'Tapping' the City Water Customer

April 1, 2006

About the author: Neda Simeonova, editor [email protected]


When Jane Smith turns on the faucet of her kitchen sink, she doesn’t worry about water quality. Jane lives in a large U.S. city and trusts that the water utility delivers safe drinking water to her tap. Right? Wrong.

Jane is among the growing number of consumers who live on city water, yet have become wary of tap water, questioning its quality and health effects. Like many other consumers in similar situations, Jane is turning to bottled water and common home water treatment methods to ensure her family drinks safe water.

But what is the cause for the shift in consumers’ confidence in direct tap water?

In the past decades, the industry has witnessed several widely reported incidents of public drinking water endangering health and even causing death. Among the most severe incidents was the 1993 outbreak of Cryptosporidium in Milwaukee, Wis., which affected about half the city’s population and killed more than 100 people. Despite this, U.S. citizens generally enjoy some of the highest quality water in the world.

Today, water utilities closely monitor water quality. Because water treatment professionals have a variety of treatment tools at their disposal, water quality leaving the treatment plant is exceptional. This high quality water, however, travels through miles and miles of water mains and distribution pipelines to reach customers’ homes, schools and businesses. On its way to the tap, this once-safe water can be contaminated in the distribution system. And while microbial contaminations are rare, isolated water contamination incidents, such as, more-recent lead issues, have turned people off from turning on their taps to enjoy a drink of water.

Health concerns alone are not the only reason why consumers are turning to bottled water and home water treatment systems. Although health and safety play a huge role, a main reason why consumers question tap water quality is aesthetics—taste, smell and color top the list.

Chlorinated water, while not violating EPA standards, is often considered to have an unpleasant odor, which pushes people to seek alternative treatment methods.

Whatever the contaminant or the reason, a growing number of water consumers prefer drinking an alternative to tap water and are willing to pay for it.

This is certainly not news for the water quality industry. Nevertheless, it is important to take into account that while 10 or 20 years ago, the majority of customers in need of water treatment solutions were on wells in rural areas, today’s customers in need of water treatment are drinking city water.

I urge water dealers in the industry to explore this “untapped” market. As the number of Jane Smiths continues to grow, there will be an increasing number of opportunities for dealers to offer quality services.

From simple carbon filters to under-the-sink ROs and shower filters, our industry has an array of certified water treatment devices and most importantly, water quality knowledge to deliver safe, high quality water to people’s homes.

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