Category Archives: San Diego

How the Drought is Poisoning California’s Drinking Water

california drought water quality

As California struggles through the fourth year of its historic drought, the effects are starting to hit a little closer to home… and our health.

The results of a 10-year study of California groundwater quality showed some disturbing findings.

Normally, Californians get about 30% of their drinking water from aquifers, but the drought has forced Californians to rely on these aquifers for more than 60% of our water needs.

The study found that roughly 20% of our groundwater is contaminated with high concentrations of dangerous substances like arsenic, uranium and nitrates. And it’s not getting any better…

As groundwater keeps getting lower, our drinking water will become more and more unsafe.

The longer the drought continues, the more we will rely on groundwater. You can probably see how this is quite the vicious cycle. But is there an answer? In order to understand that, we have to know what caused this quality issue.

 

Where do the contaminants come from?

Contaminants enter California’s water artificially – through heavy use of nitrogen-based fertilizers on farms – and naturally – through erosion of natural deposits.

Heavy reliance on nitrogen fertilizers (and animal waste) has led to increased levels of nitrates in the water. At levels above 10 ppm (parts per million), nitrates can impede the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, leading to birth defects and cancers of the ovaries and thyroid.

Agriculture alone isn’t the only source of contamination; arsenic – which is not used on farms – turned up more than nitrates. The study also found an alarming amount of aquifers poisoned with uranium, which is a contaminant not used in farms, but which has been pushed further into the water table (5-10 feet per year) by irrigation.

According to Kenneth Belitz, the study’s lead author and chief of the USGS’s National Water Quality Assessment Program, the process of contaminants slowly moving further down into the water table affects all areas of California.

Former agricultural areas that have evolved into suburban (Santa Ana, for example) will start to see the effects of years-old nitrates sinking into their water tables. Today’s farming hotspots – especially the San Joaquin Valley (where San Diego gets a portion of its water) – could be slowly building up nitrate levels year by year that could lead to much higher nitrate levels in well water.

 

How is the drought making it worse?

This heart-wrenching video from High Country News depicts how the drought is exacerbating the level of contaminants in California’s water. It shows the situation in East Orosi, one of the areas hit hardest by the drought.

Chad Fischer, East Orosi District Engineer, explains how landowners are digging a higher level of wells, putting more stress on the aquifers:

“It’s simple, drill a lot of wells, produce a lot of water. The water tables are going to drop and the level of contaminants is going to go up.”

As groundwater levels drop and the level of contaminants stays the same, the concentration of nitrates in groundwater supply will continue to increase.

Think of it as a small amount of poison that’s diluted by a large amount of water. The poison is relatively harmless as long as the water level stays high enough. But when the water level decreases, there’s not as much to dilute the poison, making it much more dangerous.

This issue is hitting areas of California at different times. East Orosi is getting the worst of it now. Residents use five-gallon plastic jugs for drinking, cleaning, brushing teeth, making tea and coffee, making soup and cleaning fruits and vegetables.

East Orosi’s situation serves as a stark warning to the rest of the state about the dangers of the drought on water quality. Hopefully it serves as a canary in the coal mine demonstrating that serious actions need to be taken for the health and safety of the people.

When will it end?

That’s the bad news. According to NASA Analysis, California’s aquifers are extremely depleted (by 11 trillion gallons, to be exact). Lower rainfall in the coming years and steady or increased farming will only continue to diminish these sources, therefore raising contaminant concentration.

As the drought continues, it’s imperative that California residents continue to monitor their local drinking water quality. Every municipality is required to send out a Water Quality Report (or CCR) annually, detailing local contaminant levels.

As always, the safest solution for your water’s safety is to install water filter systems in your home to ensure the highest quality clean water in your home regardless of outside circumstances. See your home water filter options HERE.

 

More information: Mother Jones on California’s Drinking Water

 

What’s the Difference Between Water Softeners & Water Conditioners?

