The provision of tap water requires a massive infrastructure of piping, pumps, and water purification works. The direct cost of the tap water alone, however, is a small fraction of that of bottled water, which can cost from 240 to 10,000 times as much per gallon.
Experimental attempts have been made to introduce non-potable greywater or rainwater for these secondary uses in order to reduce enormous environmental and energy costs. In urban China, drinking water can be optionally delivered by a separate tap.
The availability of clean tap water brings major public health benefits. Usually, the same administration that provides tap water is also responsible for the removal and treatment before discharge or reclamation of wastewater.
In many areas, chemicals containing fluoride are added to the tap water in an effort to improve public dental health. This remains a controversial issue in the health, freedoms and rights of the individual. See water fluoridation controversy.
Tap water may contain various types of natural but relatively harmless contaminants such as scaling agents like calcium carbonate in hard water and metal ions such as magnesium and iron, and odoriferous gases such as hydrogen sulfide. Local geological conditions affecting groundwater are determining factors of the presence of these substances in water.
Occasionally, there are health scares concerning the leakage of dangerous biological or chemical contaminating agents into local water supplies when people are advised by public health officials not to drink the water, and stick to bottled water instead. An example is the recent discovery of potentially hazardous nitrates in the public water supply in Phoenix, Arizona.
Of all water supplied to studied homes annually, for perspective, 42 percent was for indoor purposes and 58 percent for outdoor purposes.
Domestic water systems have been evolving since the first thinking man located his home near a running water supply, e.g. a stream or river. The water flow also allowed sending waste water away from his domicile.
Modern indoor plumbing delivers clean, safe, potable water to each service point in the distribution system. It is imperative that the clean water not be contaminated by the waste water (disposal) side of the process system. Historically, this contamination of drinking water has been the largest killer of humans.
Fixtures are devices that use water without an additional source of power.
Appliances are devices that use water coupled with an additional source of power. connection to these appliances incorporates a backflow prevention principle of some form -- the minimum is an air gap. See cross connection control & backflow prevention for an overview of backflow prevention methods and devices currently in use, both through the use of mechanical and physical principles.
| Outside diameter (OD)|
| Inside diameter (ID)|
|Type K||Type L||Type M|
In the plumbing trade the size of copper tubing is measured by its nominal diameter (average inside diameter). Some trades, heating and cooling technicians for instance, use the outside diameter (OD) to designate copper tube sizes. The OD of copper tube is always 1/8th inch larger than its nominal size. Therefore, 1" nominal copper tube and 1-1/8th" inch ACR tube are exactly the same tube with different size designations. The wall thickness of the tube, as mentioned above, never affects the sizing of the tube. Type K 1/2" nominal tube, is the same size as Type L 1/2" nominal tube (5/8" ACR).
Generally, copper tubes are soldered directly into copper or brass fittings, although compression, crimp, or flare fittings are also used. Formerly, concerns with copper supply tubes included the lead used in the solder at joints (50% tin and 50% lead). Some studies have shown significant "leaching" of the lead into the potable water stream, particularly after long periods of low usage, followed by peak demand periods. In hard water applications, shortly after installation, the interior of the pipes will be coated with the deposited minerals that had been dissolved in the water, and therefore the vast majority of exposed lead is prevented from entering the potable water. Building codes now require lead-free solder. Building Codes throughout the U.S. require the use of virtually "lead-free" (<.2% lead) solder or filler metals in plumbing fittings and appliances as well.
Plastic pipe is in wide use for domestic water supply and drainage, waste, and vent (DWV) pipe. For example, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), polypropylene (PP), polybutlyene (PB), and polyethylene (PE) may be allowed by code for certain uses. Some examples of plastics in water supply systems are:
Many large corporations and some water companies and wholesalers, especially in the California Bay Area are now making a large effort to promote tap water over bottled water. Some of the Bay Area cities that promote tap over bottled water include San Francisco, Emeryville, Santa Clara, and Oakland. The Santa Clara Valley Water District in Santa Clara County launched its tap v bottled water campaign, with the slogan, “Tap Water, the Clear Choice”, in 2007.
During the 2007 U.S Conference of Mayors, the mayors of San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis signed a pledge to promote tap water over bottled water as part of the “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign.
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