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Choosing Home Water Filters & Other Water Treatment Systems

Step 1: Know your water source

Your water filtering needs depend on the quality of your particular water supply, your personal preferences when it comes to taste and odor, and any special health circumstances in your household. To choose the best filter for your home water consumption needs, it is helpful first to learn more about your water source. Understanding what contaminants may already exist in your water is an important first step when deciding whether you want or need a filtration system and, if so, what type will best meet your needs.

Do you get your water from a private well or cistern?

If you get your water from a private well, you should have your water tested by a state-certified lab at least once a year. Before you hire someone to test your water, make sure they are certified, and make sure they will test for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels, and other contaminants common in your area. Contact your local health department for information on contaminants in your area and for suggestions on water tests you should request. You should also get your water tested if someone in your household becomes pregnant or if a child joins your household 1.  Also consider testing your water if you notice changes in color, taste, or odor. Regular testing at a certified lab can provide you with information on levels of different contaminants in your water. Once you know whether any contaminants found in your water exceed the recommended levels, you can take steps to choose a filter that will reduce those contaminants.

If you collect and use rainwater, visit the Rainwater Collection page for information on possible contaminants and preventing illness.

Do you get your water from a public system?

If so, you will get a report on your water each year. EPA requires all public water systems to send an annual report about the quality of drinking water, as well as contaminant levels, to people whose water comes from public sources. This report, called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), is sent by July 1 of every calendar year and will come in your water bill.

  1. Committee on Environmental Health and Committee on Infectious Diseases. Drinking water from private wells and risks to children. Pediatrics. 2009;123(6):1599-1605.
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