Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tap Water -- A Matter of Taste

I've always wondered about the quality of our tap water. People say our city's is pretty good even though it tastes awful. When we first moved here, we drank bottled water exclusively, but then decided it was more environmentally friendly to drink filtered tap water. Besides, there's no good regulation over the quality of bottled water...

Earlier this spring, I noticed that our tap water had suddenly acquired a kind of musty taste and odor to it. It stayed that way for a couple of weeks, and even though we filtered our water with a Brita carbon filter, the taste remained even after filtering with a brand new filter cartridge. After doing some research, I found out that our city gets its water from a nearby lake, and apparently, algal blooms can cause this type of taste/odor in the water. Though the algae can be removed from drinking water, the chemical compounds they produce cannot be removed completely. Two of these compounds are geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol which both have strong odors. Unfortunately, our senses of taste and smell are extremely sensitive to these compounds, and we can detect them at concentrations as low as 5 ppt. Too bad for me, I have a pretty sensitive nose (and taste buds) -- in the lab, I used to be like the canary in a coal mine. :)

Thankfully, the nasty taste and smell are gone now. It might be neat to go check out the lake sometime.

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