Safe drinking water on the road

Safe drinking water on the road

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Water — that life-sustaining drink. Once you exclude fat from your body mass (who among us wouldn’t like to do that?), about 70 percent of what remains is water. The average human sucks up over a half gallon of the stuff a day.

But is that “cool, clear water” that you consume safe? It’s one thing to determine if the water supply at your home base is safe — it’s quite another to know what you’re putting in your fresh water tank when on the road. If you do most of your RVing while attached to city water supplies at, say, an RV park or public campground, your water supply is more than likely inspected by a government agency and likely meets those EPA “safe to drink for healthy people” standards.

If you get your water from a well or some type of unknown source, drinking water issues could become a much greater concern. An appropriate water filter system may be what you’ll want to install. But what if you don’t want the hassle of installing or maintaining a water system? The alternative is bottled water. Is it any better than tap water?

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) undertook a four-year study of bottled water and came up with some interesting findings: Of 1,000 bottles tested, 25 percent were simply bottled tap water. Most of the “tap water” bottles were safe; however, some did have contaminants that could cause problems for folks with weakened immune systems.

Read the label on the bottle. If it says, “From a municipal source” or “From a community water system,” then it’s probably just tap water. The label will usually indicate if additional treatment has been given the water once it left the city tap. The NRDC suggests if you’re concerned about drinking water quality, then buy bottled water from companies that get their water from a known, reliable source.

What about water sold out of vending machines? It’s not bottled water, nor is it as regulated as bottled water. Typically — but not necessarily — it comes from a municipal source line, and that has to meet drinking water standards. But the actual machines and their maintenance fall under local law.

Vended water is not considered bottled water and is not regulated as such. The water source for vending machines is typically the local public water supply, which must be in compliance with EPA drinking water standards. Additional treatment may occur to reduce dissolved substances and disinfect the water supply. While the water going into the machine may be potable and clean, don’t expect what comes out of the machine to necessarily be in the same state.

One California study revealed that supermarket vending machines had much higher bacterial counts than plain tap water. At that time the local director for water quality told reporters, “You’re safer drinking the tap water. Not only are you safer, but you’re paying, oh, let’s see, about 250 times less per gallon.”

Ah, it’s almost enough to make you swear off water and turn to something else.

photo:  Vladimir Menkov on wikimedia commons

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