Drinking water can come from either ground water sources (via wells) or surface water sources (such as rivers, lakes, and streams). Nationally, most water systems use a ground water source (80%), but most people (66%) are served by a water system that uses surface water. This is because large metropolitan areas tend to rely on surface water, whereas small and rural areas tend to rely on ground water. In addition, 10-20% of people have their own private well for drinking water. To find the source of your drinking water, check your annual water quality report or call your water supplier.
Drinking water protection is a community-wide effort, beginning with protecting the source of your water, and including education, funding, and conservation. Many communities already have established source water protection programs. Call your local water supplier to find out if your community participates. You can also support efforts to improve operation, maintenance, and construction of water treatment processes. States are now engaged in source water assessments, to work with communities to identify local sources of contamination.
Possible Cancer-Causing Contaminants found in Drinking Water
Alpha emitters: Certain minerals are radioactive and may emit a form of radiation known as alpha radiation. Some people who drink water containing alpha emitters in excess of EPA's standard over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
Beta/photon emitters: Certain minerals are radioactive and may emit forms of radiation known as photons and beta radiation. Some people who drink water containing beta and photon emitters in excess of EPA's standard over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
Combined Radium 226/228: Some people who drink water containing radium 226 or 228 in excess of EPA's standard over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer.
Radon: Radon gas can dissolve and accumulate in underground water sources, such as wells, and in the air in your home. Breathing radon can cause lung cancer. Drinking water containing radon presents a risk of developing cancer.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Reducing Drinking Water Risks
One of the first things we need to do is realize that our water is everyone's water. Second reality check is, fresh water is finite. In other words, water can run out. So one of the best things we can do is make sure that our workplaces, municipal, provincial/state and federal governments clearly understand the importance of water source protection. Then we would be very wise to adopt some water conservation policies around our home and in our community. North Americans waste a tremendous amount of water.
Buying bottled water is not necessarily a guaranteed source of safe water. The water industry is loosely regulated. Your tap water may not always be perfect either. In the last few year's, water boiling advisories are much more frequent. Installing water purification systems in your home will yield safe water for you own use, however they can be expensive.
Which brings us back to protection and conservation. Better start now while we still have quality water to manage.