Whether you live in the Waxahachie city limits or out in the country, you can have crisp and clean water if you know which filters to choose.
[Note: This article contains a review by the author of various water filter solutions and affiliate links to the products tested.]
Despite all the good reasons to live in Waxahachie or just outside the city limits, we all have to admit that the water quality isn’t at the top of the list.
In fact, if you live outside the city limits and get your water from the Nash-Forreston Water Supply, the Rockett Special Utility District, or the Buena Vista – Bethel Special Utility District, at home you’ve likely never had a glass of tap water that quenches your thirst, iced tea that you can enjoy or ice cubes that didn’t have a subtle salty taste.
Waxahachie area water is undrinkable. And what makes the water supply just about useless for drinking, cooking or even washing your car is the high amounts of dissolved solids in the source water. Ellis County sits on top of the Blackland Prairie, and right beneath the black clay soil about 3 to 10 feet underground is a layer of limestone known as Austin chalk. It’s composition is mostly calcium carbonate — just like the chalk you write with on a blackboard.
As rainwater filters through the soil and through the layer of limestone on its way to a huge underground aquifer, it dissolves the calcium carbonate and becomes contaminated to the point of exceeding the EPA’s National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations, an unenforced limit on the total dissolved solids (TDS) that can be in tap water. The limit is 500 ppm (parts per million). Nash-Forreston Water Supply water, for example, comes in at almost double the limit at approximately 950 ppm.
The result of this high TDS level is water that tastes almost salty and altogether fails to quench your thirst. It’s barely adequate for watering a garden, and it’s just as repellent to animals as it is to humans. It deteriorates copper piping and faucets, especially on the hot water side. And don’t even bother washing your car with it; it leaves spots like you washed your car with Bon Ami cleanser — which is also composed of calcium carbonate.
Another of the dissolved solids that exceeds EPA standards in the water is fluoride which is known to discolor teeth. The fluoride is naturally occuring, just like the chalk.
If you live outside of Waxahachie and are hooked up to one of the water districts that pump water from underground, look at the warning on your water bill regarding fluorosis and you’ll see the only EPA-required accommodation regarding excessive TDS levels: a notice that due to the high fluoride levels in the water, your children may wind up with brown, mottled and pitted teeth — not in these words, of course.
Within the Waxahachie city limits, the water is much less contaminated as the city pumps its water from the Waxahachie Reservoir which collects surface rainwater from the region. Because it is surface water and not from an underground aquifer, it has far lower TDS levels than well water. Still, local residents often complain about the fishy taste and smell of the water, which can be very off-putting when it comes to heeding recommendations for drinking more water to be at our peak of health.
If you live within Waxahachie’s city limits, you can clean up the water coming out of your faucet and make it taste crisp and clean with a simple activated carbon filter. The city treats the water for bacteria and filters it so that it’s free of larger impurities, so all that you need to do is polish it off with a higher density filter and activated carbon, which removes the chemical and fishy flavors and smells.
One of the most cost-effective filters for the task is the APEC Water Systems CS-2500P Ultra High Capacity Undersink Water Filtration System PLUS Scale Inhibitor Premium. It’s made in the U.S., filters out heavy metals, taste and smell, and it has a scale inhibitor that saves your faucet from corroding or your dishes from becoming spotty.
Moreover, because it comes ready to fit onto your existing water valve under your sink and hook up directly to the cold water connection on your faucet, you don’t need a plumber to install it. If you can tighten a bolt with a Crescent wrench, you’ve got all the skills you need to install this filter in less than 20 minutes.
I tested a similar filter in town and was impressed by the flavor of the cup of coffee that the filtered water made. Because the filter does not remove calcium or magnesium, two minerals essential for good health, the water it produced brewed a perfect cup of coffee as a little mineral content is important for extracting just the right flavors from ground coffee beans. Iced tea was also brisk and delicious, and the water alone was thirst-quenching and a pleasure to drink.
The filter is rated to treat about six months of water, but whether it lasts longer is a matter of how much water you use. You may get away with an annual change out, but if you have an extra replacement filter on hand, you can change it out whenever you notice the bad flavors returning or spots on your dishes. All you have to do to replace the filter is turn off the water valve, twist off the old filter and twist on the new — a task that should take less than two minutes.
The Apec filter is far superior to the carbon filters that I’ve bought at home improvement centers. The Apec filter holds up throughout its lifespan and filters efficiently right up until it’s spent, whereas the filters that I’ve bought in town tend to do well in the first few months but quickly deteriorate and leak carbon particles into the water. The locally-available filter systems also tend to spill when you replace the filters and make what should be a simple task into a mopping and cleaning chore.
I prefer an undersink filter to a faucet-mounted filter or the pitcher-filter combinations because of the simple economy of an undersink filter: what you’ll spend on replacement faucet-mounted or pitcher cartridges in a year would pay several times over for an undersink model, and the water quality from an undersink model is far better than what a little cartridge can yield.
