Why do we take clean water for granted knowing that it is quite possibly our most precious resource? We tend to do this because the general belief is we should have some kind of technology available that can fix almost anything. As it turns out our technology is only as capable as the committee which puts it all together. Look at what BP is going through in the Gulf oil spill trying to cap that pipe off. Fortunately for us water is actually pretty good at cleaning itself up over time without a lot of input from the ones who polluted it in the first place.
Water is literally the source of life here on earth and it has been around longer than pretty much every living thing. The fact that water tends to survive disasters like the oil spill in the gulf without becoming permanently fouled up is quite amazing. Water does a great job of absorbing things we put into it but the earth eventually filters out the bad things over time. Of course there are some really nasty chemicals that could poison the water permanently but fortunately most of us will never have to deal with this type of water problem directly. Even radiation would eventually dissipate from a water supply of course we may not live to see the half lives of this radiation decay to the point we could use the water again but by then we would be gone anyhow.
Most people know enough about water to not drown in it even though drowning in just a few tablespoons of the stuff is a real possibility. I have studied water for over twenty years as a Water Treatment Equipment Installer, Field Service Specialist, a homeowner and as a consumer and there is a lot more going on behind that water tap in your kitchen than meets the eye!
When good clean water arrives at your drinking glass or in your shower there is no substitute in the universe that matches the taste and feel of it. But when the water is even a little bit funky then you are sure to notice it almost immediately. There are so many possibilities of what may be in your water that the list seems to be growing daily. The most typical few are organic and mineral most of which can be removed with very simple and reliable water treatment equipment.
One thing is certain there is typically nothing more harmful to humans over time than the chlorine which is put into the city water that is being pumped into our homes. You could be fortunate enough to have some control over the water supply that you use by having your very own water well where you get to maintain the treatment equipment on your own water system.
So what is in the water we drink? Many people on city water know the taste of chlorine as a good thing and eventually you become used to it. One rationale we use to convince ourselves that it is okay is that the chlorine is helping to keep germs and other nasty things in the water from making us sick. This is pretty wise except that the mounting evidence that chlorine can actually cause some pretty serious health issues as well.
If you are concerned with the taste and long term effects of chlorine you can invest in a simple carbon cartridge filter which will make the water taste fresh and clean since it will remove almost every trace of the chlorine that was put there in the first place. These filters are simple to install and are inexpensive to own and operate.
City water is treated chemically and filtered extensively to guarantee a high quality product which is reproducible day in and day out. This is good since we are creatures of habit and any small change in our water can be noticed instantly. City water can contain high levels of calcium and magnesium which are called “hardness” and can be treated on city water or well water using a water softener system.
So what is going on with the water at that camp site that you love to visit? It could be the taste and it may be the smell but one thing I know is that there is no way it can taste too nice after it makes its way to your lips via a hundred foot garden hose that sits in the hot sun every day of the camping season. This is why people tend to bring in jugs of clean water or more recently opt for bottled water even when they are “roughing it” at the campgrounds.
Problem water can have a bad taste smell or even strange colors with each type problem coming from a specific source either in the water itself or in the supply. Color can come from organic materials like tannins or can be due to low pH causing corrosion of your piping. Bad smells can be a problem with harmless things like iron bacteria growing in your well or even from malfunctioning water conditioning equipment. Strange tastes can be tied to the water supply itself if it is lake water and there is an algae bloom then you will taste the after effects of this bloom and possibly even the treatment methods as well.
Well water can have the same problems as city water plus a few others that are sure to bring comments from guests who are in from the city. Most of the well water here in Northeastern Ohio will contain some level of Iron which can be either soluble or insoluble. Soluble iron can be captured in a softener and rejected back out when the salt flushes the system periodically. Insoluble iron can be filtered out on a disposable cartridge or captured onto a filtering media with a backwashing cycle built in to remove the solid iron material on a timed or metered basis.
Iron in your water is really hard to treat if you are unfortunate enough to have both types in your water at the same time. There are some amazing systems on the market for treating both types but the cost can be astoundingly high plus there will be some chemical and or salt required for keeping the system clean.
If you have iron in your well water then you can usually expect to have a nasty thing called iron bacteria. This can cause your well water to have that classic rotten egg smell. This smell is caused by the harmless bacteria that are in your water consuming minute quantities of the iron that is also in your water. When they eat they excrete and these excretions usually smell like sulfur.
If you are concerned with what is really in your water then you can have a water treatment equipment dealer test your water for a low fee and many will even do this testing for free. If you are on city water and are unhappy with the water quality then by all means complain to your provider and ask them to show you how their water is treated and find our why things seem to change seasonally. After all you are paying for the product so it really should be to your liking.
Bottom line on the smelly foul tasting water situation is that there are plenty of reliable ways to fix almost any problem water and if you are lucky it will not cost more than a used car to get your water problem fixed.