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As a new homeowner, you’ll likely face a common question: do I need a water softener? After some research, you’ll likely come across some info about a similar piece of equipment called a water conditioner. The differences between the two can be confusing, but making the right choice can have a significant impact on you and your family’s health and your home’s appearance and value. 

Many areas across the country – especially Southern California – have “hard water,” which means your tap water has exceptionally high mineral content.

Hard water is not particularly unhealthy, but it’s capable of causing some costly problems for your home. The most costly issues include scaling, pipe blockage and even pipe leaks. 

Your Home’s Health

Scaling is the buildup of minerals to form a deposit called lime scale. Hard water mixed with soap forms nasty soap scum, which leaves a bathtub ring on your surfaces. 

hard vs soft water

The difference in scaling between a showerhead with hard water and soft water is obvious.

Excessive scaling can lead to clogged pipes, which decrease water flow rate to your faucets and showerheads and can even affect the life of toilet flushing units.

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A pipe clogged with hardness minerals.

Eventually, the scaling in your pipes will allow less water to flow through. Showerheads will dribble instead of spraying and faucets will deliver a weak stream of water. Buildup in your faucets can also lead to faulty shutoff mechanisms and dripping faucets.

The third costly effect of hard water is when dissolved minerals eat through pipes causing leaks and water damage in your home. It’s important to realize this potential issue early, because there are water pipes throughout your home and even a small hole can result in VERY costly damage.

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Pipe with a significant leak due to hard water.

 

Your Health and Happiness (and Sanity)

The effects of hard water are not limited to your home and plumbing fixtures; it can also affect your quality of life. Hard water requires more soap or detergent and water for showering and laundry.

åAdditionally, mixing soap and hard water on the body can cause what’s referred to as a “curd,” which can remain on the skin after rinsing, clogging pores. This serves as a breeding ground for bacteria, rashes and dry skin irritations.

Hard water also leads to mineral deposits in your hair, making it harder to untangle post-shower.

So What’s the Solution?

Now that you understand the multitude of issues surrounding hard water, let’s discuss the best way to get rid of hard water in your home. A water softener may be the more popular option, but I’m going to explain to you why a water conditioner is the better option for your home, your health and your wallet.

Water Softeners vs. Water Conditioners

Both water softeners and water conditioners solve the problems associated with hard water. The two are significantly different, though, in 3 main ways:

  1. Water Quality
  2. Simplicity
  3. Price

Water Quality

The biggest difference between water softeners and water conditioners is water quality. The reason is pretty simple: water softeners DO NOT filter your water and water conditioners do.

Water softeners use what’s called “ion exchange,” which swaps hardness mineral ions for sodium, reducing the water’s hardness. The problem is that softeners only focus on hardness, not contaminants such as chlorine and carcinogenic disinfectant byproducts like chloroform. 

Chlorine is generally the most noticeable contaminant in tap water (due to the large amount added in at a municipal level in order to disinfect water). It is also quite dangerous and damaging to your health and beauty. Chlorine can cause cancer over time when ingested and is notorious for drying out skin and hair. In addition to being dangerous to the body, chlorine can contribute to pinhole leaks in your pipes.

Without a conditioner, you will not be able to remove chlorine and other dangerous contaminants – you will simply have softer, dirty water.

Simplicity

As I mentioned above, water softeners use a process called “ion exchange,” which is about as complicated as it sounds. It requires electricity (which drives up cost of operation) and maintenance such as buying, hauling and adding salt periodically. In addition to being physically trying and time-consuming, adding salt also requires upwards of $200 per year.

Ion exchange is also not eco-friendly in any way. The process requires waste water to be expelled through a special drain. Research showed that this briny waste water was actually affecting area water supplies, leading to the recent ban of salt-based water softeners in cities such as San Diego and Los Angeles. That’s right: if you live in Southern California, you are likely outlawed from even purchasing a salt-based water softener.

Water conditioners do not use any electricity, saving your energy bill. They also create zero wastewater and require no maintenance aside from annual filter changes. Additionally, water conditioners use significantly less floor space in your garage and make no noise.

