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Frequently Asked Questions About Drinking Water

What is Reverse Osmosis (RO)?

Two of the most cost effective ways to enjoy great tasting water in your home are with a bottled water cooler or with a home reverse osmosis (RO) system.

In simple terms, reverse osmosis is the process by which water molecules are forced through a semi-permeable membrane under pressure. Reverse osmosis systems provide filtered water everywhere, from homes and commercial applications like restaurants and hotels, to breweries and car washes, and even the space shuttle!

Household RO systems typically filter water using the following steps:

  1. Raw tap water first flows through a sediment filter to remove dirt, rust and other solid objects.
  2. The water then flows into a carbon filter that takes out 98% of the chlorine and organic chemicals.
  3. The next stage is the reverse osmosis membrane which separates 70-99% of the dissolved contaminants from the water molecules. These removed impurities are rinsed down the drain producing the final product, “pure water”.
  4. This water is stored in a reservoir tank typically located underneath the kitchen sink and is accessed with a separate faucet.
  5. When you open the valve the water is filtered one last time with a carbon block “polishing filter” right before it reaches your glass

Using a quality RO membrane as a strainer is typically much better than a faucet mounted filter alone. Under magnification the pores of a RO membrane are undetectable, while the pores of a pleated filter are easily seen. Reverse osmosis treatment generally removes a more diverse list of contaminants than other systems. RO can remove nitrates, sodium, and other dissolved inorganic and organic compounds.

A Culligan® Drinking Water System puts clean, refreshing water right in your kitchen. With a range of compact and attractive designs, our systems fit conveniently in out-of-the-way places.

What’s the difference between various kinds of bottled waters?

Have you purchased bottled water lately? Did you notice all the different and often confusing varieties that are now available? Water that is classified as “bottled water” or “drinking water” is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to maintain certain standards.

According to the FDA, for a product to be considered “bottled water,” it cannot contain sweeteners or chemical additives (other than flavors, extracts or essences) and must be calorie-free and sugar-free. Flavors, extracts and essences — derived from spice or fruit — can be added to bottled water, but these additions must comprise less than one percent by weight of the final product. Beverages containing more than the one-percent-by-weight flavor limit are classified as soft drinks, not bottled water.

The FDA defines the various water types as follows:

  • Artesian Water: Bottled water from a well that taps a confined aquifer (a
    water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand).
  • Mineral Water: Contains no less than 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids (minerals). No minerals can be added to this product.
  • Purified Water: Water labeled as “purified” can be derived from either distillation, deionization or reverse osmosis.
  • Sparkling Water: Water that after treatment and possible replacement with carbon dioxide contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source. (An important note: soda water, seltzer water and tonic water are not considered bottled waters. They are regulated separately and may contain sugar and calories. These types of waters are considered soft drinks.)
  • Spring Water: Bottled water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth

Your local Culligan® Dealer delivers crystal clear bottled water in a variety of sizes in Spring Water (1, 2.5, 3 and 5 Gallon); Distilled Water (1 Gallon); Pure Drinking Water (20oz, 24oz, 1/2 liter, 1 liter and 1 1/2 liter, 1 gallon, 2.5 gallon, 3 gallon, 5 gallon). Contact your local Culligan Dealer to find out what products he carries, and to discuss your water needs.

How much water should I drink each day?  

Water is critical in regulating all body organs and temperature, and dissolving solids and moving nutrients throughout the body. Because water is naturally low in sodium, has no fat, cholesterol or caffeine and isn’t flushed straight through the body like many other beverages, it’s the natural solution to help reach your body’s daily fluid quota.

How much water should you consume? Most adults need eight to twelve 8-ounce glasses of water or fluids daily, but needs vary by activity level, health circumstances (including pregnancy) and even by age. For example, a 60-pound child would need a minimum of at least 30 ounces of water a day, or about three to four glasses. But a 180-pound man would need about 90 ounces of water a day or about 11-12 glasses. And people may need more water as they age, since thirst signals may become dull, activity levels decline and prescription drugs may dehydrate their bodies further.

How can I encourage better hydration in my family?  

