Water is a subject that is near and dear to my heart for the following reasons:
1. I live close to downtown in an urban centre, and my city water source involves treatment with chloramine.
2. I started my fermentation journey to deal with a myriad of health issues that I assumed were related to poor bacterial flora within my family. The goal was to improve the health of our bacteria flora (both on our skin and within our bodies).
As it turned out, changing our source of drinking water played a big part in our microbiome health.
(Science Related Special Note: a microbiome is created by the symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms that share our body… and achieving a healthy microbiome is the primary reason for taking probiotics).
The goal of urban water treatment
No one wants to hear that their water source was contaminated with E. Coli, parasites or anything like that. So urban water is usually filtered and treated to prevent the spread of disease from occurring anywhere in the water distribution system. Usually this involves the addition of chlorine or chloramine, which are both very effective at sanitizing our water.
Issues with using chlorinated and chloraminated water
- Never use sanitized water for fermenting. Since the goal of chlorination is to prevent the spread of bacteria, it certainly won’t help foster the growth of our friendly lacto-bacteria and yeasts.
- You can’t use it to fill a fish tank without the risk of killing your fish.
- It’s generally better not to water your garden with chlorinated water, since it is harmful for the bacteria living in the soil. (Though I admit to doing this in the heat of the summer.)
- And… I would say that if you are worried about your microbiome, then you probably shouldn’t be drinking chlorinated tap water without filtering it first.
- Some people would suggest that washing in chlorinated water is harmful too. However, all the eczema in my family resolved itself through eating a probiotic rich diet… and we all still go to the local swimming pool once a week for lessons. I would suggest avoiding chlorinated swimming pools if you are REALLY struggling with a skin condition.
Chlorinated water versus chloraminated water
It’s really important to know whether your water is treated with chlorine or chloramine, because it really changes how you need to deal with your water for fermenting (and other) purposes.
This is probably what you “think” you have… however, many cities are switching to the much more stable chloramine for water treatment.
The most important thing to know is that chlorine evaporates within 12 hours sitting out on your kitchen counter. It boils away in 20 minutes and it can be filtered out by most filters.
So if you have chlorinated water, then rejoice! Your off-the-shelf Brita filter will be good enough. Or better yet, simply buy yourself a few glass pitchers and leave your water out on the counter overnight before drinking it.
Chloramination is when chlorine is combined with ammonia. It creates a VERY stable disinfectant.
The important thing to know about chloramine is that chloramine is very stable. It would take 2-3 days for it to dissipate at room temperature, or nearly 2 hours to boil away. And most pass-through water filters don’t get rid of chloramine.
All is not lost! You can dechloraminate your water by:
-Throwing in a few slices of lemon or orange (since citric acid breaks down the ammonia).
-Using submerged, activated charcoal (which is what we use… but we can only get it through my sister’s boyfriend’s parents since it’s not available in Canada, and they live in the UK.)
-There are a few other methods for chloramine removal which mostly involve adding extra chemicals or UV light treatment, and aren’t practical for the average urbanite, so I recommend trying one of the above!