If you’re keeping up with some of the latest trends in drinking water, you are probably familiar with a term that’s known as the pH of water.
That’s because there is much debate these days surrounding drinking water that is not perfectly pH balanced.
Often discussed in these conversations are the risks associated with tap water that is not pH neutral and even if drinking water that is not pH balanced may actually be good for your health.
I have taken more pH readings than I care to remember in my 26 years working with pool water chemistry.
It’s something that’s deemed to be that important when it comes to maintaining a clear and sanitized swimming pool. It’s even more important when it comes to how drinking water pH impacts your health.
That’s why in this pH of Water Guide, I will discuss what pH is, what role it plays in the quality of drinking water, and some of the risks and benefits that may come from you and your family drinking water that is not perfectly pH balanced.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is pH?
- 2 How Does pH Affect Drinking Water?
- 3 Common Water pH Levels
- 4 What pH Range is Safe for Drinking?
- 5 Are there Risks with Unsafe pH?
- 6 Acidic vs Alkaline Water
- 7 Benefits of Alkaline Water
- 8 Risks of Alkaline Water
- 9 How to Test the pH of Your Water at Home
- 10 A few Final Thoughts on Tap Water pH
What is pH?
If you are looking for a more technical answer to this question, pH is a figure that represents the alkalinity or acidity of water on a logarithmic scale. With zero being highly acidic water, 7 representing pH neutral water, and 14 indicating highly alkaline water.
You will also hear this referred to as the pH acid-base scale.
The abbreviation ‘pH’ itself stands for the ‘potential of hydrogen’ or the ‘power of hydrogen’.
That’s because the numbers that were stated in the above-mentioned scale are determined by measuring the concentration of hydrogen ions in an aqueous solution such as water.
Acidic water has a higher concentration of hydrogen ions and it’s just the opposite for water that is to the alkaline side.
Several factors can contribute to the high acidity of drinking water. The most common of which is pollution in the air that comes back to earth in the form of acid rain.
Water that is considered to be alkaline is most often caused by groundwater seeping through the soil and rock layers and then picking up the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) minerals that are often found in these layers.
The following chart gives the pH levels of some common substances and their related hydrogen ion content:
How Does pH Affect Drinking Water?
According to the Water Systems Council (WSC), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no set standard that water pH has to test out at. Although it must be noted that the EPA does recommend that the pH of water fall between 6.5 to 8.5.
But don’t let the fact that the EPA is not concerned with drinking water pH levels mislead you here because pH truly is an important number as far as drinking water goes.
As an example, water that leans heavily toward the acidic side can leach such harmful metals from your tap water as lead, copper, and zinc and these can then adversely even impact your health when you drink it.
Water that picks up these metals may also become discolored which does not make it very appealing to drink.
It must also be noted that water that trends to the alkaline side does not usually impact your health but it often results in water that has a somewhat bitter taste. Coffee and tea drinkers will especially notice the effect of this.
Common Water pH Levels
This is a hard question to answer because drinking water is impacted in so many ways by the environment and how it’s sourced.
So, the common pH of water on one side of a town may be totally different on the other. This can happen if there are different wells or reservoirs providing that water.
While it’s ideal for your drinking water to fall between a pH of 6.5 to 8.5 this does not always happen naturally. A good example of this is well water which usually runs to the slightly acidic side and often is found to have a pH level as low as 6.
Bottled water also tends to be all over the place and varies widely by manufacturer. An article on the wellness site Comfy Tummy displayed pH levels for different brands of bottled water that were as low as 4 and as high as 8.
You can also see on the chart that was displayed in the ‘What is pH?’ section of this article that seawater typically has a pH in the 8 range and a solution of soapy water will test out at around a pH of 12.
What pH Range is Safe for Drinking?
It was already mentioned that pH is only a secondary concern for standard water quality setting bodies such as the EPA. The World Health Organization (WHO) also discusses pH concerns extensively in this published document but does not give an exact opinion on what a recommended pH range for drinking water should be.
Everything that I have researched seems to go along with the EPA’s thinking that a proper recommended pH for safe drinking water is that it should fall between 6.5 to 8.5.
Are there Risks with Unsafe pH?
The biggest risks associated with having unbalanced tap water pH are the most concerning when they fall into the acidic range. The lower the pH of your tap water the more potential it has to cause you some health concerns.
The biggest threat of which is acidic water leaching harmful metals out of pipes and into your tap water such as lead or copper and then you ingest large quantities of them over time.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this can cause lead poisoning which can, in turn, lead to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and nervous system disorders.