On an aesthetic level, conditioners produce water that mixes well with soaps and detergents, allowing you to use less of each, saving you even more money. Conditioned water also feels better in the shower, whereas softened water leaves a distinct “slippery” feel on the skin. 

Price

Of course, one of the most important aspects of any home improvement purchase is the price. What is it worth for you to have clean water and fortified investments in your kitchen and bathroom fixtures? Obviously, many companies will use this argument to justify ridiculously-priced items. But water conditioners are actually priced significantly below water softeners.

The Evolution Whole Home Water Conditioner starts at only $795, compared with softeners in the thousands of dollars, plus maintenance costs. Conditioners also save you from the electricity and water costs associated with a complicated softener. 

Most importantly, though, a Water Conditioner preserves the health of you and your family, as you can be sure the dangerous contaminants found increasingly in tap water supplies will be eradicated at the source. 

Call 619-356-3766 or email info@evolutionhealthworks.com today for more info about how a Water Conditioner can help improve your life and the value of your home!

The Issue With Using A Brita Water Filter

water-filter-pitcher

It’s critical to filter your drinking water in order to remove contaminants that can affect your health negatively.

As with most home products, there’s an array of different filter options varying in price, benefits and point-of-use.

For many consumers, a Brita filter is the easiest option. It comes in a easy-to-use pitcher, can be bought from your local Target, and is relatively easy on the wallet.

Brita products use a standard activated carbon and ion-exchange resin disposable filter as their primary filtering mechanism.

What does that mean for your drinking water?

It means that you are not adequately filtering your water. Brita technologies only use a basic carbon filter, which does not remove all of the contaminants in the water.

This holds especially true for San Diego, where we have very high amounts of agricultural runoff and heavy metals in our water.

Another issue is that Brita filters do not remove or kill bacteria in the water. This means any living organisms that are in your drinking water are affecting your health.

Are there any risks to using a Brita?

Beyond not removing all contaminants, Brita is a fine filter to start out with.

However, it is critical to change and remove filters. If you don’t there are some serious risks associated.

When the filters are not changed, they become breeding grounds for bacteria. This means that if you’re not changing your filters, your supposedly filtered water may actually be more dangerous that normal tap water. Research suggests that this occurs no later that 6 months.

Why Evolution Products?

1. Evolution Water goes through a 3-phase filter system:

  • Cleans your water with an activated carbon filter
  • Introduces healthy trace minerals such as calcium and magnesium
  • Features a region-specific third filter to remove contaminants native to YOUR geographic area

2. What separates Evolution Water is the ability to make it alkaline, which is desirable for a number of reasons:

 

Call us today today at 619-356-3766 to learn more about how Evolution can help you Drink Clean!

The Next Water Revolution

city water

Drinking water has evolved in three major shifts – or revolutions – over the past 2,000 years. Each of these revolutions either made water vastly more available or potable for a large number of people.

In his book, Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource, David Sedlak discusses the three water revolutions of the past 2,000 years as well as the next one – Water 4.0 – that needs to happen for the sake of societal health and safety.

The author explains that today, “continued population growth and climate change stretch the ability of urban water systems to meet our needs.” The process of devising and financing a solution will be anything but east, but Sedlak is confident there is a way. 

In today’s post, we’ll discuss Sedlak’s 3 water revolutions as well as the one we need to start planning for today.

Water 1.0

The Romans are known for a number of astonishing accomplishments, but one we don’t often hear about (maybe because it’s not sexy enough for a Hollywood blockbuster) is how the behemoth ancient civilization managed to provide anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million people with drinking water.

Ingenious Roman engineers devised a system of gravity-harnessing aqueducts to bring water into the city from surrounding rural areas. Not only did they build this solution to solve the issue of water shortage, but the Romans also built a sophisticated sewer system to handle runoff. This revolution paved the way for the expansion of civilization over the next 1,900 years.

Water 2.0

The boom of the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 19th century saw the emergence of water wheels and steam engines. This led to toilets and the vast amount of waste created as a result. Rather than disposing of waste in the fields, urban toilets sent human waste down the sewers, from where it entered bodies of water and traveled downstream to some less fortunate communities.

