Once upon a time there was a cloud…
And as is typically usual with many clouds just like it, we had rain falling from it.
But when that rain falls, it falls on what is commonly called a catchment. And the catchment is the area that surprisingly ‘catches’ the water that you drink. This could even be nowhere near where you live. It could be up in the hills or some other place, depending on where you’re actually reading this from.
So the water falls in the catchment and at this time, it’s relatively clean. We say relatively, because the atmosphere is not real clean either. So the rain is known to pick up stuff from within the atmosphere and interestingly enough… It actually lands on the ground a little acidic (heard of acid rain?). Which means it can actually take even more stuff out of the soil like heavy metals. That will from then on, remain in our water.
Anyway, some of that water makes its way through the ground into what we call the water table (Ground water). And even though any water that comes into the water table gets purified a little by the great filter that is the earth. It still needs a little more work even though some people are still happy to drink it.
This ground water can have a lot of other nasty stuff in it too – again, those beastly heavy metals. And a lot of Australian (because that’s where I am writing this from) water isn’t good for you. Because of the content of these metals that you really don’t want to be consuming.
We on the eastern coast of Australia are not too reliant on ground water. Instead, most of our supply comes from what is classed as surface water. Water that runs down the catchment, is stored in a dam. And it comes to you via those awfully nice people at the local civic water treatment plant.
And that’s how it works. The water runs across the ground. And along the way, it picks up all the stuff that’s on the ground with it. And what else runs around on the ground too? Wildlife, that’s what. They run around, pick up some ‘stuff’ to eat as food and drop other ‘stuff’. Domestic animals like cows and sheep do the same too. They walk around, eat and drop ‘stuff’ as they go.
And the point is, is that all that ‘stuff’, one way or the other, ends up in your domestic water supply. Which is ok if you’re a kangaroo, wallaby, sheep or a cow. Because intestinally speaking, you’re good with that kind of stuff. But we humans are a little more delicate than that. And are not designed to deal with the ‘horrid stuff’ like they can. We simply don’t have the antibodies for it.
So, for a quick fix…
Now when you think about water treatment, and what the council/water supply company kindly does for us. You may be shocked to learn that they only really concentrate on trying to get rid of the stuff that’s going to kill you quickly. Mainly because that’s the stuff that will get the most media coverage in a worst case scenario. They rarely concentrate on the goodies. That come from the stuff in the previously mentioned catchment that they are looking for; the bacteria, the cryptosporidium, giardia, e-coli, all those sorts of things, they are trying to get rid of. And they do all that in the treatment plants. Through processes like chlorination and sand filtering. Taking out the big chunks while trying to kill all the bacteria.
This is pretty good news for us.
As it means you’re probably not going to die through drinking your tap water.
However (again)… There’s a lot of other problems that come along with chlorination and one of those is that there’s a whole host of organic compounds already in the water that the chlorine changes from being harmless into being quite toxic. Chlorinated organics they’re called and there are more than 6000 of these different known compounds created through chlorine treatment. And chlorine itself is not good for you either… it is not healthy to drink water with chlorine in it. In its most simplistic terms, it’s like drinking bleach.
So while the water companies are concentrating on getting rid of the stuff that will kill you quickly. And believe me, they’re doing the best they can. They really are. It’s really bad news when a major outbreak of gastro breaks out. It’s not good for their business, or for the local health authority too.
And what about all of the daily basis little stuff that never really shows up? Where twenty or thirty years down the line, dying of cancers, or other diseases won’t even register on the radar. Because you can’t immediately put it down to the toxins left in there after you drank a glass or two 20 years ago?
So in all honesty, daily water treatment is like a huge balancing act.
Basically it’s a trade-off where they do something about this which means they can’t do anything about that.
So to quickly recap… There’s a whole lot of compounds created that are not immediately toxic. But must have some form of cumulative effect on us.
And then there’s another problem…
Your water has to now get from the water treatment plant to your tap. And on that journey, there’s a whole lot of other stuff that can happen. Because the water treatment plant could be thirty, forty or fifty odd or more kilometres away from you. And that means a whole lot of pipes, some of them in not so good a condition. Sudden changes in pressure can cause huge problems in a water supply pipes. Generally, when pressures drop, vacuums are created, along with back-flows.
Pressure differentials can be induced by many things. Like the ground changing – causing cracks in the pipes, people accidentally digging through them etc.
So now, the water that was treated at the treatment plant, was on its way to your house. It then has to go via the ground for a while. And then there are the other pipes that run alongside your water main, sewage pipes for instance. And sometimes our digger friend is more than capable of breaking through both pipes together. Inadvertently ‘connecting’ them together in their underground hiding place. Cross-contamination they call it, and unfortunately, it happens quite often too.
So even though the water was safe to drink when it left the treatment plant (if it was). By the time it gets to your tap you really don’t know what you are getting.
You honestly don’t know.
And there’s a whole lot of other stuff I can guarantee is in your water too. That you don’t even want to know about. One case in particular, was the Sydney water crisis. Where everybody in Brisbane was saying “Ha Ha don’t go to Sydney, they have bad water”.
The Cryptosporidium giardia thing.
Well at the time, Queensland deemed it fit to do something about this problem. And the thing they deemed to do was… NOT MEASURE FOR CRYPTOSPORIDIUM GIARDIA AT ALL!!
“We don’t want to know,” they said. And do you know why they don’t want to know? Because there is NOTHING they can do about it. There is no physical thing you can do at that kind of scale to get rid of Cryptosporidium giardia. So know this; it’s in your water, it’s in our water, it’s in every single water supply across the globe.
Everybody reading this will know of somebody who has had some form of giardia… OR a bit of a tummy bug… OR some degree of unexplained gastro-intestinal distress, at some time or other.
“It was probably just something in the water,” comes the off pat dismissal..
So the point is you don’t know. You really don’t know how pure your water is. Even if it was treated properly at the treatment plant, it came a long way to get to your door. A long, long, very long way.
And a lot of things can and do happen to it en-route…
So, it can therefore easily be concluded that the only sensible thing to do is… To treat all drinking water at the point of use. It’s the only way you can know for sure that what you’re getting is what you really want…
WATER… And none of that other stuff.