Bottled Water, Filters, Chlorine, and Why I Drink From the Shower

When the water crisis in Flint, Mich., started to gain national attention, I took notice, as did all concerned citizens. I was horrified at the images of the murky, discolored water coming out of their taps. No one should be subjected to drinking water that can make them ill.

While I was confident my own tap water was pristine, I decided to do some investigating anyway. And I didn’t like what I found.

Chlorine

I was living in Madison, Wis., at the time, where there probably won’t be a Flint-level crisis anytime soon. Still, when I looked up their freely available water quality report, some things stood out to me.

I was disturbed by the fact that all the water is treated with chlorine. You know, just that chemical we use to clean pools. The one that’s known to interact with other chemicals in the water and create toxic, cancer-causing compounds.

Please don’t instantly assume I’m some kind of conspiracy theorist nut. I understand that we’ve been using chlorine to disinfect our water supply for over a hundred years. I know that it’s greatly reduced the amount of illnesses contracted from public drinking water.

I’m not an H2O Luddite — I have no desire to return to the days when people thought a witch’s curse was real and you could contract typhoid from a drinking fountain. I just want to explain what I found when analyzing the additives in our water supplies. And chlorine was just the start.

Chloramine

I have high health standards for myself, so I try to avoid drinking chemicals ordinarily reserved for cleaning swimming pools. Furthermore, Madison’s latest water quality report admits that people undergoing chemotherapy or who have otherwise compromised immune systems might want to take special precautions before drinking the tap water. That is because, even in minuscule doses, certain chemicals in our water supplies can have negative effects.

Reading about the potential dangers associated with chlorine naturally led me to articles about chloramine, an ammonia derivative that, like chlorine, is used to treat municipal water supplies.

Fans of chloramine like it because it’s more stable than chlorine and lasts longer in the water supply. Unsurprisingly, not everyone thinks that’s a good thing. Chloramine has known harmful properties, and it can leach lead from pipes as well.

There’s been very little research into the overall safety of chloramine, and the EPA itself admits that it is a “probable human carcinogen.

I know, I know: There are many things we consume that may increase our risk of cancer, from booze to baconI’m not advocating we all live in a bubble. I just want to drink the purest water possible without paying a lot of money for it.

My Water Filter Solution

Taking into consideration my newfound fears of these chemicals, I decided to explore ways I could get healthier water at an inexpensive price.

The cost factor instantly removed bottled water from the equation. Besides the fact that much of it is functionally the same as tap water, bottled water is quite expensive as well. Some estimates put the cost of bottled water at 2,000 times that of drinking water out of the tap

I didn’t want to join the segment of the American population that spends almost $12 billion per year on bottled water, much of which is essentially coming out of a garden hose at some Coca-Cola factory. I decided I ought to look into a water filter. 

Since I don’t own my home, I had to limit myself to solutions that could be applied at the tap. After much research, I decided on a setup that tag teams the chlorine and chloramines in my water supply with Vitamin C filters and a state- of-the-art shower head/filter combo. I found this setup strikes a good balance for me, eliminating a high percentage of the cleaning chemicals in the water at an affordable price point.  

I decided to go with a shower filter because, according to the group Citizens Concerned About Chloramine, your greatest exposure to chloramine and chlorine actually comes not from drinking water, but from showering in it.

That means I just fill up my drinking water containers from the shower. Does this lead to quizzical looks when I have guests over? It sure does.

Do I care? Not one bit.

When you’re hanging out at Drew’s place, you’re drinking shower water. Once I give my impassioned case as to why I do this, I’ve never had a guest turn it down.

Cost Breakdown

My filters cost me a total of $99.58. With the replacement filters that came with my purchase, this will last me at least a year.

With the average person spending $1.22 per gallon for bottled water, the savings add up fast once you switch to filters. If my girlfriend and I drink bottled water and consume 16 cups per day between us, it would cost us $445 per year to drink bottled water — and that’s assuming we’re buying it by the gallon, not in 16-oz. bottles.

That’s $345 per year we can save with our filters — not to mention the peace of mind that we’re not drinking and bathing in pool water.

While that may not sound like a ton of money, little changes add up over time. If we took that $345 yearly savings and invested it each year, after 30 years we’d have an additional $46,000 in retirement savings, assuming an 8% growth rate.

And as for the flavor? I can confirm that this filter system makes the water taste great. Not ice-cold-Perrier-straight-from-the-bottle great, but it’s more than good enough for me and my girlfriend.

If you want to tailor a water filter setup to your personal needs, the National Sanitation Foundation offers a nifty tool for you to do just that. It allows you to select all the parameters that concern you about water safety and then spits out a variety of filtration options that will do the trick for you. 

Summing Up

Maybe one day I’ll have a kitchen sink big enough to handle my water-filter setup, so I can install filters there as well. Or, more likely, the technology will advance and the filters will get smaller. It would be nice if I wasn’t known among my friends as the Shower Water Guy.

But, I’m willing to embrace that label as long as it means we’ve got clean, affordable water. I recommend trying out a water filtration system. You can hedge your bets against the potential dangers of additives in the water supply, and save significant money by never paying for bottled water again.

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