Drinking Water

Q: How can I protect myself and my family from lead in drinking water?

A: Drinking water generally contracts lead from plumbing that has been connected with lead solder (outlawed in 1986) or from outdated water distribution lines. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of lead in your drinking water.

Some sources suggest running your tap water for a couple of minutes before filling a glass to flush any accumulated lead from the water line (lead dissolves into standing water over time). This isn't a foolproof solution, however, since there is no way of knowing whether all of the lead has been removed and since lead can still dissolve into running water.

Never use hot tap water to prepare drinks or meals. Hot water attracts more lead than cold water does. If you need hot water, heat cold tap water on the stove or in a microwave.

In their informational brochure, "Living Lead Free," the American Water Works Association recommends having your water tested for lead to find out whether you should take action. Your local Kinetico water expert can have your water analyzed by a laboratory and help you decipher the results.

Use a carbon drinking water filter or reverse osmosis system that has been certified to protect your drinking water from lead. Check that the manufacturer's claims have been verified by the Water Quality Association or NSF International; not all systems are certified for lead reduction.

Q: I prefer bottled water. Is it the best alternative to my tap water?

A: Bottled water is a good alternative if you would like better tasting water for drinking and cooking, but it can be expensive and a hassle to carry from the store. Because it is inconvenient to do so, you may not use it for everything you should, including using it to make drinks and recipes.

It's generally less expensive in the long run to use a home drinking water system. Drinking water systems are convenient and provide you with high quality water in your own home when you want it, at prices per gallon that are considerably lower than bottled water.

There are many options available. Check to see that the system you choose is certified to protect you from a wide variety of contaminants and that the manufacturer's claims have been verified by the Water Quality Association or NSF International.

Q: Don't water filters remove important minerals from my water?

A: Studies have found that minerals in your drinking water essentially make no contribution to your health and may even be present in forms your body can't absorb. You are much better off maintaining a balanced diet that provides you with an adequate supply of important vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, the myth that drinking water with minerals is healthy is perpetuated by companies that promote "mineral water."

In fact, the Water Quality Association, the trade association of the water treatment industry, prohibits health claims in any of its members' literature and advertising.

Hard Water/Soft Water

Q: It feels like I can't get the soap off when I wash with soft water. Why does soft water feel "slimy" when I wash my hands in it?

A: When you wash in soft water, you feel your skin the way it's supposed to feel, clean and silky smooth. According to the U.C. Berkeley Wellness Letter, when you wash in hard water, the soap you're using reacts with the hardness minerals in the water "to form an insoluble residue that's difficult to wash away." The "squeaky" feel/sound many people associate with being clean is, in fact, your skin sticking because of this residue.

Soft water rinses your skin and hair more cleanly than hard water and doesn't leave a soap or shampoo residue behind. People that use soft water consistently enjoy the "truly clean" feeling they get when washing with it.

Q: Won't soft water corrode my plumbing?

A: According to Thomas J. Sorg from the Water Supply & Water Resources Division of the U.S.E.P.A., softened water does not increase lead and copper leaching in household plumbing systems. As long as your water has a neutral pH, softening it will not make it corrosive. Water that does not fall into the neutral range should be neutralized even if it is not being softened. If it isn't neutralized, it will typically cause corrosion, whether it's hard or soft.

Q: Is soft water bad for my septic system?

A: According to a report issued by the Water Quality Research Council, water softeners do not have any detrimental effect on septic systems and may actually enhance their performance in certain situations by encouraging the growth of additional bacteria.

In fact, the flow from the softener is typically less than the wastewater discharged from an automatic washing machine. The studies credited the high levels of calcium and magnesium present (in the flow that results when the softener cleans itself) with improving soil percolation in many instances.

These studies were conducted by scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and NSF International.

Q: Doesn't my city supply me with soft water?

A: Your city water supplier is not required to provide you with soft water. Many municipalities reduce the amount of hardness to some degree. But according to the U.S. Geological Survey, 85 percent of cities are still supplied with hard water. Your city is required to provide you with water test results that show water hardness; just call the number on your water bill.

Many people that use city water choose to soften it to save money on soaps and cleaners, protect their plumbing systems from scale buildup, protect their water-using appliances from hard water scale, provide better water for bathing and eliminate hard water spots, among other things.

For more information about hard water, click here. To learn more about Kinetico non-electric water conditioners click here.

Problem Water

Q: What's causing these ugly orange stains in my sinks and bathtubs?

A: Iron in your water is the most likely culprit. It stains faucets, sinks, bathtubs, countertops, appliances and even clothing. You can usually remove the iron with a home water conditioner.

In some instances, iron is present in such large amounts that a multi-stage filtration system is necessary to remove it. But don't fret; your problem may appear worse than it really is. Iron in even small amounts can cause staining.

