Water Education - Water Quality

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Affects the Taste of Water

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If your water has a moderate to high total dissolved solids content, it can affect the taste. Taste is very subjective and the ability to taste varies widely from person to person. However, the higher the TDS level, particularly when it reaches over 500 ppm (the recommended USEPA aesthetic guideline), the more likely people are to purify the water.


So how can water with high TDS be undesirable or harmful? It may taste bitter, salty, or metallic and may have unpleasant odors. High TDS water is also less thirst quenching. High TDS interferes with the taste of foods and beverages, and makes them less desirable to consume. Some of the individual mineral salts that make up TDS pose a variety of health hazards. The most problematic are Nitrates, Sodium, Sulfates, Barium, Cadmium, Copper, and Fluoride.

If a person drinks 2 pints of water a day, his or her body will have processed 4500 gallons of water over a 70-year span. Imagine if the water is not totally pure, these 4500 gallons will include 200-300 pounds of rock that the body cannot utilize! Most will be eliminated through excretory channels. But some of this will stay in the body, causing stiffness in the joints, hardening of the arteries, kidney stones, gall stones and blockages of arteries, microscopic capillaries and other passages in which liquids flow through our entire body.

The EPA Secondary Regulations advise a maximum contamination level (MCL) of 500mg/liter (500 parts per million (ppm)) for TDS. Numerous water supplies exceed this level. When TDS levels exceed 1000mg/L, it is generally considered unfit for human consumption. A high level of TDS is an indicator of potential concerns, and warrants further investigation. Most often, high levels of TDS are caused by the presence of potassium, chlorides and sodium. These ions have little or no short-term effects, but toxic ions (lead arsenic, cadmium, nitrate and others) may also be dissolved in the water.

Where do Dissolved Solids come from, after all? Some dissolved solids come from organic sources such as leaves, silt, plankton, and industrial waste, and sewage. Other sources come from runoff from urban areas, road salts used on street during the winter, and fertilizers and pesticides used on lawns and farms.

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Read Next: Is High TDS in Water a Health Concern?

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