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Potable Water - Definition


Definition: Potable water is water that has been either treated, cleaned or filtered and meets established drinking water standards or is assumed to be reasonably free of harmful bacteria and contaminants, and considered safe to drink or use in cooking and baking. Examples of potable water would be that from treated municipal water systems, water that has been UV filtered, water distilled, or purified by reverse osmosis.

Non-potable water is generally all raw water that is untreated, such as that from lakes, rivers, ground water, springs and ground wells. Such water is not considered potable or safe to drink. Without proper water testing, a body of water carries unknown contaminants and is deemed to be non-potable. Although it may taste fine, drinking such water carries uncertain health risks.

Previously treated potable water can also become contaminated and no longer considered potable or drinkable water. An example is when tested municipal treated water results show the presence of harmful contaminants, prompting a 'boil water advisory'. A temporary remedy is often to boil water for at least 20 minutes, to remove impurities and make it potable and safe to drink, until municipal water treatment testing returns favorable results - lifting the advisory and making tap water once again safe to drink.

Is bottled water considered potable and safe? Although some regulatory standards are in place regarding bottled water quality, not all bottles are filled with water that meets these standards or regulations. In the absence of supporting lab testing results or documented treatment, it can be assumed that at best, bottled water may simply be tap water that has been active carbon filtered. However, some manufacturers do promote their brands as having been UV filtered or has been through a water distillation process.

The bottom line: Consumers need to be proactive to ensure the water they are drinking is truly potable water, is safe to drink and is from a reliable source.

Read More About Water and Water Quality Products

Water 101 - Quality, Filtration, Bottled, Storage
What's a Water Purifier?
Water Dispenser Buying Tips
Reverse Osmosis - Definition
How to Install a Water Filter on a Faucet - Video
Practical Ways to Conserve Water
Go to Main Water Quality Page
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Pronunciation: pot.able wa.ter
Municipally treated tap water is potable water.

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