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How to Select the Best Drinking Water

Which Water is the Best to Drink?



There is a legitimate debate about what type of water is healthiest, with some professionals advocating the use of spring water while others suggest distilled.  Those are diverse extremes, with spring water containing various minerals and distilled water being void of minerals.  Still others are selling alkaline ionizers, which are a hoax, and making claims that these prevent cancer.  I’ll believe that when I watch it on CBS News.  So, who are you to believe and what system should you buy?

I learned long ago that when highly educated people disagree to such an extent that the truth lies somewhere in between.

It is my personal preference to drink water with minerals, like the water that a spring or river provides.  I say this because this is what we have been drinking, as humans living on the planet, since the beginning of our history.  So in my view, this is what the body is adapted to.

But in the early times of man river water was not polluted.  Today it almost always is. 

And so I have come to conclude that what drinking water filter provides you with the healthiest water depends on what is in your water to begin with.

For instance, if you are drinking Potomac River water there is no question that I will recommend reverse osmosis. The same is true for many of our nation's rivers....because they are grossly contaminated with stuff that will kill you - even in small doses (see my resource library for definitive proof).  Any time there are cities, and sewage treatment plants, upstream of you - then your water source will contain a wide array of dangerous chemicals and pharmaceuticals in amounts sufficient to alter cell function.  These are not currently regulated by USEPA and have only recently been recognized as dangerous.

Here's a video from a water treatment plant on the Savannah River that shows you how water is treated before it is delivered to you. Take a look at the color of that river and also the chemicals added by the treatment plant:

How Water Is Treated by Public Water Systems City Water Is Treated    HowMy point

My point in sharing this with you is that you can see quite clearly that extensive effort is made to prepare the water for your use there are no treatments at all to remove chemical compounds that may be in the water from the sewage of cities upstream of this plant. If your drinking water source is a river or lake and there are cities upstream of you then I suggest that your only healthy option for healthy water is to use a reverse osmosis system at your kitchen sink.

Many people suggest that reverse osmosis water is 'dead' and that you should avoid it.  This is nonsense.  There's no such thing as dead water.  In many cases, reverse osmosis will provide you with the healthiest water possible.  Water produced by reverse osmosis will not contain naturally occurring minerals, but it also won’t contain the pharmaceuticals and other chemicals present in many of our public water sources.

If you have a relatively clean source of water then a drinking water filter such as my Kitchen Defender, with multiple stages targeting specific contaminants is ideal.  Water produced by the Kitchen Defender will still contain minerals but chlorine, chlorine byproducts, herbicides and pesticides will be removed.  This type of filter system is my preferred recommendation, if the characteristics of your water allow it. It will not remove pharmaceuticals, radioactive metals, or nitrates from farming. None of my competitor's drinking water filters will do so either, regardless of what claims they make.

In addition to unregulated pharmaceuticals, factors that can lead me to recommend reverse osmosis include high total dissolved solids (above 250 ppm), nitrates (above 3 ppm), or radioactive metals.  Occasionally one specific contaminant, such as arsenic or other metals, may require reverse osmosis.

Some health practitioners recommend distillation specifically because it does remove minerals.  They base this recommendation on the fact that water with no mineral content will more readily penetrate the cell membranes, thus, in theory, providing greater hydration.  This is a proven and natural tendency of water to move from areas of low density to higher densities, otherwise known as osmosis. 

Other people suggest spring water as the optimum drinking water source.  Numerous studies overseas, paid for by the World Health Organization, show a strong correlation between water with minerals and lower rates of disease.  I have done my own analysis of this claim and found that it does not hold true in the United States. So there must be other factors at play in the Eastern European countries where that study was performed. While I tend to agree with this recommendation (drinking water with minerals) it is not possible for everyone to have such a source, or there may be pollutants that compromise the source.

Contradicting those who recommend drinking water with minerals are those people who suggest that inorganic minerals can’t be used by the body and so drinking water with minerals is pointless.  Some of the proponents of eating raw foods fall down on the side of eliminating minerals from drinking water, even suggesting that these may lead to premature calcification and thus contribute to aging.  I think this is only true with mineral content in excess of 200 ppm (aka TDS).

Many cities use wells and pump groundwater as a water source and anyone with their own well will be using groundwater.  This source can be of very high quality or it can be contaminated by the activities on the ground above the well.  Well water spends more time in contact with the minerals, rocks, and soils in that ground.  I look for high total dissolved solids and contaminants such as nitrates and various metals when determining what system to use for treatment.

Springs themselves can be considered to be groundwater.  The content of spring water varies widely and will depend on the nature of the soils or ground they come from and the length of time the water has been in the ground.  Springs are generally the starting point for rivers and so at the headwaters at least the two water types will be very similar.

Here's a good news article from CNN that talks about the various types of water and basically concludes that drinking water is good but alkaline water claims are unproven and mineral water has too many minerals:

As I hope that you can see from this discussion, the debate is extremely complex and there are experts that support every type of water as the best for health.  I’ve provided you with a brief overview in order to limit further confusion. 

My point is simply this: Drinking tap water is fine as long as it's filtered correctly. The drinking water filter you need depends entirely on what's in your water. You can't ignore this fact. If you buy the wrong drinking water filter you'll still be drinking contaminated water.

In short, water purification for your home or at the kitchen sink is about working with what you have and making it healthy by treating it appropriately.  Most public water supplies and private wells produce water that can be made to be healthy with the appropriate drinking water filter. Water purification and the water purification system that provides you with the healthiest water is most often a compromise based on what you have to do to address the contaminants in your water.

To learn what type of water purification system will provide you with the healthiest drinking water I recommend that you first look at your water report and then buy the system that removes the contaminants present in your water.

If you are on a public water source such as a town or water company they are required to test the water and provide you with a water quality report.  If you’re on a private well you’ll have to test the water yourself.  See my well water testing page. And if you can’t make any sense out of your water report, call me. 


My FREE Offer:

Call and we’ll review your water report together  

I work from 9 AM to 5 PM Mountain Time: 866-691-4214 or 970-259-2171.

To learn more about working with me visit Sweetwater's Home Water Purification Systems.


For 43 million Americans a reverse osmosis system, such as the one I offer, is the clear choice for drinking water.  Read more here:

Minerals or Contaminants: That is often Your Choice


Learn how you can make your tap water taste great and be healthy:

Avoid the Mistake Most People Make

I guarantee it!


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Five Steps to Pure Water!



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Jim McMahon is an ecologist with over 30 years experience, some twelve plus years dealing with various water quality issues.  It was his work on river restoration and protecting endangered fish that led him to realize what we've done to our water.  He provides water treatment equipment and consulting services to individuals and businesses throughout the U.S., working from his home in Durango, Colorado. 



 "What's in YOUR Water?"

James P McMahon, ecologist
James P McMahon


 To view my experience and credentials:

JPM Biography




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