Consumer Assistance With Water Treatment Systems

What’s the best way to determine if you need a water filter or water treatment system?  How do you know what’s in your water?   The National Sanitation Foundation, which tests filters and treatment systems for safety and performance, offers these tips:

Step 1: Find Out What’s In Your Water

Start by getting a copy of your water quality report (called a CCR or consumer confident report) from your local water utility/city or rural water plant.   If you have a private well, consider having your water independently tested.

Step 2: Decide What Contaminants You Want to Reduce

Once you know what contaminants are in your water, you can find a treatment solution that is certified to address your particular water quality concerns.   Not all filters can reduce all contaminants.  Based on the water report or your water testing results, you can decide what contaminants you want to reduce in your drinking water. NSF’s contaminant selection guide will help you to locate products that are certified to reduce specific contaminants.

Step 3: Compare Options for Water Treatment

A number of water treatment solutions are available, ranging from whole-house systems that treat all the water in your home, to filters for specific areas such as the kitchen faucet, to more portable solutions such as a water pitcher or even countertop filters. Some reduce only one contaminant while others reduce many.

  • Point-of-use (POU) systems treat the water where you drink or use your water, and include water pitchers, faucet filters and reverse osmosis (RO) systems. Reverse osmosis systems are the only NSF certified systems that reduce fluoride and nitrate; and Reverse Osmosis systems are the only ones that are NSF certified to reduce both lead and copper.
  • Whole-house/point-of-entry (POE) systems treat the water as it enters a residence. They are usually installed near the water meter (municipal) or pressurized storage tank (well water). Whole-house treatment systems include UV microbiological systems, water softeners or whole-house filters for chlorine, taste, odor and particulates.

The NSF has listings of certified products on their website.

What Does It Mean to Be NSF Certified?

NSF certifies drinking water filters to standards applicable to each type of treatment option. You may notice the NSF mark on a product along with numbers such as NSF/ANSI 53 or NSF/ANSI 42, which refer to the standard to which the filter has been certified. Manufacturers choose which contaminants their product will reduce and NSF International verifies that their product will do what it says it is going to do. Because these standards allow manufacturers to certify their products to reduce a variety of contaminants, it’s important to check the packaging for both the standard name (such as NSF/ANSI 53 or NSF/ANSI 58) AND a claim for specific contaminant reduction such as lead.To review the protocols and NSF/ANSI standards that cover home water treatment systems, visit Standards for Water Treatment Systems.

The National Water Quality Association has a voluntary certification program that also assists consumers with choosing a water treatment system.

Finding quality products in a marketplace flooded with options can be challenging.  How can you tell if a product is safe, reliable, durable and capable of meeting the claims made on its packaging and literature?

WQA’s Certified Product Listings are available to help connect consumers with water treatment products that have been tested and certified to industry standards. WQA’s Gold Seal Product Certification Program ensures that the product is constructed or formulated from safe materials, the claims listed on the packaging are backed by test data, and the product will hold up under normal usage conditions.

WQA maintains a complete listing of all products and components that have earned the Gold Seal and Sustainability Marks. Only products that pass the rigorous testing requirements of industry standards, pass annual manufacturing facility audits, and comply with WQA’s Certification Schemes can be found in this listing.

Product Certification Areas

Water Quality Association provides various types of certifications to encompass a wide variety of products that may be used in the drinking water pathway. Anything that comes into contact with your drinking water may be a candidate for certification. Certification is divided up into areas that cover various aspects of water treatment technology.  To find out more about a specific certification area that WQA provides services for, please use the links here.

Drinking Water Treatment Units – The standards in this area cover full systems that use filter, reverse osmosis, water softener, or ultra violet treatment technology.

Drinking Water System Components – These standards cover individual components or parts of water treatment systems.

Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals – These standards cover the use of chemicals that are added to drinking water for health or aesthetic effects.

Sustainable Drinking Water Treatment Products – The Sustainability Certification Program recognizes products for improvements in the sustainability of their production facilities and processes.

Low Lead Compliance – The Low Lead compliance standard is a way for companies to show compliance to the EPA’s rule of no component in contact with drinking water may contain more than 0.25% lead content.

Food Equipment – The food equipment standards cover the certification of pieces of equipment that come into contact with food or drink related items.

Bottled Water – The bottled water standards cover the certification of water bottle containers.

International Standards – Standards that are only applicable outside the US and Canada are labeled as International Standards.

To see a list of the most current versions of the standards WQA is certifying to, refer to this list of standards.

In-Home Products Certified For Nitrate Removal Listed on WQA Website

Water Quality Association offers nitrate resources
Consumers concerned over a new report linking nitrate levels in the nation’s drinking water with cancer can have their water tested by a certified laboratory and use products independently certified to remove or reduce levels of nitrates as a final barrier solution, according to the Water Quality Association.

 A new peer-reviewed study by the Environmental Working Group, published June 11 in the journal Environmental Research, asserts that nitrate pollution of U.S. drinking water could cause as many as 12,594 cases of cancer a year, at an estimated annual treatment cost of $1.5 billion.

Nitrate contamination can come from various sources, including fertilizers, manure, septic systems and natural decomposition of organic matter, so it is most often found in rural areas.  People served by private wells are at an increased risk, because while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Water Drinking Act regulates public drinking water systems, it does not regulate private wells, so it is up to the well’s owner to make sure its water is potable.

Elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water sources are known to cause adverse health effects in humans. Infants exposed to nitrate are susceptible to methemoglobinemia, or “Blue Baby Syndrome,” which interferes with the ability of the infant’s blood to carry oxygen. This condition, in some cases, can be fatal. Pregnant women, individuals with reduced stomach acidity, and people with certain blood disorders may also be susceptible to nitrate-induced methemoglobinemia.

The federal drinking water standard for nitrate is 10 ppm, set in 1962, but EWG contends that standard is outdated.

 WQA recommends using a certified water-testing lab to check your drinking water; the EPA provides a list here. To find a certified water quality professional who can help you, check out

 Three technologies — ion exchange, distillation, and reverse osmosis — are considered to be practical and economically feasible for nitrate removal in the home. Search WQA’s database of Gold Seal-certified products for products certified to NSF/ANSI 58, 53, and WQA S-300 for nitrate/nitrite reduction.

For more information, WQA offers a technical fact sheet on nitrate/nitrites online or a more consumer-friendly version here.