The water we drink

Acqua fresca di montagna

Current perceptions

So, we have all seen or heard of water filters, water purifiers, reverse osmosis water filter systems and many more. But, why are these so important and how do you choose between them? We decided to do a little investigating to find out why, because we are just as interested as you are. As water quality differs depending on where you live, we decided to focus on the water in Cape Town where we and most of our clients are based. This is what we found!

Let’s start with the current perceptions Capetonians have about the quality of water in Cape Town.

In February and March 2013 Developmentnomics (Pty) Ltd. and the City of Cape Town performed the ‘Water and Sanitation Customer Perception and Satisfaction Survey Report’ and found that when participants were asked ‘Is the water in Cape Town safe to drink?’ 61.8% agreed with the statement, 17.45% disagreed with the statement and 20.75% were neutral to the statement (which seems to be the capetonian way…).

So although, most Cape Town resident’s, do feel the water is safe to drink, there are still a number of people, who just aren’t sure and others who are concerned about the water they are drinking.

What’s in our drinking water?

According to the City of Cape Town, we are pretty lucky when it comes to our water.  Most of our water is Surface Water (98%) and the remaining water is Groundwater (2%). Because most of our water is sourced from rainwater and mountain run-off into our dams and not from rivers that run near human settlements, there is a very low risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

The breakdown of Cape Town’s water mix may change in the future though due to increased demand.  The City envisages the possible changes to consist of the following mix: Surface Water (70%), groundwater (7%), Water re-use (13%) and Desalination (10%).  It is not clear though when these changes may take place, so it might be a good idea to visit the City of Cape Town’s website on occasion to look for updates.  We certainly will, and when we do, we will keep you updated!  The City of Cape Town’s reports also do not include any information on the water running into the dams from the surrounding farms which may be using toxic pesticides, heavy metals, etc. which would be a great inclusion in their reports.

To ensure a safe water supply, water is treated with various chemicals.
The chemicals included in water seem to be different depending on where you live. For example, Fluoride is used in varying degrees in some countries such as Australia, Chile, Brazil US and more, but is not currently used in South Africa as legislation for mandatory fluoridation introduced in 2002 has been on hold pending further research after opposition from water companies, municipalities and the public.

But what is in Cape Town’s water?  Currently the following chemicals are added during water treatment: Aluminium sulphate (Alum), Ferric sulphate and Sodium Aluminate. Lime and Carbon Dioxide are added to ensure the water does not corrode the city’s water mains and customers plumbing and, Chlorine is added as a disinfectant to rid the water of harmful micro-organisms. The City of Cape Town claims that these chemicals are removed through the treatment process so that their levels in the final treated water are so minimal that they do not pose adverse effects to public health.

The City of Cape Town also claims that we should not be worried about Heavy Metals in our water as our water complies with the specifications set for these metals, which naturally occur on the earth’s crust. Human or anthropogenic activities such as mining can cause heavy metals to be present in the air and water at great distances from the source. Heavy metals that can be present include zinc, lead, copper, aluminium and cadmium.

Hmmmm….  This seems to be tricky question to answer.  Depending on where you look, there is much varied information on how safe water from the tap is to drink.  The City of Cape Town certainly seems to think it is safe to drink as it complies with the South African National Standard 241 for Drinking Water.  So why is there so much information out there about the dangers of drinking tap water due to the ingredients including: chlorine, lead, aluminium sulfate, etc.

For example, it is thought that if aluminium sulfate is swallowed it produces severe irritation to the intestines and stomach.  According to a Norwegian study conducted in 2002, 5 glasses of chlorinated tap water per day, increases the risk of miscarriage by 14%, and may increase the incidence of stillbirth and birth defects.  It is also thought by some, that Chlorine may trigger thyroid disease, raise cholesterol levels, kill friendly intestinal bacteria, and decrease stomach acid, resulting in irritable bowel syndrome and gastritis, and that showering in chlorine strips the moisture from hair and skin and may trigger eczema.  Lead is thought to impair
growth and brain development and so the list goes on.

Also you may find rust in your tap water from rusty pipes or a rusty geyser, a result of galvanic corrosion in homes that have plumbing with a mixture of copper and galvanized iron pipes. It collects in your pipes and is flushed out when you open the tap. If you are having this problem, it might be a good idea to have your pipes or geyser replaced.

As we mentioned, it is not an easy question to answer but if you want to be 100% sure that your water is safe to drink, water purifiers seem to be the best way to go.

At OwnGrown we’ve been trialing the Stefani Terracotta ceramic water purifiers supplied to us from ‘It’s Only Natural’ in Jozi over the past six months. These gravity-feed water purifiers are manufactured from specially selected non-toxic natural clays and are a really cost-effective and efficient way of purifying tap water.

The water passes through this filter to be made safe in three ways:

  1. The outer micro-porous ceramic pre-filter removes up to 99.9% bacteria and 99% of suspended solids by screening down to one micron (a very small amount indeed!).
  2. The water then passes through the inner core of activated charcoal, which removes bad tastes and odours. The core is protected by a bacteriacidal agent to maintain the purity of the water.
  3. A small (and necessary) amount of dissolved minerals and active biocides are left in the water to prevent any possibility of recontamination.

They remove:

  • 9% of bacteriaItsOnlyNaturalWaterFilter
  • 9% of amoebe
  • 5% of chlorine
  • 4% of iron
  • 7% of copper
  • 6% of lead
  • 4% of manganese
  • 4% of zinc
  • 5% of aluminium
  • 0% of lindane
  • 0% of dieldrin
  • 0% of chloroform
  • 5% of dichtorobromomethan

The two popular sizes are 4litre and 6litre (double volume so 8l and 12l). They look great on the kitchen counter and are so easy to use – just fill the top chamber with tap water, and the water trickles down passively through the candle into the bottom chamber, clean, fresh and tasting great! The purifiers come with a tap and a float valve so you don’t have to worry about leakages. The absolutely best part of these water purifiers is the taste! Sometimes tap water can taste a little like chlorine when it comes directly from the tap. The taste of the water from a water purifier, just tastes fresh, clean and pure. Just the way we like it!

We got our hands on some really nice organic cordial and didn’t want to ‘spoil’ it using tap water, the Stefani Terracota purifier really came in handy here!

Independent laboratory tests around the world have shown conclusively that the water purifiers are extremely effective in the removal of water contaminants including bacteria, metals, chemicals, pesticides and chlorine.

The magic happens inside the filter candle of these purifiers. It has a micro-porous ceramic outer wall, lined inside with colloidal silver and holding an inner core of activated charcoal.

After six months of trialing this product, we can’t recommend it highly enough! That’s our recommendation! We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with water in your area! If you are looking for a water purifier, look no further, you can order one through our online shop here.