The corresponding rise in typhoid fever and cholera necessitated the need for another water revolution. This time, the engineers behind water’s advancement were from MIT. They formulated a system of filtering with sand, which surprisingly eliminated most disease from drinking water. Similar improvements used chlorine to further disinfect the water. Water 2.0 was born, effectively increasing the average American lifespan by 15 years.

Water 3.0

While the second water revolution allowed for drinking water to be treated, there still was not a widely available technology for treating wastewater. Thus, industrial centers and large municipalities simply disposed of sewage in rivers and lakes. Waterfront cities such as New York, Cleveland and Chicago reeked and fish died at an alarming rate.

In an ultimately successful effort to curb the expansion of water pollution across the country, the federal government passed the Clean Water Act in 1972. This landmark legislation allocated federal funds toward the construction of sewage treatment plants. Water 3.0 saved the health of The Great Lakes and numerous other bodies of water across the country.

Water 4.0?

Sedlak explains that we are now in need of a 4th water revolution, one that is likely going to be more complicated – and more expensive – than its precedents.

Many of the water utilities constructed 40-50 years ago are aged significantly. As with many societal problems, the roadblock in front of water reconstruction is cost. The growth of population has led to a consequential strain on water systems built for far fewer people.

In the Northeast, many cities have experienced raw sewage overflows when snow or rain fills treatment plants to their limits. The Southwest is experiencing a problem on the other side of the spectrum; areas such as Arizona and California are suffering from drought and water shortages.

The problem for both regions is that climate change models suggest that the areas experiencing overflow will only get wetter and the drought-stricken regions will only get drier.

Three areas in which Water 4.0 has already begun to take form are desalination, water recycling and decentralization.

Desalination – the process of treating seawater to make it potable – will be a significant, but not nearly a majority of San Diego’s water (7%) starting next year. Water recycling, in which wastewater is either treated to drinking water standards or at least to a level that it can be used for watering crops, is also popular in Southern California. Decentralization likely will be a prevalent technology across the country, especially given the amount of Americans living in suburbs. This practice would involve the construction of smaller water treatment facilities outside of the large ones in city centers.

Sedlak says that Water 4.0 will happen one way or another, the only question is whether we will be proactive in preparing our water systems. The sad truth is that more often, civilizations wait for catastrophe to allocate the necessary funds for water system improvements.

 

 

 

 

San Diego’s Water Treatment Process

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We have spent plenty of time outlining why San Diego’s Tap Water Is So Bad, but what is the process that the city uses to attempt to clean it?

Overall, the city does the best it can to disinfect the water we import from the Colorado River and Northern California, but it doesn’t remove everything harmful; San Diego has a relatively high total dissolved solids (TDS) count in its water.

Water treatment isn’t all about removing substances though – the city also adds chlorine, ammonia, sodium hydroxide and fluoride before sending it to your home.

The Disinfection Process

#1. Primary Disinfection with Ozone or Chlorine Dioxide to inactivate viruses, bacteria and other pathogenic organisms. While this process is pretty effective in killing off nasty stuff, there are still chlorine-resistant parasites such as cryptosporidium and giardia in our water.

#2. A chemical mixture is added to remove dissolved solids.

#3. Chlorine is added again for further disinfection.

#4. Water is filtered over a coal and sand composite to remove small particles.

#5. Ammonia is added (creating dangerous chloramines) to prevent microbial growth, and sodium hydroxide is added to correct the pH of the water.

#6. As mandated by California state law, Fluoride is added to the water to ‘promote strong teeth’. And as we outlined, HERE, this is an issue.

Next, the water is sent to your tap.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has a list of some contaminants it requires the City of San Diego to monitor. There are still hundreds of thousands of harmful contaminants that do not require monitoring.

The  2013 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report states that during 2013, contaminants requiring monitoring were detected at or above Detection Limits for Purposes of Reporting. They issued this warning:

“Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.”

Want to ensure you have the cleanest, safest water in your home? Check out our water filter products HERE.