If I lived in town, I would be perfectly content with the water that this Apec filter produced. But, I do not live in town, so I have to resort to a more complex filtration system.
For anyone who lives outside of the Waxahachie city limits and is connected to one of the water districts tapping the underground aquifer, you can either arrange for costly bottled water to be delivered if you want water you can enjoy, or you can install a reverse osmosis system under your kitchen sink and enjoy near-distilled quality water for pennies per gallon.
Reverse osmosis filters can remove not only bad tastes and odors but also all the total dissolved solids that contaminate the water that passed through limestone on its way to the aquifers we have available.
A reverse osmosis filtration system usually includes a series of sediment and activated carbon filters to remove particulate impurities and taste and odor from the water, and a reverse osmosis element that does the heavy lifting of dissolved solids removal. RO systems also have a storage tank to store purified water so that it’s ready to use when you need it. Otherwise, because RO systems filter water very slowly, you’d only have a trickle when you try to fill a glass or a coffee pot.
RO systems also have dedicated faucets, which you can add to your countertop or pipe up through the hole in the countertop where a spraying wand usually sits (if you want to keep your spraying wand, there are kitchen faucets that can accommodate the wand or integrate the wand into the main part of the faucet).
The reverse osmosis element is a little like dental floss tightly wrapped and woven into a cylinder about the size of a cardboard paper towel core. Because the floss-like material is so tightly wound, it only allows water molecules to pass between the strands. Thus the water can get through the element, but larger molecules of calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, fluorine compounds and all the other impurities are too big to pass through.
When I first tried out a reverse osmosis filtration system, I bought a Whirlpool model from Lowe’s for about $175. It worked very well and reduced the readings on my TDS meter from over 900 to about 15 ppm — which is close to the quality of distilled water.
The system lasted for about a year and developed leaks, so I had to replace the entire system — not just the filter cartridges.
About one and a half years later, my second unit also leaked, but in a totally different area (the housing formed a hairline crack), so I concluded that the home improvement store options just weren’t durable enough to stay with, and I invested in an Apec model: the ROES-50 Essence Series Top Tier 5-Stage Certified Ultra Safe Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filter System
The Apec ROES-50 was just about the same price as the Whirlpool units I had bought, but the quality was at least three times better. Like the former units, the Apec model reduced my TDS from more than 900 ppm to around 34 – 59 ppm, but the storage tank was about double the capacity and never left me waiting for it to refill after filling a big pot or using the water for watering houseplants.
Now five years old, the ROES-50 has yet to spring a leak or require replacement parts, though I see some rust forming on the outside of the storage tank and will likely replace it in the coming year.
The filters are not as easy to replace as some of the twist-off cartridges that home improvement store models will have, but then again what good is the convenience if I must replace the locally-available systems because they fail after a year or two?
Each year, I replace two carbon filters and one sediment filter. Every two years I replace the reverse osmosis element, and a final polishing off filter that’s only available in a full ROES-50 filter replacement set.
I also run bleach through the system while its RO element is out to purify it for another two years. I’ve also installed a quarter-inch shut off valve on the water supply line that runs to the system so that I can more easily replace the filters. Because the local water wrecks copper pipes and valves, I try not to bother them, hence the durable polypropylene quarter-inch inline shut off valve.
As for installation of a reverse osmosis system, it’s completely DIY-friendly, but if the idea of replacing a kitchen faucet seems daunting, you’ll need a plumber to do the initial installation. Though, anyone who can open a jar of peanut butter has all the skills needed to replace the filters a year later.
With a roll of quarter-inch PEX and a T-connector, I could easily route the purified water over to the automatic ice maker in my refrigerator also.
One drawback to a reverse osmosis system of any brand is that it produces waste water. All the minerals that build up on the RO element must be continuously washed away as the water is filling up your storage tank. So, the unit must be connected to your sink drain. I’ve run mine out the wall to keep my foundation a little more stable. The waste water to filtered water ratio is about 3:1, which means that for every one gallon of filtered water you make, three gallons go down the drain, which is why you’ll use this water for drinking and cooking only.
Before I installed an RO system, I filled water bottles up at the water kiosks at Ann’s Health Food Center and stored my 20 gallons for the week under my stove. Needless to say, the weekly task of making a trip to fill the water bottles was a major inconvenience, and since I now have unlimited supplies of clean, pure drinking water, I would never want to be without an RO system again.
My parents live on the north end of town and get their water from Rockett Special Utility District. I bought them an Apec ROES-50 for a combined Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gift one year. I installed it and now they don’t have to lift heavy bottled water onto a dispenser, which means they also have less to stand in their way from staying hydrated.
To make sure that my RO system is still operating at its peak and not in need of a filter replacement, I bought an inexpensive TDS meter and test the water every other month. So far, I’ve never seen the readings reach more than the 90s by the time the filters are needing to be replaced at the expected replacement dates, so I find that the ROES-50 is more than capable of handling the worst of the Waxahachie area water with ease.
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