Utne Blogs > Environment

What’s in Your Water?

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Environment, water, tap water, bottled water, chemicals, New Scientist,

Water from a tapDrinking water in the United States is contaminated by low levels of chemicals, according to a comprehensive study of tap water by the Southern Nevada Water Authority in Las Vegas and reported in the New Scientist. Atrazine, a nasty organic herbicide that’s banned in Europe, was one of the most common pollutants, as was the mood-stabilizing drug Carbamazepine and the painkiller Naproxen, among other drugs. 

The researchers emphasize that the chemicals don’t pose a public health threat, since they were found at extremely low doses. Governments could filter the water better, but the researchers told the New Scientist that “extreme purification,” would be expensive “in terms of increased energy usage and carbon footprint.”

Bottled water isn’t the solution either, according to the National Resource Defense Council, since “about one fourth of bottled water is bottled tap water (and by some accounts, as much as 40 percent is derived from tap water) -- sometimes with additional treatment, sometimes not.”

Image by Leunix, licensed under Creative Commons.