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Tips For Tap Water Safety

There are a variety of factors that can affect the safety of the water that comes out of taps — not to mention the taste.

The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay gives some tips on how to be sure your water is the best it can be.

Senay explains that in most populated areas in this country, the public drinking water supply is regulated and very safe. Municipalities are required to make sure water is treated adequately to maintain minimum federal water safety standards.

Some common drinking water contaminants are bacteria, lead, pesticides and other chemicals. Sediment and mineral content may also be high in some areas.

There are federal requirements for clearness and disinfection, and results of the tests are available to the public. Senay says most of the American population doesn't have to worry too much about the water supply. Recent data shows residents are much less likely to experience an outbreak of waterborne disease if a water company serves more than 20,000 people.

Water quality does vary around the country, according to Senay. She says it also varies from time to time. Contamination does occur periodically, and may pose a risk to vulnerable people such as the very young and the very old, people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women.

To check the water quality in your area, visit the EPA website at for the latest.

Senay says it is also important to remember water with a funny taste doesn't mean it's not safe, and water that tastes fine doesn't mean it is safe.

If you're worried about you water supply, you can have your water tested by an independent lab that can tell you exactly what's in your water and in what amounts. Also, you can talk to the EPA about what those results mean for your safety.

Senay suggests people who get their water from a well need to get their water tested annually. If necessary, they can install water treatment or filtration systems that are appropriate to their needs.

There are many kinds of water filters for many different kinds of contamination. Sometimes a variety of filters is required. If you think you have a lead problem, you can test for that, too.

Whether you get your water from a well or your local municipality, be on the lookout for changes in the color and taste or smell of your water. They can be signs of contamination.

Senay says a water filter can improve the taste of water. There are many different makes and models for use on a faucet, under the sink or in a carafe. They eliminate the same items the water company is removing — just more of it. Senay says they don't significantly improve the safety of municipal water in most cases, but taste sometimes improves with the extra purification.

Senay says some people prefer the taste of bottled water, but that comes with the added expense.