Here’s a partial list of possible contaminants of drinking water: lead, mercury, aluminum, cadmium, organic solvents, bacteria, viruses, parasites, industrial chemicals, pesticides, asbestos, radon, nitrates, chlorine, fluoride, sodium.

Pollutants that most concern us:

Lead contaminates the water of more than 40 million Americans, mostly from lead solder in water pipes.

Radon is a radioactive gas. It’s carcinogenic. Water from wells and groundwater have the highest incidence.

Nitrates are from groundwater contaminated by the agriculture industry (fertilizers and manure). They also have higher levels of pesticides & herbicides. Nitrates are converted to nitrites by intestinal bacteria. Nitrites convert the hemoglobin molecule to methhemoglobin, which can’t carry oxygen.

There are several methods of purifiying water. Filtered: simplest and cheapest. Two main types of carbon filters are granulated carbon and solid carbon block. Activated granulated carbon filters are the most common. It is best at removing organic chemicals and chlorine, but not for all microorganisms or metals. There is a concern that because the filters collect bacteria and sediment that they can become breeding grounds for bactera which can re-contaminate the water. Solid carbon filters, however are considered to be more effective, remove microorganisms, do not provide breeding areas and may also address toxic minerals like lead and mercury.

Reverse Osmosis filters have two or three filtering mechanisms. The first filter is a sedimentation filter, which allow particles to settle. The second filter is the reverse osmosis filter which has pores sized so mainly the water molecule can pass through. Finally is a carbon filter, which removes other contaminants that might possibly have passed through the RO membrane. With this system, almost 100% of the organic material is removed, along with almost all of the minerals. It’s best for removing dissolved solids, organic chemicals, and lead and other heavy metals.

Distilled water involves vaporizing water in one chamber and condensing it again into liquid in another chamber. Some volatile organic chemicals can also vaporize and recondense into the second chamber, so distillation should be preceded by solid carbon filtration. There is also some concern that heating the water to 212 degrees F changes the biochemical atributes of the water. Home distillers are fairly expensive and time consuming. Distilled is also devoid of all minerals. Mineral supplements should be considered by those who consume only distilled water.

When using filters to eliminate parasites and other microorganisms consider the following sizes: giardia lamblia is 10-20 microns amoebas are 10-50 microns cryptosporidium are 2-5 microns campylobacter bacteria are 2-3 microns CMV and Herpes virus are 0.15 to 0.2 microns retro virus (AIDS) is 0.1-0.12 microns hepatitis virus is 0.025 -0.04 microns

This information was compiled from Dr Elson M Haas book: ‘Staying Healthy With Nutrition. His recommendation is a solid carbon block filter followed by reverse osmosis.


Water is, to one way of thinking, the most important and most critical nutrient. Without water, other nutritional issues quickly become no problem at all. Yet, water is often overlooked in discussions of illness and nutrition – perhaps because, since nearly all of us have water that we consider safe for us to drink, we don’t think about it.

Clean, fresh, SAFE water is, in my opinion, one thing that a great many birds do not have. Most city water systems contain chemicals, pesticides, and even microorganisms like Giardia, crytopsoridia, etc. Wells are often contaminated by ground water contamination, especially if there is agriculture nearby. I once knew a lady who was trying to breed dogs, and for years had incredibly high rates of “barren” dogs, miscarriages, and stillbirths – all because her well water was contaminated with sulfates (or sulfides?), as it turned out. Bottled water is, as I have often been told, NOT a regulated industry, and testing on bottled water has revealed that it is often as bad or worse than tap water – it’s just been filtered to make it TASTE good. “Spring” water is not necessarily good either, since it may contain high levels of minerals and salts, and distilled water lacks trace colloidal minerals that we may need. So, what’s the answer?

First of all, I don’t consider any source of water necessarily “safe,” and I do treat my birds’ drinking water with GSE, ACV (organic apple cider vinegar) or something nearly all the time. Secondly, I have a faucet mounted filter that removes most of the things I’ve been talking about – metals, chemicals, pesticides, microorganisms, etc. The average filter unit from Wal-Mart runs about $40 and the filters cost $12 – $15 and are good for about 200 gallons of water. Works out cheaper than bottled! I clean and disinfect the unit periodically and hope that I take care of things like pseudomonas by treating the water with the GSE or other additive before I serve it.

Not only do WE notice a difference in our water, tea, and coffee since getting the filter, but the incidence of bacterial infections and yeast infections in our birds, especially chicks, has been reduced since getting the filter and treating their drinking water. This leads me to believe that water was the source of at least some of the problems we used to have before. Heike Ewing

I read a month or so ago, a report available at ParrotParrot.com on water and distilled water…I was not happy, as it was a pay $9.00 (+-) and that made me feel there had to be a sales pitch but I’ve been trying to find information on water so I went for it… After reading the article, if you believe it’s content, you would never use anything but distilled water again! One interesting issue was that the article states “the minerals in water are not absorbed by the body of any living thing and therefore are of no value” if goes on to state that they may even be detrimental in that they float through your system and may clog it up!  I have found nothing to back this statement up in the report but am waiting for information from two water specialists…I did submit copies to them…I will share what I learn. btw, I did not find that the writer was selling anything other than the report itself! Dee

http://www.hacres.com/html/water.html This article agrees with the other article you read; that minerals from water are generally not useable & can collect in our body in small amounts, contributing to ill health. I have also read a book, Recipes for Life, that says the same thing.