Here are some tips to help you get serious about water while keeping your hydration habits fresh and tasty at the same time:

  • Pour the water into an attractive glass or easy-to-use water bottle.
  • Add ice, and a slice of lemon or lime.
  • Chill your water.
  • Drink moderate-size portions spread over the course of a day, rather than trying to drink it all at one time.
  • Make drinking water a habit — drinking water at the same time each day will make it much easier to remember

How could coliform bacteria affect water quality?  

What are coliforms? Coliforms are bacteria that are always present in the digestive tracts of animals, including humans, and are found in their wastes. They are also found in plant and soil material. The most basic test for bacterial contamination of a water supply is the test for total coliform bacteria. Total coliform counts give a general indication of the sanitary condition of a water supply.

Here’s a look at coliforms in general:

  • Total coliforms include bacteria that are found in the soil, in water that has been influenced by surface water, and in human or animal waste.
  • Fecal coliforms are the group of the total coliforms that are considered to be present specifically in the gut and feces of warm-blooded animals. Because the origins of fecal coliforms are more specific than the origins of the more general total coliform group of bacteria, fecal coliforms are considered a more accurate indication of animal or human waste than the total coliforms.
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the major species in the fecal coliform group. Of the five general groups of bacteria that comprise the total coliforms, only E. coli is generally not found growing and reproducing in the environment. Consequently, E. coli is considered to be the species of coliform bacteria that is the best indicator of fecal pollution and the possible presence of pathogens.

Are Coliform Bacteria Harmful? Most coliform bacteria do not cause disease. However, some rare strains of E. coli, particularly the strain 0157:H7, can cause serious illness. Recent outbreaks of disease caused by E. coli 0157:H7 have generated much public concern about this organism. E. coli 0157:H7 has been found in cattle, chickens, pigs, and sheep. Most of the reported human cases have been due to eating under cooked hamburger. Cases of E. coli 0157:H7 caused by contaminated drinking water supplies are rare. Water pollution caused by fecal contamination is a serious problem due to the potential for contracting diseases from pathogens (diseasecausing organisms). Frequently, concentrations of pathogens from fecal contamination are small, and the number of different possible pathogens is large. As a result, it is not practical to test for pathogens in every water sample collected. Instead, the presence of pathogens is determined with indirect evidence by testing for an “indicator” organism such as coliform bacteria.

Coliforms come from the same sources as pathogenic organisms. Coliforms are relatively easy to identify, are usually present in larger numbers than more dangerous pathogens, and respond to the environment, wastewater treatment, and water treatment similarly to many pathogens. As a result, testing for coliform bacteria can be a reasonable indication of whether other pathogenic bacteria are present. A number of bacteria occur naturally in freshwater streams. Some are found living in the water and sediments as photosynthetic autotrophs or a saphrophytes living on dead matter. Others exist in or on other organisms as mutual symbiotes (providing some benefit to the host organisms in exchange for a place to live), commensuals (neither helping nor harming the host), or parasites (utilizing the host in a way that causes harm). Certain bacteria that live in the intestinal tracts of animals are essential for the recovery of nutrients from digested food. Millions of these naturally occurring organisms are passed out of the body with fecal wastes.

If pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms are present, they may be passed as well. When a stream is polluted by fecal material, pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites may be introduced, posing a health hazard to those who come in contact with the water. Municipal and rural water supplies can transmit human diseases such as cholera (Vibrio cholerae), typhoid fever (Salmonella typhi), shigellosis (Shigella), salmonellosis (Salmonella), and gastroenteritis (Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli, Giardia lamblia). The threat of such disease transmission becomes more serious as the population density increases and more sewage pollutes public water supplies, carrying with it human intestinal pathogens. Rather than test water directly for pathogens, which can be difficult, expensive and even hazardous, researchers use indicator organisms to assess the possibility of fecal contamination. Fecal coliform bacteria, members of the family Enterobacteriacae, which include Escherichia coli , Citrobacter, Enterobacter and Klebsiella species, are often used as indicators.