The biggest risk is to children under 6 because it can significantly impact their mental and physical development.
According to the same WHO document mentioned above, although high drinking water alkalinity does not often impact health, if used for other purposes it can cause hair fibers to swell and even gastrointestinal, eye, skin, and mucous membrane irritation as well.
Acidic vs Alkaline Water
It should be apparent from reading this article so far that more people should be concerned with having a lower pH (acidic) of their drinking water than having a higher pH (alkaline).
As a matter of fact, you will soon read about a variety of supposed health benefits that drinking alkaline water may help you obtain.
Both can also have a high mineral content at extreme levels with this being more prevalent with alkaline water. Evidence of this comes from the fact that ‘mineral’ water often tests to the high side as far as alkalinity is concerned.
Neither seems to be a big concern when they are just slightly out of the recommended 6.5 to 8.5 range.
Benefits of Alkaline Water
There really is no definitive evidence that drinking alkaline water has significant health benefits.
Some studies that were pointed out in authority websites such as Healthline.com suggest that drinking alkaline water does indeed have some health benefits.
- It may help deactivate the acid reflux causing enzyme pepsin.
- A small sample size showed that drinking water with a higher pH level lowered blood viscosity (easier blood flow).
- Another study mentioned in the article stated drinking alkaline water may help those with high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
- It may help with anti-aging because it offers the ability as it can help liquid antioxidants be absorbed into the body more quickly. This may also offer some form of cancer resistance.
- Other supposed health benefits of drinking alkaline water is that it can be used as a catalyst for losing weight, to help with immune system support, and possibly have some colon cleansing benefits.
Risks of Alkaline Water
As with many good things, they are often accompanied by some risks too and this is no different when it comes to drinking alkaline water. Potential negative health impacts might include:
- Skin irritations
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Metabolic Alkalosis. This is often signaled by the onset of nausea, vomiting, confusion, a tingling sensation in the face, hands, or feet, and tremors & muscle twitches. This condition can also lower the level of free calcium in the body which can lead to bone health concerns.
How to Test the pH of Your Water at Home
Fortunately, testing the pH of your tap water is very simple to do. There are three main ways to do this and they include:
1. Use pH Test Strips
This is perhaps the easiest way to get a fairly accurate reading of your home tap water’s pH level. They can be purchased at a local pool and spa supply store, many home improvement centers, aquarium supply stores, and online.
They produce results within seconds and all it takes to use them is to dip them into the source water that you want to test and then match the color that they turn with a provided chart. This chart may be separate or on the container that the test strips come in.
An example of pH test strips that are versatile and affordable are those made by Med Lab Diagnostics.
2. Digital pH Test Meters
Electronic digital test meters also provide a very reliable means for testing your tap water’s pH. These work by simply dipping them into the water source that you want to test and then you are provided with a digital pH readout. It works very similarly to that of taking your temperature with a thermometer.
These come in several different styles and price ranges. The lost cost ones will work for most people but for more accurate results, you can spend a little more money and get a highly accurate one such as the Apera Instruments Digital and Waterproof pH Tester.
3. Purchase a More Extensive Water Testing Kit
One great way to test for pH and get a better overall picture of your household water’s purity is to buy a test kit that does more than just test pH. Most will also detect bacteria levels in your home’s tap water (especially important for those that have well water), chlorine content, nitrates, lead, iron, pesticides, copper, and more.
An example of a simple to use and low-cost test kit that I recommend for doing this is the Watersafe Drinking Water Test Kit that’s pictured above.
A few Final Thoughts on Tap Water pH
From what you have just read here, it should now be apparent that the pH of your home’s drinking water is something that you should be aware of and test for periodically. If the pH of your tap water is found to be out of the recommended 6.5 to 8.5 range, then you should take steps to better balance it.
This is especially true if your household water leans heavily toward the acidic side because of the adverse health effects that this can cause. Equipment such as acid neutralizing filters can help take acidic water closer to the neutral range and chemical feed pumps can do the same for water that tests to be highly alkaline.
While there is not a lot of substantial evidence to say that highly alkalinized water is better for you and we think that having water that is in the normal pH range is perfectly healthy, some people use alkaline water machines if they feel having water that’s more alkaline is better.
With all that said, there really is no reason, no matter how far off your tap water’s pH is, that you just have to learn to live with it. Instead, be proactive in taking steps to keep your pH within the recommended limits and you should be perfectly healthy.