At this time my pets and I use town water that has been through a system that performs reverse-osmosis, ultra-violet & charcoal filtration. In time though, I think we will be moving to distilled & not adding any minerals to it. I have read books on pet health & human health that say that distilled water will not remove minerals from your body, so there’s no danger in consuming it.

Anyone else have info or an opinion? I just hope that eventually I’d get used to the taste. Leanne

“the minerals in water are not absorbed by the body of any living thing and therefore are of no value”

Dee, This seems a rather strange statement to me. Certainly most of the minerals in water will have lower absorption levels than the naturally chelated minerals in most fresh foods but they still contribute something. We certainly find that people who live in hard water area (high in calcium) use less of our calcium supplement than those who live in soft water areas. And non-chelated calcium is difficult to absorb but some obviously gets through!

If you choose to use distilled or bottled water I would always make sure my birds were getting supplementary minerals in their diet.

they may even be detrimental in that they float through your system and may clog it up

The inorganic minerals in water do have a tendency to “interact” (clump together if you like). This is why they are difficult to absorb. This will be just the same if the supplement you use has inorganic minerals in it. So chelated minerals are the way to go. Almost all the minerals we add to our supplements are chelated for this reason. It provides much better absorption rates and hence far fewer minerals need to be added for the same effect. Far more natural too. Malcolm Green

Leanne, I realise that you are quoting this from someone else so don’t take this personally. This seems like a very sweeping statement.

minerals from water are generally not useable & can collect in our body in small amounts, contributing to ill health

I agree that town water and even well water can be contaminated and filters etc have a role in removing toxic contaminants. In fact we sell water filters for exactly this reason. But it seems very dangerous to interpret this statement that water borne minerals are going to make you or your birds ill.

I don’t think we have any idea what tiny quantities of some of the rarer trace minerals we might get from our water supply.

We run the risk of assuming that if too much of something (minerals in this case) is bad for us then we should avoid it all together.

A good example is sodium (from salt). Our bodies crave salt because in pre-historic human diets sodium was in short supply. As recently as the 1940’s Ghandi led a huge protest of Indians after independence from the British using access to salt as the issue. However because we now have access to plenty of salt we tend to eat too much (the craving is still there!). You Americans even talk about the “salty snack” market.

Personally I eat a very low salt diet. I don’t add it to cooking and I eat very few tinned or processed foods. But, on the rare occasions when I go sailing I try and remember to take lots of salt with my breakfast. If I don’t my nerves stop working after about three hours (sweating has removed sodium from the system). What happens is my arms, hands and fingers simply stop working. I may grip a rope and be unable to release my fingers! This is simply because sodium is a major part of the process of transmitting messages down the nerve cell. Take salt and the problem goes away almost immediately.

So too much sodium is dangerous (heart attacks, stokes etc) but too little is also exceedingly bad for you.

This is a very long winded way of saying that distilled water is as unnatural as polluted town water! Malcolm Green

The people that wrote that article state that minerals build up in your arteries and can settle in your joints, that’s what I meant by ill-health. It’s something that happens over a long period of time and a lot of birds don’t even live as long as people, so I don’t know that it would even be a problem for them.

Because it is only a small amount of minerals that are absorbed from regular water, I doubt that we truly need those minerals much, IF WE EAT AN OPTIMAL DIET. Of course, everyone has their own definition of *optimal diet* and whether our fruits/vegetables still contain all the nutrients they used to because of overuse of chemicals and depleted soil, is another point to argue. And, yes, I don’t believe in most vitamin/mineral supplements because those nutrients are inorganic. The most useable minerals are found in plants. Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food, right?

Maybe we should get the cleanest water we can (filters, reverse osmosis, charcoal, and ultra violet light) then mix it in proportion with distilled water. How’s that for moderate thinking?

I found this quote in the article I linked to earlier: Reverse Osmosis “removes a high percentage of the dissolved solids as well as other contaminants, and when new the result often approaches the purity of distilled water.” But the purity varies with the “conditions of the equipment used, much as with filter equipment, and the effectiveness lessens with use. Sometimes drastically!”

I definitely believe that chlorine and flouride are not good for our birds and that is what I’m trying to avoid by using the water I do. I have read that the US is one of the last industrialized nations to continue to use chlorine and flouride in our water, because of the health risks most countries have discontinued them.

Here is a comparison of distillers: http://www.discountjuicers.com/distillercompare.html I don’t have any personal experience of my own to share, though. Leanne

Malcom, I agree with what you’ve said to a point.. I just want to know what minerals are in my water and if they are useful….just as I hope to know what is in the foods I feed and I eat…. The report I read (on distilled water )was for sale over the net….(I was suspect of this)…and I agree that we should not totally go with or not go with anything based on one or two things we hear or read…it’s been my pet peeve that the internet can be a wondrous source of information or a muddied highway of misinformation! Since most of us do not have the time to be experts on every subject…it can be overwhelming at times…….. I would love to hear from scientists/experts on the issue of minerals in the water though…it’s so hard to believe that all of these years we have all been led to believe there are necessary minerals (as you stated) which we need and now to hear so much about all water, except distilled being dangerous or useless to us at best? My head spins sometimes… However, distilled water is the most natural form of water…water leaves the earths’s surface, goes into the atmosphere, comes down as rain….before it hits the ground, it is 100 per cent per pure water (in a world without pollution, let’s not forget that!) Water picks up inert and other materials as it passes over and into the earths surface and below.  So, the people touting distilled water are saying, it is “natures” way of cleansing all water, etc….so they say, again, without expert witness to this. Sorry all, that was too long also… but wanted to share my frustration…. Dee