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Filtered Water And Endurance Sports – Part 1

A few weeks ago I purchased an educational program concerning water and our health called Renegade Water Secrets.  This information was created by Kevin Gianni from renegadehealth.com and contains interviews from five top water experts throughout the world to discuss the importance of clean water for your health and also discusses topics relating to water that are not in mainstream science…yet. Interesting stuff!

What affects your health also affects your sports performances so I wanted to share some of the highlights of the 5+ hour program relating to our usage of water today. The two cannot be separated in my opinion. Endurance athletes drink much larger quantities of water than the typical person so I feel water quality is an area worth investigating.

Note, this is not a definitive guide but some of the insights I have learned by listening to the program and through my own investigation on the subject.

Why care about water quality?

You body is made up of 60-80% water. Proper hydration is a critical component of the general functioning of the body. The more toxins and impurities in the water, the more stress put on your body to try and get rid of them.

Here are just some of the impurities that Kevin Gianni mentioned may be in the water you are drinking:

Chlorine: Added to our city municipal water, chlorine has been shown to negatively affect digestion and intestinal flora. Chlorinated water also contains organochlorides which are carcinogenic and are stored in fatty tissues of the body. These can cause mutations as well as certain cancers.

Fluoride: It’s really a mystery why the surplus of this industrial waste product has made it into our water systems. Studies have show that over 0.6 parts per million of fluoride can start to show chromosomal damage in the cell. Many water municipalities have over that amount. By the way… many dentists have stopped using fluoride for teeth quietly, while our cities still put in in our water.

Pesticides: If you have well water, you may be safe from chlorine and fluoride, but you’re not safe from pesticide run off and polution. Pesticides, since their nature is to kill bugs, are damaging to our own cells and can effect your hormones, your nerves, and your immune system.

Herbicides: Just like pesticides, these can leak into your water supply (city and well) and cause havoc with the immune system and other functions of the body.

Industrial Wastes: PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), mercury, arsenic and other industrial wastes have found their way into our water supply. 25 different US states have reported unacceptable arsenic levels in their waters to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Build up of PCBs and mercury and other wastes can be extremely toxic.

Plastic Residues: Bottled water and other containers have been shown to leach BPAs (Bisphenol A) and other chemicals that are proving to be harmful to our health. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, which means it can effect hormone production.

Pharmaceutical and Recreational Drugs: Recent studies have shown levels of anti-depression drugs and even cocaine in drinking water and rivers, lakes and streams. As these chemicals continue to build up in our water supply, we may begin to be harmed by their residues.

As much as I love toxic pesticides, arsenic, and anti-depressants, none of these items give me too many warm fuzzies. There is one obvious thing that you can do to help reduce or eliminate many of these less-than-ideal ingredients and this is filtration.

Drinking Water Choices

The program discussed three main methods of drinking water filtration used today. All of these systems should help improve the water for those that are connected to city water in various degrees. It would be a good idea to pull up your cities water quality reports and take a look at the data yourself online. If you can’t make any sense out of the data, find someone who can. If you are using your own well, additional filtration methods may be required and will not be talked about within this article.

None of these three systems mentioned below are perfect but they are definitely a step or two in the right direction towards drinking “clean-er” water. The three main filtration systems discussed in the program were:

  • Pitcher systems – carbon media
  • Multi-stage systems – carbon and other media (typically 2 stages)
  • RO (Reverse Osmosis) systems – carbon and other media (typically 4-6 stages)

In basic terms, pitcher systems remove some of the contaminants. They use a portable pitcher in which unfiltered water is poured into a chamber and then the water passes through a carbon filter. These water filter systems have an extremely small start-up cost and are better than straight form the tap. These systems are also very portable. I used a Brita unit at work and was happy with it. No installation required.

The main brands include Brita and Pur. There will be periodic filter replacements required.

Typical price: $9-$30.

Filter replacements: $4.65-$10 per filter (Filters appear to be rated for 40 gallons)

Multi-stage systems (typically two) will contain larger carbon blocks and other media that will remove more contaminants than the pitcher systems. Most systems will be under-sink mounted units that will have a specific counter-top water tap connected directly to the main filtration unit. These water filter systems have a higher start-up cost than the picture systems but can generate much more cleaner, on-demand filtered water. They are typically not portable systems, meaning you can’t pick them up and bring them to work. Fairly simple installation is required.

A couple solid brands include Aquasana (20% discount) and Watts Premier.

