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What's in your bottle?

By Betsy Dudash, SW board president

Whenever someone offers me a drink of unfiltered tap water, I flinch just a little. My tongue still remembers the overwhelming taste and odor of chlorine from the treated Lake Erie water I drank growing up. For decades I’ve used a Brita pitcher to filter tap water for drinking and making tea. Now we keep a large pitcher in the fridge for filling aluminum water bottles before hiking or running errands in the summer heat. We keep adding to our water-bottle collection so there are extras for the dogs and guests, too.

Source: City of Wenatchee

Every time I go grocery shopping I notice other customers loading their carts up with bottled water. I’ve bought bottled water before, but only for emergency provisions in case of a blizzard or other natural disaster. I often wonder why people spend their hard-earned money on water in single-use plastic bottles. According to How Stuff Works, a family of four should drink about two gallons of water a day. If they drink bottled water that costs $6 per case, the annual cost could be more than $3,000. In comparison, if the same family drank filtered tap water instead, they would spend less than $250 on pitchers, filters, water bottles, and water for the entire family for a year.

Curious about what’s actually in that bottled water you’ve been drinking? Consumer Reports publishes a list of water-quality reports that includes more than 120 brands. Costco’s Kirkland Signature water comes from Niagara. On the other hand, most drinking water (about 10.5 million gallons a day) for the City of Wenatchee, the East Wenatchee Water District, and Chelan County PUD comes from the Eastbank Aquifer, just north of Rocky Reach Dam. The aquifer naturally filters water from the Columbia River and stores it underground. Chlorine, which protects against potential bacteria, is all that’s used to treat the water.

For me, a filtration pitcher has been most important for improving the taste and removing calcium from hard water. I never worried too much about the safety of tap water; local water providers send out annual reports showing how they measure up to federal standards for drinking water. For the first quarter of 2019, both Wenatchee and East Wenatchee met federal standards. Of the fourteen contaminants found in both cities’ water, however, eight exceeded the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Health Guidelines. While those don’t necessarily pose any health risks, the good news for me is that activated-carbon filters like Brita’s can remove at least five of those contaminants.

Reverse-osmosis filtration systems can remove most contaminants and are available locally from companies such as Central Washington Water. These can be installed under your kitchen sink, so there’s no extra work for you. Worried about the garbage that comes from filtering water at home? Once you’ve collected at least five pounds worth of Brita filters, you can send them off to TerraCycle to be recycled.

So, what’s in your water bottle?

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