“Daddy, gross! What’s in this water?” asked Gary Bender’s daughter after moving from North Carolina to the Northside of Indy two years ago. Bender didn’t put much thought into the water in his daughter’s cup, until he tasted it for himself. “It had a strong chemical taste,” he says. “I wouldn’t even let my dog drink it.”
Feeling uninformed, Bender did some research and learned that the level of chlorine and chemicals found in much of Indiana’s water supply was much higher than that in North Carolina. Adding to his concerns, he found dishes from the dishwasher covered in white film, calcium buildup around his faucets and noticed that soaps weren’t rinsing as well as they should.
Bender’s findings don’t surprise many in the industry, says Mike Bowling, vice president of Aqua Systems in Indianapolis. “The water from the city is safe and usable,” he says. “But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of chlorine and chemicals that help get it that way.”
Related: How to Protect Water Quality at Home
By historical standards and when compared to developing countries, the drinking water in the U.S. remains relatively safe. Despite this fact, water quality makes news all the time, especially in Indianapolis, where algae blooms in reservoirs create taste and odor problems.
To understand why algae is such a problem, Indianapolis residents must consider where their water actually comes from. Three reservoirs — Geist, Morse and Eagle Creek — and a series of wells, hold reserve water for the city, which eventually travels to water treatment facilities and after cleansing agents are added, becomes drinking water. If it sounds simple, it’s not. Water treatment is a billion dollar industry and even minor changes in the raw water supply affect the cost involved in making it safe to drink.