5 Ways to Improve Drinking Water Quality in Your Madison Apartment
Published on October 26th, 2016
By Jennifer Oppriecht
Did you ever wonder why your water has a certain smell or taste, and what options you have to improve it? We “tapped” both local Madison experts and the Internet for options renters have to improve their drinking water quality.
Our first stop was Madison Water Utility. A visit to their FAQ page answers a lot of top questions renters tend to have about water. We’ve picked out a few here to set the stage for our list of top filtering and tap water options.
Where does Madison’s drinking water come from?
Our drinking water comes from a deep sandstone aquifer below the city. It uses the world’s biggest natural water filter, the earth itself, to rid itself of impurities. Water originates as rain and snow, and then naturally filters through layers of soil and rock.
Why does Madison water sometimes smell like chlorine?
As noted on the website, “a small amount of chlorine (about 0.3 milligrams per liter) is added at each wellhead to kill any viruses or bacteria that could be present in your water.”
Ken Clark of Culligan Total Water, a supplier of water filtration services to residents and businesses, provides some background: “Bacteria is enemy #1 for municipal water treatment plants. To keep bacteria at bay, they use chlorine to oxidize the bacteria molecules.”
Chlorine’s assault on bacteria has been of great benefit to the human race, Clark explains. When its application was discovered back in the 1800s, the average lifespan was 46 years. After its discovery, the lifespan average jumped to 64 years.
Chlorine is added as a gas, which allows it to dissipate out of the water. This factors into one of the purification methods we’ll explain later in the post.
What is water hardness and how can it affect you?
The hardness comes from the minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which water picks up on its way down to the aquifer. While there are no harmful effects known to be associated with these minerals, they can cause dry skin, scale buildup on your pipes (including spots on dishes), and harm appliances.
Here’s a video on hard water with more details:
Why does my drinking water look cloudy coming out of the tap?
This is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water, much like bubbles in carbonated soda. After a while, the bubbles will disappear. The bubbles occur more often during winter months with cold water.
Why do I smell rotten eggs when I run the tap water in the house?
The odor is sewer gas being displaced from the drain when you run the tap. To test if this is the case, fill a glass of water, take it to a room where there is no running water, and sniff it. If you smell eggs, then the smell is coming from your drain.
To clean the drain, pour one-quarter cup baking soda down the drain and follow it with a cup of vinegar. After the fizzing stop, flush the drain with boiling water. If the smell continues, Madison residents should call the Water Utility at 608-266-4654.
How does the city make sure the drinking water is safe?
Every month, Madison Water Utility conducts more than a thousand tests to monitor the water quality and safety. They also have to comply with Federal and State drinking water standards. You can check out their Annual Drinking Water Quality Report for more info.
Do old pipes in apartments make drinking water unsafe?
If you’re concerned about the age of your building and its plumbing pipes, you can conduct a water test. As noted by the Public Health of Madison and Dane County website, you may want to test for water problems that can result from “lead, copper, manganese, or bacterial contamination.”
To learn more about how to conduct a water test on your own, click here.
If the test shows there is a water quality issue, the City of Madison strongly recommends that a building owner replace any pipe that is found to be made of lead. The city has information on their website about how to identify lead pipes.
Once again, you can also check out their annual Water Quality Report online in both English and Spanish. It’s an overview of all the water testing results in Madison.
If the long-term solution is to replace the pipes, what do you do in the short-term? The city recommends you periodically flush the internal pipes and provide point-of-use filters and replacement cartridges for the kitchen cold water faucet.
So how do I improve the taste of the drinking water?
Now that we’ve established some of the basics behind Madison drinking water, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to remove the “taste” of the water. Please note we are not endorsing any of these methods, just informing you of the options.
1. Let it sit for 12 hours
Madison Water Utility recommends filling a pitcher of water, and leaving it partially exposed to the air for 12 hours. “Most, if not all of the chlorine will dissipate within 12 hours.” It’s important that the container not be sealed.
Without a doubt, this is your most cost-effective approach.
2. Buy bottled water
Bottled water is an option, but not only will it cost you in the checkout line, it has a significant impact on the environment. As noted by The Water Project:
- Bottles used to package water take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade and, if incinerated, they produce toxic fumes.
- It is estimated that over 80% of single-use water bottles in the US simply become litter.
- Only 1 out of 5 bottles are sent to the recycle bins.
- US landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles.
Here’s a video with more info. Check out the “clean canteen” featured in this news feature.
3. Opt for a water filter pitcher
One method is to use a pitcher to filter your water. Unlike the “let it stand” method we just mentioned, these pitchers include some type of carbon filter to provide additional purification.
Check out this compilation of the top water pitcher reviews courtesy of Soft Water Lab. Two of their top picks:
- PUR 18-cup dispenser: The largest water capacity, which can reduce chlorine and includes a slim design for easy storage in the fridge.
- Brita Everyday Water Filter Pitcher: Featuring 10-cup capacity, with a carbon ion-exchange filter that produces water free of chlorine taste.
4. Choose an alternative to the water pitcher
Apartment Therapy put together a great post called “Beyond Water Pitchers: 4 New Ways to Filter Tap Water.” Some of the water pitcher alternatives they featured:
- The Brondell Cypress Countertop Water Filtration System: A counter-top dispenser that hooks right up to your faucet. Filters up to 99% of VOCs and 98% of chlorine.
- Soma: A stylish carafe and a filter made from Malaysian coconut shell carbon (manufacturers are steering away from traditional carbon water filters.)
- KOR NAVA: Ideal for the student or people on-the-go, this an ideal replacement for the water bottles we just skewered. Check out the video.
- New Wave Enviro 10 Stage Water Filter System: More filters than the Brondell Cypress we just mentioned, and one of the more affordable countertop systems.
5. Bottled and Bottle-Free Water System
Although it may be a tad bulky for a smaller apartment, you can go with a five-gallon bottle option. There are also “bottle-free” systems that are a bit more on the stylish side. Services like Culligan Total Water and Fox Water here in Madison provide deliveries.
We didn’t mention Reverse Osmosis Systems in our list because this may require more extensive installation. You should check with your property owner before you even begin comparison shopping RO systems.
Does Your Water Quality Even Need to be Improved?
How your water tastes is a matter of, well, taste — not public safety. As Madison Water Utility notes, the water quality adheres to state and federally mandated guidelines and specifications. But your sensitivity to its taste is entirely subjective.
While Madison apartment renters may not have as options for a reverse osmosis system like a homeowner, many of the options we’ve presented here should help you produce H20 with the taste (or lack thereof) that’s right for you.