How can you be sure that your water isn't contaminated? Since appearances can be deceiving, the only way of telling whether your water is safe is by laboratory analysis.

For a fee, a reliable lab can tell you the contaminants that may be in your water supply. The yellow pages may give you a list of labs that do this.

Distributors of water purifiers and other home purification systems may offer to test your water free of charge. But it's best to avoid them since they may come up with fraudulent results just to sell their products.

The number of contaminants in water varies from time to time so it's a good idea to have your water tested periodically. Have your water screened not only for bacteria but toxic substances as well. The results of the test will disclose the range of contaminants in your water and enable you to take the appropriate steps to purify it.

For most people, this simply involves boiling. Boiling water for at least 20 minutes is usually enough to rid it of harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, that procedure alters the taste of water and may put a strain on your wallet by the time you pay your electric bill.

If boiling is impractical in your case, you can make your water safe by adding liquid chlorine laundry bleach or tincture of iodide to it. These chemicals are available at the grocery or drugstore.

"Use two drops of bleach per quart of clear water and four drops per quart of cloudy water. Mix thoroughly and let stand for 30 minutes. You should detect a slight chlorine odor. If not, repeat the treatment and let stand another 15 minutes. For iodide, use five drops per quart of clear water, 10 per quart of cloudy water, mix and let stand for 30 minutes," said Jane Brody, an award winning columnist of The New York Times in her “Nutrition Book.”

For those who prefer the natural way of purifying water, sunlight can help. This was reported by Health Alert, a publication of the Health Action Information Network (HAIN). Dr. Alim Acra of the American University in Beirut said solar radiation is a simple and inexpensive way of treating water. This method has been tested successfully in India and the Arab Republic of Yemen. For best results, Acra said:

The water must be irradiated in transparent containers of small volume of one to three liters.

The water must be exposed to the sun directly at its brightest period for 95 to 300 minutes (one and-a-half to five hours).

The water should be clear with few suspended particles and low bacterial density.

The limitations of solar irradiation are:

Waste water cannot be treated in this manner.

During rainy season, there is not enough sunlight in tropical countries to disinfect the water.

Some bacteria can develop resistance to the destructive effects of the ultraviolet rays. (Next: Can vitamins purify water?)

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Author's Bio: 

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine