Rules / Etiquette

Why We Quit Drinking the Tap Water at Military Bases and What We Do Instead

I never used to think about the water we drank.

In fact, I thought most people who worried about whether their water was filtered were a little high maintenance. I was a self-proclaimed “tap water girl.”

It was only once we were preparing to leave Okinawa a few years ago that I started to take a second look. A friend of mine explained how being a military base, a lot of chemicals had been buried into the ground or leeched into the ground from chemical spills and that it’s nearly impossible to get out of the water.

I stood there silently as I recalled going through my entire second pregnancy and a year of breastfeeding while drinking the potentially contaminated water.

A pregnant woman standing in the grass holding her belly.

Not a soul ever said I shouldn’t drink the water.

And as recently as May of this year, Japanese officials have continued to warn local nationals NOT to drink the water surrounding Kadena Air Base due to unsafe levels of contaminants. Even the Washington Post covered this big controversy.

After digging deeper into some of the water issues at Camp Lejuene and bases in South Carolina, it became obvious to me that this was an issue I was no longer willing to take a chance on.

Adding fuel to the fire, was a recent article that detailed numerous military bases that tested too high for dangerous water chemicals.

Here’s the hard part.

Halting the use of dangerous firefighting foams and switching to “safer” options is a start; however, the remnants of past chemical contamination remains. Once it’s in the water table, it’s not all that easy to get out.

Three Colorado communities are looking at an 11 million dollar bill to clean up their water due to firefighting foams used at Peterson Air Force Base.

Many military bases tout safe water.

I get it.

The drinking water might be safe.

But, I’m no longer willing to play Russian roulette with my drinking water, only to find out two decades later that it contained contaminants known to cause cancer and organ failure.

There’s another problem for military families with any water contaminants near military bases: It is very hard to prove.

With military families moving every few years, it’s difficult to know which water source may have contributed to disease. A disease that may not show up for 10-20 years.

To go back and say, it was this base that we lived at 15 years ago is a hard thing to do.

Regardless if the water is deemed safe or not, we do not drink the tap water.

For a while we were purchasing water from a reverse osmosis water station and filling four 5-gallon jugs once every week to week and a half. We would pour it into a water dispenser and used it for everything from cooking to drinking to making coffee.

Table and berkey water filter. Glass of water.

The only problem with the jugs is they are heavy, and when we ran out of water, we would need to make a trip to the water station and get them refilled. On top of that, reverse osmosis does not reduce volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) or endocrine disruptors.

At home water filters like a Brita or PUR, aren’t enough. They offer basic filtration by reducing chlorine, but are not effective at removing VOCs, heavy metals, endocrine disruptors or fluoride.

(Side note: If fluoride has any benefit, it would be directly to the teeth, as drinking the fluoride has not been statistically shown to increase oral health at all. Additionally, fluoride has been linked to thyroid problems and other disorders when consumed internally.)

To read more on water filtration options and see all the pros and cons, check out this post on water filtration options from Wellness Mama.

Here’s what we use now:

Berkey recently gifted us a water filter and dispenser, and we will never go back.

The Berkey filter gets out…

  • Fluoride – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Viruses – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Pathogenic Bacteria – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Lead – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Arsenic – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Iron – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Mercury – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Chlorine – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Trihalomethane(THMs) – Removed to greater than 99.8%.
  • Bisphenol-A – Removed to greater than 99.9%. 
  • Chloramines – Removed to greater than 99.9%. 
  • Pharmaceuticals – Removed to greater than 99.5%. 
  • Petroleum Contaminants – Removed to greater than 99.9%. 
  • Methylcyclohexane-methane – Removed to greater than 99.9%. 
  • Pesticides – Removed to greater than 99.9%. 
  • Heavy Metals – Removed to greater than 99.1%. 
  • Coliform and e-Coli – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Atrazine – Removed to greater than 99.9%.
  • Uranium – Removed to greater than 97.0%.
  • Gross Alpha emitters – Removed to greater than 98.7%.

When it comes to filtering water in your home, this is the best you can get. You can read more about the Berkey test results here.

It’s really easy to use.

