How Do You Know if Your Water is Safe?

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

The news about the contaminated water in Flint Michigan has been very disturbing to say the least.  It is bad enough their drinking water has been polluted for the last couple of years, but they are still being billed outrageous amounts of money for water they are barely using.  Now there could potentially be another town that has lead contamination in its water supply.

How do you know if your tap water is safe?

Examine your water

Color  In my last residence, the water coming out of the tap had a brownish tinge and had a lot of sediment.  At first I thought we had old pipes, but I talked to the neighbors who had lived in the neighborhood for years and said their water always had sediment.  They said this was normal and were not too concerned about it.  I read up on it and found that a reddish or brownish tinge in water indicates manganese or iron in the water.  The presence or iron and manganese is generally harmless, but they may also cause a metallic taste or smell.  This brings me to the next things to look for.

Smells and Taste  Notice the smell of your tap water.  Generally, I notice a heavy chlorine smell, caused by the processing of water in the treatment plant to kill bacteria and viruses.  You should be wary of rotten egg smells or chemical smells as they may indicate contamination.  The water should not have any odd tastes or smells.

Because I did not like the color and taste of the water, I started using my Berkey water filter on a daily basis.  I even posted about it here.  I have since moved away from that area but continue to use the Berkey.  

You need to continuously monitor your water.  Last week, I noticed the water coming out of the tap in the kitchen and bathroom was brown when I first turned it on.  I called the building manager and he said the water company flushed out all the fire hydrants in the area and the brownish water resulted.   He said their own water in the office was the same brownish color.

How does this happen?   Fire departments flush hydrants from time to time to ensure the hydrants have adequate flow and pressure.  When a hydrant is flushed, the flow reverses in the water main.  The sediment in the system enters the residents’ pipes, resulting in brown water.  The brown water may include sediment and rust particles but is considered safe.  Nevertheless, residents are advised to let the water run clear before using the water.  We did let the water run for a while and it eventually turned clear.

Here is an article I wrote a while back regarding water contamination and backflow:  What You Need to Know about Water Contamination

Review your water quality report

Public water suppliers are required by law to provide their customers with an annual water quality report, also known as Consumer Confidence Report.  If you live in an apartment you may not receive one directly and you will have to check with your building manager for a copy.  Or, ask the manager for the name of your water company and find the report through their website.

You can also access these reports via the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

If you get your water from a well in your property, you will not get this report and may have to get your water independently tested.  Here is some additional information on private water wells

Have your water tested

You can have your water tested by an independent testing laboratory .  You can find a list of Certified Laboratories here. 

Or you can call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 to find To find a state certified laboratory in your area.

Home Testing Kits

The TDS EC Meter is one way you can test your water and is available from Amazon.

The Berkey Guy carries water testing kits as well:  WaterSafe Water Test Kit for Lead, Water Safe City Water Test Kit and WaterSafe Well Water Test Kit

Before purchasing your water test kit, take a look a this PDF for some additional information:  Home Water Testing

Additional Resources

Water is essential to survival; arm yourself with as much information as possible about this resource.  Read The Prepper’s Water Survival Guide by Daisy Luther, whom I interviewed here.

© Apartment Prepper 2016



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  1. I’ve been doing some reading about Chloramine, it seems like it might be some real nasty stuff. On another blog a person said if your water company has the words ‘American Water’ attached to it you likely have Chloramine in your water. I’m not too sure how effective water filters are in removing this substance.

    Another thought, you mentioned iron in your old water supply, I read an interesting take written by Bill Sardi, the conclusion was, iron in your blood was the cause of many ailments. Food for thought.

    1. Hi helot, Thanks for bringing this up. I will have to read up on chloramine and find out if water filters can remove it. I know the Berkey removes a lot of metals, including iron, and that is why I use it everyday instead of just for emergencies. Thanks for sharing this information.

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