These gram negative bacilli (rod shaped bacteria) are found in the digestive tracts of all warm-blooded animals. Most are not pathogenic. However, because they are eliminated with feces, they are sometimes associated with pathogens such as Vibrio cholera bacteria or a form of Hepatitus virus that is found in the digestive tract. Total coliform bacteria counts are sometimes used to test for water contamination also. These organisms are less precise as fecal contamination indicators because many can live and reproduce in soil and water, without having a human host. If high numbers of fecal coliform bacteria are found in a sample of stream water, one may conclude that there has been recent fecal contamination, although not necessarily human in origin. Other intestinal bacteria, such as streptococci or enterococci, may have a stronger correlation to human sewage, but no indicator has been identified that is exclusive to humans.

The ratio of streptococci to fecal coliform was once thought to determine human versus animal fecal contamination. But, this is no longer though to be reliable because streptococci do not persist long in an open water environment, making it difficult to assess true concentrations. Enterococcal bacteria seem to be consistently associated with human sewage and subsequent diseases, but testing for these organisms involves a lengthy and complicated procedure. Despite the fact that they can not be linked directly to contamination by human sewage, fecal coliform bacteria counts are often used to regulate surface waters for recreational use, shellfishing, and potability (ability to be safely consumed). Federal regulations stipulate maximun allowable numbers of these bacteria for various uses.

If fecal coliform counts are high (over 200 colonies per 100 ml of water sample) in the river or stream, there is a greater chance that pathogenic organisms are also present. A person swimming in such water has a greater chance of getting sick from swallowing disease-causing organisms, or from pathogens entering the body through cuts in skin, the nose, mouth, or the ears. Diseases and illnesses such as typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, dysentery, and ear infections can be contracted in waters with high fecal coliform counts.

Is It Safe to Drink The Water Directly from a Private Well  

For most people, their drinking water is regulated by federal and state governments since they receive their water through community supplies. However, about 15% of Americans have their own source of water, through a private wells or springs on their property. The government does not regulate these water sources, and therefore, homeowners need to pay closer attention to the safety of their drinking water.

Most groundwater is dubbed safe, but people should have it tested periodically. Groundwater that fills wells can sometimes become contaminated, although the deeper the well, the less likely it is to be ridden with bad things. Some elements it picks up from rocks. But run-off pollutants can also seep into groundwater. Things like microorganisms, heavy metals, lead, copper, household waste, fluoride and more can all be found in traces in ground water.

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 does not include private wells. However, looking at the requirements for that on the EPA website can give well-owners an idea of what the acceptable levels are for these many contaminants. Local health departments are also very helpful in providing information and assistance with well testing. Even some local college with environmental science programs can sometimes aid in testing water quality.

Risk of contamination depends on many things, such as how well your well was built, where it is located, and how well you maintain it. It also depends on your local environment, which includes the quality of the aquifer from which water is drawn and the human activities going on in the area near the well. An example could be being near farm animals, industries, etc.

It is important to test your well for pesticides, heavy metals and organic chemicals before you use the water for the first time. Also, annual tests for nitrate and coliform bacteria should be done annually, especially in areas without sewers. If you use a private laboratory to conduct the testing, nitrate and bacteria samples will typically cost between $10 and $20 to complete. Testing for other contaminants will be more expensive, such as testing for pesticides or organic chemicals– they can cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

In short, we do not recommend drinking water directly from your wells without any filtration/ protection, due to industrial contamination nowadays. We highly recommend that homeowners test their well water annually- make sure you’ve got safe drinking water, before consumption. After all, you OWN your well. So, you have the chance to always know what is in your water and can control the safety- without having to wait for a private company to tell you too late the water has a bug! Test annually and when you think there could be a problem. Otherwise, drink away.

Of course, it never hurts to play it safe and give yourself an extra piece of mind by installing a filter in your home system.

According to recent news and reports, most tap and well water in the U.S. are not safe for drinking due to heavy industrial and environmental pollution. Toxic bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals routinely penetrate and pollute our natural water sources making people sick while exposing them to long term health consequences such as liver damage, cancer and other serious conditions. We have reached the point where all sources of our drinking water, including municipal water systems, wells, lakes, rivers, and even glaciers, contain some level of contamination. Even some brands of bottled water have been found to contain high levels of contaminants in addition to plastics chemical leaching from the bottle.

A good water filtration system installed in your home is the only way to proactively monitor and ensure the quality and safety of your drinking water. Reverse osmosis water purification systems can remove 90-99% of all contaminants from city and well water to deliver healthy drinking water for you and your family.

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