Saturday, May 16, 2015

A personal paradigm shift with water

For much of my life, I've lived with bottled water. I've had it delivered in big 5 gallon bottles. I've purchased cases of little bottles. I've carried a bottle that I can refill everywhere for as long as I can remember having done so. I don't know exactly when I started that habit.

I know that I started the habit of carrying a refillable bottle because I drink water almost exclusively and detest drinking fountains. I know that I need to drink a lot of water every day and take every measure to ensure that I'm properly hydrated. Rarely do I drink a soda just to drink it. There are certain meals that go well with a soda, but those are few and far between because I do not like to dilute digestion with fluids like soda or water.

I've spent most of my life living in rented rooms and apartments. Therein, water treatment is hard to find and as a practical matter, water treatment is even harder to install. Bottled water was how I chose to adapt for a long, long time.

In 2009, I purchased my first home and it had a PUR water filter on the faucet. That worked great to take out much of what was in the water and that reduced my reliance upon bottled water. I was content to purchase a box of filters from Costco from time to time. As a homeowner, I have been approached by a few water softener salesmen. In my previous home, there was no room inside the house to locate a water softener and I was not comfortable poking holes anywhere to run the pipes for the water softener. So I passed.

In my current home, we have an unfinished basement, with the water heater, air conditioning and all their pipes and ductwork exposed. So when I was approached by a salesman to learn of the value of a water softener, I saw the potential to give relief from eczema to my second daughter. I also saw that a water softener could help to decrease the amount of scaling deposits in our plumbing with a water softener. I live in a house that I'm planning to stay in to raise my family and will remain here until the end. That's the plan, anyway. Over that time, I am hoping the water softener will help to reduce the chance that I ever have to repipe my house.

In the same deal for a water softener, we got a reverse osmosis water filter, complete with a small storage tank under the sink. I've never had that before and after doing some research, found that they are quite effective at removing 99.99% of the junk in water.

I was at first worried about the salt in the water that we release to the sewer, but found that the water softener is so effective, that the rate of salt use is very low. Looking back on the purchase, I conducted additional research to find salt-free water softeners that also require little to zero maintenance. When the beads in this water softener give up in about 15 years, I'll get the salt free softener.

For the most part, the salesman was right. I use about half the soap I used to use. My second daughter is having a greatly improved experience with the eczema relative to the first. Had the first salesman at the first home brought up the eczema, I would have jumped at the chance to get one then and there. But that was a benefit he didn't catch at the time, and neither did I.

I've also had an interesting experience with the reverse osmosis water filter for drinking water. The water at first had these little tiny bubbles in it. That is from the activation of the carbon in the filter and eventually, that went away. The first thing I noticed is that the water tasted better, much better than before, from any other source. That was quite a refreshing change.

I also noticed that our electric kettle stayed clean and shiny from use whereas before, there was scale buildup with water from the PUR water filter and the filters in the refrigerator. Not so with the reverse osmosis filter. I must say that inspires confidence at the very least.

The reverse osmosis filter delivers water with a separate spigot from the tap, and it delivers the water faster than the PUR filter and the filters we had in our refrigerators. The spigot matches the tap in color with a fake patina and it's high enough to fill tall bottles of water.

I don't think I've ever been this happy about water before, but knowing that there is a two stage process removing the crud from water we get from a mining town is quite a relief.

There is a palpable sense of insulation about the water supply that comes with this equipment. Now that we've conditioned and filtered our water so well, it may seem easy to forget that there is a water crisis, worldwide. I am aware that in much of the world, people are still filling buckets and bottles from sources that may not be safe or free from pollution. I'm also aware of a thriving fracking industry that is pumping their pollution back into the ground to remove any sense of their liability from their trade, poisoning the well. And finally, I am aware that companies like Nestle and Walmart have no compunction about bottling water during a prolonged and severe drought. The CEO of Nestle would like to turn water into a private profit center rather than see it remain a public utility.

The water softener and the reverse osmosis filter may temporarily free me from the scourge of water pollution, but it will not allow me to forget it. I am grateful that I have such systems in place for the water that I drink every day. Maybe someday, the people who pollute our water will be forced to clean up their mess in such a way they cannot externalize their costs.
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