What Chemicals Are in Tap Water?
Water isn’t naturally clean. Your water is extracted from many natural sources including rivers, lakes, streams, springs, and wells. Particularly for the city of Phoenix, the Salt, Verde, and Colorado rivers are the valley’s major sources of untreated surface water, while some makes its way from the Agua Fria River as well. The rest of your drinking water comes from the City of Phoenix’s 20 groundwater wells throughout Arizona. So that might leave you wondering – what chemicals are really in your tap water?
Because the sources of your water are natural, there’s bound to be plenty of natural contaminants picked up and carried along the way into the city’s water supply. Some of the contaminants include organic matter, typically from animals and bacteria, or inorganic matter in the form of minerals or byproducts of human industry.
The presence of these contaminants is why the City of Phoenix has established five water treatment plants throughout the state. Water is channeled through these treatment facilities to eradicate much of the hazards naturally present in water extracted from natural sources.
Five stages to water treatment:
The typical 5 stages seen in any water treatment process are:
- Screening: preventing large debris such as plants, wood, or fish from being carried through the water treatment process.
- Coagulation and Flocculation: a chemical process that binds particles such as dirt, clay, and organic matter, making them too heavy to continue.
- Sedimentation: ridding of the pollutants from step one.
- Filtration: removing bacteria and other contaminants by passing water through physical elements such as carbon, sand, or gravel.
- Disinfection: a disinfectant, such as chlorine or chloramine, is added to the water to eliminate any remaining disease-causing microorganisms such as parasites, viruses, and bacteria.
Disinfection – the final step in the water treatment process – tends to be what’s most concerning about the state of our tap water when the city’s water supply reaches our homes. Because the city uses a chlorine disinfectant, one of the common chemicals used in water to rid of parasites and diseases, you might wonder…
Does tap water have chemicals like chlorine?
Short answer: Yes, there are chemicals in tap water, including chlorine, and is partly the reason why the typical components of tap water pollution are not just mineral and bacterial, but also chemical.
How dangerous is tap water?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the amount allowed for specific contaminants in publicly distributed water, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does the same for bottled water.
In fact, there’s a federally determined minimum amount of chlorine disinfectant required in your water before it leaves any water treatment plant, as well as a maximum allowed as it reaches your tap.
Yes, chlorine is good for killing bacteria, but some minor effects may include spoiling the taste of your water and drying out your skin and hair.
Even disinfectants themselves produce their own potentially hazardous byproducts that also must be monitored and accounted for.
Using disinfectants such as chlorine creates disinfection byproducts (DBPs), “which are formed when natural organic matter… in water reacts with chemicals used for disinfection.”
DBPs formed from chlorine include Trihalomethanes (THMs) and Haloacetic Acids (HAAs), both of which may have long-term health effects depending on their levels in your water.
As a countermeasure, natural organic matter such as total organic carbon (TOC) is reduced during the treatment process, limiting the ability for DBPs to form in the water as it flows through the city’s water distribution system.
Other chemicals used as disinfectants or oxidants include chlorine dioxide and ozone, which form their own DBPs which also require regulation to ensure your water is relatively clean and safe enough to use and drink.
What does tap water contain?
Although TOC is reduced during the city’s water treatment process to combat the presence of DBPs in your water, this doesn’t mean they are completely eradicated from flowing through your tap. DBPs still remain in your water, including THMs, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, and chlorite.
According to the City of Phoenix’s 2019 Water Quality Report, the total THMs during sampling ran as high as 71 parts per billion, getting close to the max 80 ppb allowed.
Just as there’s a maximum for the amount of chlorine allowed in your water, there’s also a minimum requirement of 0.2 parts per million to remain in water leaving any treatment facility being distributed to your tap.
Effects of waterborne contaminants
Despite the efforts of the city’s water treatment plants, there’s risk of not only contamination outbreaks in the city’s water sources, but also in the distribution system – after the treatment process is over!
Some of these sources include:
- naturally occurring chemicals, such as arsenic, radon, and uranium
- agricultural practices and their use of fertilizers and pesticides.
- sewer overflow
- wastewater releases
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top 10 causes of outbreaks in public water systems are:
- Hepatitis A
- E. coli
- Excess fluoride
Water filtration systems in Phoenix, AZ
We at Deer Valley Plumbing have been guarding homes from water pollutants and contaminant outbreaks for decades by offering only top-quality, cutting-edge water treatment services and technologies that best fit the needs of homeowners across the valley.
The breadth of our water filtration, softening, and conditioning catalogue gives you plenty of options for finding the best system for your home and your budget.
From Reverse Osmosis water filtration to ion-exchange water softeners, we have what you need to get the healthy, safe, and delicious water you and your home deserve.