All you do is add more water in the top. It goes through the filter and into the bottom reservoir. Then viola, place glass or pitcher under spout and dispense. It’s easy to take with us if we are going camping or traveling somewhere with the car. Just take along and filter as you go. It saves on buying bottled water and the plastic waste that goes along with all of that.

A woman getting water out of a berkey water filter.

Berkey has all different types and sizes of water filters, but the one we have is the 1.5 gallon Travel Berkey.

Here are all the features that come along with the Travel Berkey…

  • Great for 1-3 People
  • Comes Standard with 2 Black Berkey Filters at $249 (4¢ per Gallon!)
  • 2 Black Berkeys Filter Approx 6000 Gallons of Water
  • Storage Capacity: 1.5 Gallons (5.7 Liters)
  • Height: 19″
  • Diameter: 7.5″
  • Portability: The upper chamber nests within the lower chamber for transport and stands only 12″ in height
  • Weight: 8 lbs (2 BB Elements)
  • Max Filters: 2 Black Berkeys (upper) + 2 PF-2 Fluoride Filters (lower)

To help give back and spread the word about Berkey filters, I’ve partnered with Berkey to giveaway a 1.5 gallon Travel Berkey to one of YOU.

A woman sitting at a table with glasses and smiling at the camera, with Water and Drinking

In order to enter, all you need to do is two things:

  1. Comment below about how you consume water – via the tap, a filter, a water station or something else.
  2. And include in your comment if you’re thinking about making a change.

This giveaway will be open for one week (closes Aug 10, 2019) and I’ll name the winner in the comments and email the winner to get the shipping information. The water filter and dispenser will arrive to your doorstep directly from Berkey!

Want more on military life?

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  1. This is super interesting. Thanks for writing about the filter system you use. I’m going to look more into it because my extended family has to bring water to the cabin to drink (including for the dogs) because it’s so high in iron in our well.

  2. Hello Lauren) Thank you very much for this article, it was an eye-opener for me to see what we really drink. Currently all my family drinks directly from a tap and also defrosted or boiled water. I was never keen on bottles, as considered them a sort of a con: tap water for money. However, with my toddlers always full of energy and thirsty, I have been looking to change to a Brita filter. I am convinced now, that only a proper filtering system (like the Berkey, for example) can make a difference to a quality of water. In this case: you pay for what you get. And at the end of the day: water is the biggest investment in your family life, health and well-being, so its all worth it.

  3. We bought a home last year outside of Ft. Benning. I have always felt weird about drinking water around bases that we do a lot of bottle water and the PUR filter is attached to the kitchen sink faucet. We are a family of seven and I would love for us to have better quality drinking water. Ones health isn’t something to take lightly. Thank you for the opportunity to win a better at home filtration system.

  4. Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for bringing this topic up and focusing my attention more on this topic. We just moved into a house, which is on well water. We’re finding there are a lot of sediments in the water. I’m still learning exactly what those sediments are and the water’s makeup/balance. So, in the meantime, we’re drinking filtered water from our refrigerator. I’m very interested in using the Berkey Water System though! The travel Berkey sounds really convenient and worth it!

  5. We were using a standing water tower with the 5 gallon jugs till one day we came home to 5 gallons of water on our kitchen floor. It apparently malfunctioned while we were out ?. Now we buy water from Costco and that gets heavy trying to lug in a ton of water packs cause we drink water like it’s going out of style. I’ve been looking into switching due to us going through so many plastic water bottles. We do recycle our bottles but that means having space to put the recycling and we fill up our recycle bin so fast.

  6. I drink about 6 to 8 bottles of water a day. We buy Walmart water the cases are about $4 w/ 40 bottles. We buy 10 cases at the beginning of each month & still run out before months end. That doesn’t include the water I buy as I’m out & about during the day. I’ve recently buckled down on my weightless goals so water is all I drink. I’m looking to be better to the environment & use less water bottles but at the moment it’s the best way to get my family a healthy source of water. Fort Eustis doesn’t have the best option. The water, sink, dishwasher all smells like the sewer. I contain call for assistance, with no fix or end in sight.

  7. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share thoughts and leave a comment. This giveaway is now closed. A random number between 0-100 was chosen. 17 was the number selected. Counting down from the top of the comments, Krystyn Mast is the winner. I will be sending out an email for your info.

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