OP/ED: A BWP Customer Asks: Is the Chloramine in our Water Making My Skin Dry?

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An expert explains how chloramine keeps our water safe and poses no harm to the community.

What is chloramine?

Chloramine is a compound used to disinfect water. It is a combination of chlorine and ammonia that has been safely used by water utilities across the country since the 1930s. When chlorine and ammonia are mixed, it creates a longer-lasting disinfectant than if these compounds were used on their own. Chloramine protects water quality as it moves through pipes and into your homes.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as the State of California Water Resources Control Board, have strict requirements on how much disinfectant water utilities can add to water. The Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (MRDL) for chloramine in drinking water is 4 mg/L. This means that chloramine levels up to four milligrams per liter or four parts per million (ppm) are considered safe in drinking water. At these levels, harmful health effects will not occur. As shown in our latest water quality report, BWP has an annual average of about half the EPA limit, at 2.2 mg/L, almost half the limit.

Burbank’s drinking water meets or exceeds all state and federal drinking water quality standards. Over 25,000 water quality tests are conducted annually to check for 160 different chemicals and contaminants to ensure that Burbank’s water is safe to drink. Every year, Burbank provides residents and the EPA with the results of our water quality sampling and testing from the prior year (2022) so that the community is aware of the quality of their water.

If chloramine is safe, why are my hair and skin so dry?

Dry hair and skin are not caused by the disinfectant that we add to the water. In addition to Burbank having a mostly dry climate, our water can be described as “hard,” which means it’s high in dissolved minerals – calcium and magnesium, specifically. These minerals are naturally collected into the water as it flows over mountainous rocks. Hard water is not a health risk, but we can all agree it can be a nuisance causing issues such as dry hair and skin, mineral buildup on fixtures, and poor soap performance.

You can combat hard water by installing a water softener, reducing the temperature of your hot water heater to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, using rinsing agents to remove mineral deposits, and installing a filter on your showerhead.

Why do we need to treat water?

Burbank is 100% dependent on imported water and it travels hundreds of miles to get to your tap. As water travels over the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and can pick up potentially harmful substances from animals or human activity. Untreated water can be contaminated with pathogens and viruses that cause diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and polio. This is why water must be treated with chloramine before it is safe for the public to drink and use. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites drinking water disinfection and treatment as one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.

Where does Burbank’s water come from?

Burbank has no water rights. By a court’s decree, every drop of rain that falls on our city does not belong to us, so we must purchase all our water from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD).  MWD is the regional water wholesaler that distributes water to twenty-six member agencies in Southern California. Before our water reaches MWD’s systems, it has a complex journey.

Our water begins as snowmelt flowing down the Northern Sierra and Rocky Mountains through rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. From there, it gets channeled into the California Aqueduct and Colorado River. Once the water flows into Southern California, it is either treated by MWD or delivered to us for treatment at our Burbank Operable Unit (BOU) filtration and blending plant. Finally, the water is distributed to the public. Check out our video to learn more about the incredible journey of Burbank’s water. If you have water quality questions or concerns, please contact me at (818) 238-3500.

https://bit.ly/SourceofWater

For more information,visit our website at burbankwaterandpower.com.

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