When you hear the term ‘polluted water’, what do you picture? Green sludge from toxic waste barrels? Muddy wells in developing countries? Unfortunately, polluted water may actually look, smell, and taste exactly like clean tap water.


So how exactly do we define polluted water? Typically, water is considered to be polluted if it has become unsuitable for human consumption because of human actions, such as pesticide use on farms leaching into groundwater. Likewise, raw sewage runoff, water filled with lead, or water contaminated with man-made chemicals is polluted.


Water that is unsuitable for human consumption often occurs naturally. In fact, most of the water on earth is not suitable for consumption because it is too salty or it has high levels of algae growth. However, that water isn’t ‘polluted’ by most definitions. To be clear, water can be dangerous for drinking but not polluted.


For instance, many people believe that hard water (water that contains high levels of magnesium and calcium) could be polluted water. While hard water is not ideal for drinking, around 85% of American homes’ taps do contain hard water. It is usually non-toxic to drink and just requires a simple home water system to make it more healthy and palatable.


The World Wildlife Fund calls water pollution “one of the most serious ecological threats we face today”. Not only is truly polluted water toxic to the environment, but it’s also incredibly dangerous for humans and any other living creatures that rely on water to live (hint: all living creatures rely on water to live). Unlike salty or dirty water, which can naturally sustain many ecosystems of plants and animals, polluted water is welcomed by nobody.


The National Resources Defense Council goes into more detail here about the various sources of water pollution, so check out their resources for more in-depth information. For now, here’s the big question most people have: how can I avoid water pollution in my own home’s water?


Municipal water facilities do an effective job of monitoring dangerous levels of contaminants in local water, and these organizations will issue a ‘boil water’ or ‘no drink’ warning if an issue is discovered. If you rely on well water, you should have your water source tested periodically for any kind of contamination, especially if you live near farmland.

What else can you do? Don’t add to existing water pollution. Properly dispose of extra medications, waste from cooking, and household chemicals. None of those materials can go down your home’s drains without environmental repercussions. You can also reduce your use of plastics by using a Culligan® Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water System and reusable water bottles. Be sure to avoid household pesticides and herbicides, which can all cause toxic runoff in groundwater and ocean water as well.