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What’s on tap: Keeping drinking water clean and sediment free

It’s said that eating an apple a day will keep the doctor away, but with all benefits we’re told come from drinking water, it would probably be more accurate to say, “drinking 8 ounces of water, 8 times a day will keep the doctor away.” From aiding in digestion and increasing energy to boosting the immune system and improving skin complexion, the reasons to drink water are plentiful. But if the water in your glass looks cloudy and has mysterious floating specks, it can quickly lose its appeal.

What is sediment? Where does it come from?

The “stuff” that floats around and sinks to the bottom of your water glass, sediment can make drinking water look and taste unpleasant, but it’s generally harmless when consumed. Made up of tiny grains of organic materials like silt, sand, rust or clay, sediment and turbidity (the even tinier pieces of sediment) is naturally occurring and can increase in volume in water mains after a big rain storm. It can also show up in water mains when water flow changes or fire hydrants are used or flushed, and as pipes deteriorate or are replaced.

Effects of sediment in drinking water

Organic sediment poses no health threat to humans and pets, but it can be damaging to plumbing and appliances. Over time, those particles can cause staining and spots on clothing, sinks, toilets, appliances, and other fixtures. And while the actual sediment isn’t harmful, if lead is present in your pipes and sediment is slowly deteriorating those pipes, lead can be released into your drinking water. So while sediment itself isn’t an issue, it can contribute to a harmful situation. Additionally, nearly all water mains in the U.S. are more than 50 years old. The presence of sediment in old pipes exacerbates the quality of the pipes, slowly scraping away at them and increasing the likelihood of serious damage.

Testing for sediment in drinking water

Testing for sediment or turbidity isn’t needed since it’s visible to the naked eye. If you can see flecks or have cloudy water, sediment is present. While testing for sediment is unnecessary, testing for secondary contaminants is important. Sediment can be a sign that your water is contaminated with lead or iron, both of which can cause serious health issues. If you suspect there is lead in your pipes, have your water tested. It’s a simple way to get peace of mind.

How to remove sediment from drinking water

Removing the cloudiness in your drinking water and protecting your home from possible damage can be done easily with the right water filter. When the right filter is in place, water will pass through it, trapping any sediment so that what the water coming out of the tap is clean and clear. Sediment filters are often used with other processes such as activated carbon filtration, reverse osmosis, aeration, ozonation and chlorination.

What contaminants are not removed by sediment filtration?

Sediment filters alone do not effectively remove dissolved organic or inorganic material that may be harmful. They do not effectively remove nitrate, heavy metals, pesticides or trihalomethanes. Cartridge sediment filters are not generally recommended for removing microbial contaminants.

Do I need point-of-entry or point-of-use sediment filtration?

When sediment is an issue with appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, or water heaters, point-of-entry (POE) sediment filters are a great option for treating water as it enters your home. If you only want to filter your drinking water, point-of-use (POU) devices can be installed under the sink or attached to a tap. Sediment filters are often used as a pre-filter for other water treatment processes to increase effectiveness and longevity.

How do I select a sediment filter?

The best way to select a sediment filtration unit is to consider your needs based on water quality and personal preference. Think about the flow rate you prefer, filter materials (carbon, ceramic, etc.) the estimated amount of water it can effectively treat and the water quality (filter rating) you want to experience. Most filters are rated according to the smallest particle they can trap. For example, a 10 micron (10 thousandths of a millimeter) filter would trap contaminants that are 10 microns in diameter or larger.

When to replace your sediment filtration system

Regular replacement of the filter and/or cartridge is critical to maintaining their effectiveness and reducing bacterial contamination. An overused or out-of-date filter can become dangerous because the filter will no longer trap contaminants, allowing them to leach back into your water. For the safety of you and your loved ones, it’s important not to put off replacement too long. The average replacement frequency ranges from two to six months, depending on water quality and use. If there’s a lot of sediment in your system, it may need to be replaced more frequently. If you have a large family that uses a lot of water for showering, washing clothes and doing dishes, you’ll likely need to replace your filters more often than a single person who uses a laundromat to wash clothes. There are four effective ways of knowing when it’s time to replace your water filter:

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Their specified replacement timing will err on the side of caution so you can be assured that your water quality will always be safe.
  2. Measure usage. Install a filter measurement meter or filter monitor that connects to the incoming water line that feeds the filter system and measures the number of gallons that pass through. Then using the manufacturer’s recommended usage limit, program the monitor to alert you when you’ve reached the allowed number of gallons. You’ll know exactly when it’s time to replace the filter.
  3. Read your water bill. If your home is supplied with municipal water, your water bill will tell you exactly how much water is used monthly. Compare your actual usage to the manufacturer’s recommendation and plan the replacement accordingly.
  4. Monitor manually. If you have non-municipal water, the most cost effective method is to monitor your filter manually—either with your palate or a water testing kit. Start with routine water tests that look for lead, microorganisms and other contaminants to verify whether your filters are still removing them. For drinking water systems, simply fill a glass with water and check the flavor yourself. You’ll be able to see or taste when the filter is exhausted and no longer purifying your water because the water flavor will be unpleasant.

CHOOSING A FILTER

While there are a variety of sediment filters on the market, these three systems are highly rated and are top performers:

GOOD

BETTER

BEST

GET ADVICE

For answers to sediment-related questions, recommendations on the best filter for your home or general drinking water questions, contact us.