To drink, or not to drink: Making Italian water potable.

Here in Italy, especially in rural areas it is quite common to not have local treated mains water and so many houses have their own water sources, either via their own well or other communal source that is untreated.

It is also a fact that many Italians prefer to buy bottled water rather than drink mains water due to a mistrust of municipal water but thankfully this habit is changing in part because of growing attention plastic waste is getting in the news.

If you don’t have mains water or you simply want to be sure your mains water is drinkable then below are a couple of good options to treat your own water. These options are quite dependent on the quality of the source water so always get your water professionally tested first to be sure the option you choose is up to the job.

  • Reverse Osmosis (RO).
    Good : Can be used on most types of water.
    Bad: Expensive, high maintenance cost, not suitable for whole house disinfection.

    Probably the most common and most advertised method of sanitising water, these systems typically consist of a debris filter, a high pressure pump and an RO membrane.

    The water is pumped at high pressure and forced through the RO membrane which blocks almost everything except for the pure water from passing though. Typically these are sold as under the sink systems which give you a separate tap just for drinking water.

    They are very good at purifying even quite dirty water but are wasteful and not all water passes through and the rest goes to the drain, they have generally high maintenance costs and are not suitable for whole house water due to their low flow rate. They also remove not just bad stuff but also most of the good minerals from the water so you may want to invest in a post filter to re-add some of those good minerals.
  • Ultra Violet (UV).
    Good : Low cost, suitable for whole house water disinfection.
    Bad : Must have reasonably clean water to start with.

    Becoming more popular due to its low cost and reliable LED UV bulbs, a UV system consists of a few pre-filters (typically a washable debris filter, a carbon filter and a 1 micron filter), these filters remove any large particulate in the water where bacteria and viruses could hide and allow the next stage UV lamp to disinfect the water properly.

    One of the advantages of a UV system is it can process a large amount of water and so is suitable for providing whole house water disinfection, it also does not remove the beneficial minerals and salts or waste any water like RO does. It also should have considerably lower power draw and maintenance due to only consisting of a UV lamp that needs replacing once every year at most and a couple of low cost pre-filters.

    One of the disadvantages is that the source water should be fairly clean to start with, a TDS (Total dissolved solids) reading of under 800 ppm is recommended.

We personally picked a UV system as it allows us to fill a large water reserve tank with clean water for use throughout the house which we do a couple of times a week and also allows us some autonomy in the dry periods when our water supply can be restricted by the commune.