As essential as it is to good health, it’s amazing how easy it can be to take plain, pure drinking water for granted. Many of us opt for more exciting liquids like juice or soda; others buy into bottled beverages marketed to be “smarter” or “better” than plain water; and many more simply aren’t in the habit of downing the 64+ ounces we need every day.
I admit it: I am one of these people. While I never had much trouble drinking my eight daily glasses when I had a stationary desk job, I find it much easier to forget my water running around on an active daily grind, which is when you really need it most.
The standard filtered water pitcher
To help me keep track of how many ounces I’ve knocked off and to save money on bottled water, I use a filtered water pitcher. The big filter brands all sell these in various sizes for 10 to 30 bucks at most grocery stores. I got a generic version that uses the same type of filtration but comes a little cheaper.
These things are really simple to use. The top half of the pitcher is divided by a plastic insert; the middle of which is where you plug in the little cylindrical carbon filters that make the magic happen. You fill the top half with tap water, and it slowly trickles down into the bottom half where you then pour it into your cup or bottle.
The pitcher packaging tells you how often you should replace these little filters for optimum results (usually something like every 40 gallons or two to three months). I figured after spending about $15 for the pitcher and $6 for a new filter every couple of months, I was saving a boatload on filtered drinking water.
Here’s the catch. These filtered pitchers (and many other household filtering products, for that matter) remove as much out of our water as we’d like to believe. Utilizing carbon filters, they are limited in their ability to trap all of the unwanted substances that have been found in public water supplies. They’re designed to remove free radicals like chlorine and metals, but they don’t trap fluoride, microbes, nitrates, arsenic, pharmaceuticals, or other inorganic materials (yes, unfortunately these have all been found at varying levels in tap water).
Does that make them totally useless? Not really. They do remove some of the stuff we’d rather not gulp down, and they definitely improve the flavor of tap water. On the flip side, though, they might also make us feel warm and fuzzy about drinking clean water when we’re still being exposed to not-so-clean chemicals.
Reverse osmosis filtration
So what are our other options? By far the best choice for water filtration is reverse osmosis systems, which you typically install under your sink. These will do quite a number on your pocketbook at anywhere from about $85 to more than $400, but they’ll also remove almost all of the gunk that comes from the tap. And if you use them consistently and refill your own bottles, they’d surely save you money (and waste!) on pre-bottled water over time.
I’ve seen a lot of folks walking around lately with bobble bottles—individual, reusable filtered water bottles which are almost like mini-versions of filter pitchers (which the company also makes). Their huge surge in popularity gave me hope that maybe they were doing something different. But alas, aside from great design, they’re just like most other home filtration products, relying just on carbon filtration.
That funny little satchel of what looks like sesame seeds sitting at the bottom of my pitcher in the picture is full of magnesium oxide beads, also known as “prills.” Originally developed to clean up nuclear reactor waste water, these beads “structure” or energize the water, rearranging its molecular structure to resemble that of dew, which is more easily absorbed by our skin and body. They also prohibit bacteria and other microbes from developing.
A lot of folks are skeptical about the effectiveness of prills, and the jury’s still out on how much purification they offer against these icky substances. They’re one layer of protection, though, and I’ve found that prill water always tastes better and feels “wetter” in your mouth than regular water. You can buy your own bag for about $20, and aside from needing a little rinse now and then, they’re good forever.
I’m still using my carbon filter pitcher until I can save up for a more effective system, even though I know it’s probably not doing a whole lot. Do you use a water filtration system? How do you keep your water clean?