Q: My tap water smells like rotten eggs. What causes that? Can it be fixed?

A: It smells like you have a problem with hydrogen sulfide in your water. Water absorbs this gas as it passes through the ground. When you turn on your faucet, you actually vent the gas from your tap water.

Newer technologies utilize specialized sulfur removal media in a single, complete system to eliminate hydrogen sulfide in one step. Kinetico’s Sulfur Guard system, for example, uses proprietary technology to take care of hydrogen sulfide problems without requiring multiple stages of expensive, cumbersome, high-maintenance equipment.

Hydrogen sulfide can also be treated with oxidation and filtration. Oxidation turns the gas into elemental sulfur, which can then be removed via filtration. Normally, an Aeration system injects air into the water to oxidize the gas. The water then passes through a filter that removes the sulfur. The result is water free of the "rotten egg" smell you describe.

For more information about problem water, click here. To learn more about Kinetico non-electric systems for problem water, click here.

Testing Your Water

Q: How can I have my water tested?

A: Your local Kinetico water expert can provide a water analysis for hardness, iron, pH and total dissolved solids, typically at no cost to you. Depending on the testing equipment they use, they may be able to perform other tests. They can also direct your water sample to a specialized water testing organization that can provide a more detailed analysis of your water for you. Your local Kinetico water expert will help you interpret the results and determine if any treatment is necessary.

To locate the Kinetico water professional near you, click here.

Third-Party Product Certification

Q: How can I tell if the product I'm purchasing will do what it's supposed to do?

A: Be sure that the system you choose is third-party certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association (WQA). Remember that displaying the WQA logo may only signify that the company is a member of the Water Quality Association, not that its products are validated. And just because a product is NSF certified against some contaminants doesn't mean it protects you against all of them. Check to see that the system you choose is specifically certified to reduce the contaminants from which you wish to protect your family. Also, be wary of systems that carry only the NSF "component" certification, which indicates that only a single component of the system is certified and may not reflect overall system capabilities.

Check publications you trust for reviews of water treatment products. They can provide you with additional information that can help you make a decision. You may also want to rely on popular home improvement shows to provide you with information on the latest technologies.

About Water Treatment Systems

Q: Why are there two or more separate components that make up my whole-house water treatment system?

A: It all boils down (no pun intended) to the quality of the treated water.

Typically, the water softener component is placed at the point where the water enters the home so it can soften (remove dissolved hardness minerals from) all the water distributed throughout the house. That's how your system protects your water heater, water-using appliances, plumbing, sinks, bathtubs, faucets and other things.

What's more important to you, the water that goes "on you" or the water that goes "in you?" Most people would answer that the quality of the water they consume is more important. That's why your whole-house water system includes a drinking water component.

The drinking water component normally services a special faucet at the kitchen sink and also your ice maker and further refines only the water you use for drinking and food preparation. It would be a waste to refine all of the water used in the home to drinking water quality. Treating drinking water at the point of use reduces the cost of the system and allows for very precise contaminant removal.

Additional components may be included with your system to remove other problems like iron, hydrogen sulfide, chlorine or arsenic.

For more information about what can happen to water and how to treat it, click here.

Domestic Well Testing FAQ?

Q: What is domestic well testing?

A: Domestic well testing is the process of having a laboratory test water from an individual private well for both nitrate and coliform bacteria before the house served by that well is sold.

Q: Are there legal responsibilities?

A: Yes. There is an Oregon law, ORS 448.271, which requires testing of domestic well water for real estate transaction. Effective since July 24, 1989, this law states in part:

"(1) In any transaction for the sale or exchange of real estate that includes a well that supplies groundwater for domestic purposes, the seller of the real estate shall, upon accepting an offer to purchase that real estate, have the well tested for nitrate and total coliform bacteria. The Health Services also may require additional tests for specific contaminants in an area of groundwater concern or groundwater management area. The seller shall submit the results of the test required under this section to the Health Services."

Oregon Administrative Rule 333-61-305 to 333-61-335 (pdf 20K) further defines the actions the seller must take.

Q: Who needs to comply?

A: The seller of the real estate is responsible. However, the seller may designate their attorney, real estate agent or broker, the laboratory person conducting the water testing, or a private party to assist them in complying with water testing and reporting requirements.

Q: What data must the seller report to the Health Services?

A: The seller must report specific information about the well. To assure all necessary information is provided, the seller should complete a Domestic Well Testing For Real Estate Transaction form. Blank forms are available from real estate offices or the Oregon Health Services Drinking Water Program.

Q: What if the well water does not meet safe standards?

A: Technical assistance is available. Contact your County Health Department or the Oregon Department of Human Services Drinking Water Program at (971) 673-0405.