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A glass full of water.

In-store water dispensers: are they safe?

From eNews, April 1, 2004

People buy water from in-store dispensers for many reasons. They may not like the taste of their tap water or they don't think their tap water is safe for consumption. If in-store dispensers are the primary source of your drinking water, or if you are considering them as an option, you may want to ask these questions. Where does the water come from and how is it treated? Water in-store dispensers may come from many sources or it may just be linked directly to the store's water line, which could be the municipal water supply. Generally, the water is treated in some way in the store. The most common way is reverse osmosis, but the water may also be distilled. How often is the water quality tested? The Food Safety Division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture conducts water tests on in-store dispensers four times per year. The water must meet the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) drinking water standards. How often is the water dispenser cleaned, and what sanitizers are used? Stores must have policies about maintaining water safety between state inspections because of the possibility for contamination if the dispenser is not carefully sanitized. What is the condition of the water containers and lids? If the store provides them, do they look clean? If you are bringing a container from home, use a narrow-necked bottle with a tight-fitting lid and make sure it's sterilized. To sterilize the container, mix one tablespoon of household bleach per gallon of water. Swish this mixture in the container for one minute, then wash the container with hot soapy water and rinse it with hot water. How does the price compare to the cost of bottled water? Bottled water usually costs 20 to 40 cents more per gallon, but there is more assurance in its quality and container safety. The Food and Drug Administration sets bottled water regulations based on the EPA's standards. For national drinking water standards, visit the EPA's Web site at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/mcl.html. To learn about University's water-related research at the University, visit the U's Water Resources Center at http://wrc.coafes.umn.edu. Editor's Note: The information above is courtesy of Info-U, the University of Minnesota Extension Service's multilingual, prerecorded information service. To learn more about it, see http://www.extension.umn.edu/info-u.

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