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Do you know where your drinking water comes from?

Apr 27, 2017

The Environment Report's Rebecca Williams kicked off Tuesday night’s Issues & Ale event at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo with this question:

Where do you get your drinking water?

Panelists answered their host's question as follows:

  • Private groundwater well in Williamston – Joan Rose, an internationally recognized expert in water microbiology, water quality and public health safety
  • Lake Michigan – Lindsey Smith, Michigan Radio’s West Michigan reporter
  • Private groundwater well in Kalamazoo – Jim Brode, a groundwater consultant to industry, landowners and municipalities at Fleis and VandenBrink Engineering
  • Private groundwater well in Kalamazoo – John Paquin, Water Resources Division manager for the city of Kalamazoo, Department of Public Services
  • City groundwater wells in Sparta – Garret Ellison, a reporter for MLive and Grand Rapids Press

But that question is one many don’t know the answer to, Rose said.

“I had given lectures to professionals as well as the layperson – and even professionals, it was like 60% didn’t know where their water came from,” she said. “They’re like, ‘It came from the tap.’”

Panelists at Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo
Credit Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio

Knowing where your water comes from is step one in figuring out how to keep your drinking water safe, Smith said.

Finding that information can be as easy as calling your utility. Most utilities, Rose said, work hard to communicate the water science to everyday citizens.

Smith agreed – she called her utility and got an email back, with some detailed information, within about 45 minutes. (Though, of course, records and responsiveness vary from city to city.)

“You know, finding out a basic question like, “Do I have a lead service line in front of my house?’ They can at least let you know, especially if you have young children, like in my case…” she said. “Just knowing that basic information can be really handy for your peace of mind, before you go out and test.”

That basic information is also useful if you’re trying to figure out which type of water filter is best for your own home.

Before choosing a filter, Paquin said you have to understand what your issue is (if you have one at all).

“If you are concerned with iron, there’s iron filters,” he said. “Hardness – most people have softeners … but if there’s other contaminant issues or concerns, lead for instance, we provide filters to people that we know have lead in the interim, before the lead services is removed.”

Paquin said it’s all about educating yourself however you can.

“And if you don’t know the answers, ask those who do know,” he said. “There’s a lot of help out there.”

For the full audio from Issues & Ale: Protecting Your Drinking Water, listen above. You’ll hear the panel answer audience questions about companies bottling water in Michigan, groundwater plumes and remediation, wastewater overflows and more.