No matter who you are or where you live, access to sources of clean drinking water is essential for life. Drinkable water comes from many sources, from underground wells to storms that cross the country. Understanding more about where drinking water comes from can help you find water during an emergency or simply appreciate the journey that water takes to reach your faucet.
Many rural communities rely on groundwater for drinking water, which can be tapped by drilling wells. Underground, there are vast networks of hydrological features that carry water in subterranean rivers called aquifers. Water moves through these geological features and can be accessed by placing wells in areas around known aquifers. While groundwater is naturally clean enough for drinking, it is also susceptible to pollution from human caused activity such as spilled chemicals. Contamination that makes its way to underground water can make its way to drinking wells. (See References 1)
Many communities rely on snowpack and glacial ice melt to supply their drinking water. Snowstorms that pass over areas of high elevation deposit snow and ice in winter months. When the weather warms, the snow and ice begins to melt and travel downstream into lakes and rivers that feed into municipal water reservoirs. Water that melts from these sources is generally clean enough to drink, but because it passes along the surface and in rivers before reaching the reservoir, this water can be become contaminated and is passed through water-treatment plants before reaching your home. (See References 2, 3)
Water that is naturally forced to the surface by underground hydrological formations is known as spring water. There is some debate about whether it is safe to drink water directly from a spring. Some people believe that these sources of water are naturally purified, while others say that no untreated or unfiltered water should be considered safe. It's important to note that not all bottled water that claims to be from a spring is actually recovered from underground. According to Nestlé Waters North America, for water to qualify as spring water it must be collected only at the source of the spring (see References 4).
Emergency Water Sources
If you ever find your home without a safe source of drinking water, there are emergency options for collecting drinkable water. Ice cubes in your freezer are safe to melt into drinking water as long as the water that created the ice wasn't contaminated. Rainwater can be collected in buckets or tarps. The water that's in the back of your toilet tank, and water trapped inside hot water heaters, can be tapped for emergency use. If you are at all unsure about the safety of drinking water, boil the water for 15 minutes; this will generally kill enough harmful bacteria to make the water safe for consumption. (See References 5)
Heath Robert has been a professional writer since 2001. Covering news, politics and local communities, he has worked for daily newspapers across Colorado, including the "Columbine Courier" and the "Colorado Statesman." Robert holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in journalism and political science.
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