Reverse osmosis systems: Available as under-the-sink or whole-house conditioning systems, these are multi-filter devices which push the water through a series of membranes to achieve filtration and require a separate water spigot.
Pros: These systems provide a very high level of filtration, particularly when coupled with whole house conditioners, to achieve one of the highest levels of mineral and bacteria filtration. This combined system, available from manufacturers like RainSoft or EcoWater, can include filtered water for not only drinking purposes, but even for bathing and washing clothes.
Cons: A complete system is very costly, starting at well over $1,000, although there are less expensive ones for drinking water only (their manufacturers usually recommend complementing these with whole-house softeners if you have hard water). These also require more maintenance than other systems and can waste two to five gallons of water for every purified gallon produced.
"So, What's The Right System for Me?"
When purchasing a water treatment system, remember to keep in mind the unit's ease of maintenance, as well as the length of time between filter changes and amount of water they filter. Look for units that signal when their cartridges need to be replaced, provide easy-to-find replacement cartridges, and can even supply replacement parts, if necessary.
It's also important to look for units that are certified by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), which qualifies filtration claims made by manufacturers. Different levels of filtration are available among these systems and vary, depending upon the homeowners' choice of filtering needs and costs.
While the primary consumer concern is to eliminate water odor and improve taste, which usually means filtering out chlorine, other materials buyers want to filter out can include minerals and chemicals (lead, lindone, atrazine, mercury, turbidity, arsenic), microscopic cysts (cryptosporidium and giardia), and other bacteria.
The National Consumer Water Quality Survey noted that 95 percent of its respondents said they were satisfied with the effectiveness of their home water treatment system, with another one out of 10 looking to add a system. So it looks like the people have spoken -- no matter how you filter it, the drinks are on the house.
For more information about Moen's PureTouch filtering faucet and PureTouch AquaSuite, contact Moen Incorporated at 25300 Al Moen Drive, North Olmsted, Ohio 44070-8022, call toll free 1 (877) DRINK-H2O (877-374-6542) or visit its Web sites at www.pure-touch.com or www.moen.com.
About The Author
Courtesy ARA Content, www.ARAcontent.com; e-mail: info@ARAcontent.com
Moen Incorporated is one of the world's largest producers of residential and commercial plumbing products. Moen is the #1 brand of faucets in North America. The company manufactures a complete line of single and two-handle faucets in a wide assortment of styles and finishes. It is also a leading producer of residential and commercial sinks, a variety of shower accessories, bathroom accessories and a complete line of plumbing parts and accessories (sold under the trade names Moen, Chicago Specialty, Cleveland Faucet Group, CSI Bath Furnishings, Dearborn Brass, Hoov-R-Line and Wrightway Manufacturing).
Moen Incorporated is an operating company of Fortune Brands, Inc. (NYSE: FO, www.fortunebrands.com), the consumer products company, with headquarters in Lincolnshire, IL.
The Water Quality Association is a nonprofit, international trade association representing retailers, dealers, manufacturers and suppliers in the household, commercial, industrial and small system water treatment industry. For more information about home water treatment issues, from an interactive search engine that helps "diagnose" contaminants in water to an overview of water treatment technologies and their capabilities, visit the WQA Web site at www.wqa.org.