Typical price: $99-$175+

Filter replacement: $35 – $48 per filter set  (every 6 months)

RO (Reverse Osmosis) systems (typically four or five stage) will remove the most contaminants out of the three systems mentioned. Most systems will also be under-sink mounted units that will have a specific counter-top water tap connected directly to the main filtration unit. They also use a small storage tank to hold the filtered water because the RO process takes a bit longer to produce the filtered water. The three gallon (may vary depending on manufacturer) storage tank will help ensure you have enough water available for your usage needs.

The RO filtration process will also remove some of the natural trace minerals so you need to decide if that is a concern for you or not. It was mentioned in the program that you could add a little pinch of minimally process natural salt (ex: celtic sea salt or Himalayan sea salt) to your glass of water to replace some of those minerals back into the water. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will also help with this issue. Note: Most self-serve stations at grocery stores use a type of RO unit.

One other typical concern with RO units is that they waste on average four gallons for every one gallon of filtered water produced. Watts Premier has a system called the Zero Waste RO System which implements a unique method to not waste any of the water. This is the system I have used in my home for the last six weeks and I have been completely happy. We had been manually refilling 12 gallons of RO at a local grocery store each week. This was a nice thing to remove from the to-do list!

RO systems do have the highest start-up cost of the three mentioned and are typically not portable. Fairly simple to moderately complex installation is required.

The brand that I have been happy with so far is Watts Premier. Costco sells the Zero Waste system online. I am sure there are other quality brands out there if you dig around a bit.

Typical price: $200+

Filter replacement (using the four stage Watts Premier Zero Waste system as an example): $14 (every 6 months, this is for two filters), $9.50 (every year for GAC final filter), $65  (every 2-5 years depending on water conditions for the membrane filter)

Filter Drinking Water Cost and Convenience

This is something you need to calculate for yourself but let’s take a look at my families (3 people: 2 adults, 1 child) costs as an example.

We would refill 12 gallons of self-serve RO water each week for $.33/gal = ~$206 per year. This is probably the most economical method of buying filtered water in the stores and it still costs us $206 per year.

If we would buy the cheaper bottled water at Costco (Nestle brands: 1/2 liter 24 ct for $5.72), it would cost us ~$354 per year. This is $1.80 per gallon!

Let’s have a bit more fun and look at the cost over a five year period and look at the numbers assuming all prices remain constant and the need to purchase/consume 12 gallons per week for the bottled water and pitchers.

$1030 – When using self-serve refill station. (assuming $.33/gal)

$1770 – When purchasing bulk quantity of bottles at warehouse store as noted above.

$725 – When using Brita/Pur Pitcher. (assuming $25 for pitcher, $9 per replacement filter, replace filter after recommended 40 gallons)

$490 – When using two stage filtration system. (assuming $130 for system and $40 per replacement filter set)

$529 – When using RO filtration system. (assuming $300 for system, $28 for filters replaced every 6 months, $9.50 for filter replaced every year, $65 for main membrane filter replaced once within 5 years)

This data starts to make these filtration systems quite reasonable after you start looking at the numbers.

You can also use the water filtration units for other applications such as cooking. I highly doubt most people are cooking their noodles, rice, vegetables, etc, with filtered bottled water. This would be another bonus in my opinion.

These numbers only refer to the impact on your pocket book and says nothing about the environmental impact all of these darn bottles have on our planet and future generations. One thing is a guarantee, the planet will survive no matter what we do to it, we on the other hand will not.

Environmental Impact

Filter For Good had a few interesting facts (from 2006) concerning bottled water and I think it is worth a bit of reflection:

  • Americans used 50 billion water bottles in 2006 and sent 38 billion water bottles to landfills, the equivalent of 912 million gallons of oil.1, 2, 3, 4 If laid end to end, that’s enough bottles to travel from the Earth to the Moon and back 10 times.5 If placed in a landfill or littered, those bottles could take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.2
  • The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes.6
  • In 2006, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.1
  • Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles in 2006. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles — more than $1 billion worth of plastic — are wasted each year.1

We really do have choices with respect to all of this and some of the more environmentally friendly alternatives are even cheaper on the pocket book! How often is that the case? The numbers paint a fairly clear picture. We just need to look at our unconscious habits and decide if they are truly the best option for you/us/planet at this time.

I know there are times when no fairly clean water is available and some bottled water will be purchased but it should be no where close to 167 bottles per year. That is nearly 14 bottles per month!

If you prefer to drink filtered water, it definitely seems beneficial for the pocket-book and the environment to stop or greatly reduce the amount of purchased bottled water. The affordability and convenience of an at home filtration system really can’t be beat in my opinion.

The general consensus by the experts is that drinking filtered water is definitely a good idea. Which unit is the best is debatable. I do believe some sort of filtration is better than none at all.

What are your thoughts on filtered water and what method do you use?

Part two in this series will discuss a common area of water use we rarely think about – the shower.

Happy Training!

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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