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What to Do With Copper in Water

by Peter Lombardi

Quality Specialist, Consultant

> 4 min read

Image of a faucet spouting water. Useful image for any theme involving ecosystems, agriculture, drought, and conservation.

Most drinking water contains small traces of copper because this natural element lies within rock and sediment deposits worldwide. A certain amount of the metal dissolves into groundwater and freshwater supplies. 

However, if you use a supply that contains excessive amounts of copper, you may be drinking or washing with contaminated water that can cause you and your family serious physical harm. Ingesting too much copper regularly can lead to gastrointestinal issues and chronic liver and kidney problems. 

Luckily, you can take several simple steps to reduce the levels of copper in your home water supply.


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How Does Copper Get into Your Water Supply?

There are various ways copper can get into your household supply and contaminate the water you use for washing, drinking, and cleaning dishes. If you have copper pipes in your plumbing network, fast-moving or slightly acidic water can wear down the metal and carry bits of copper through your faucets and appliances. 

Chemical runoff is another major cause of copper contaminating water supplies. Various industries like farming, mining, and municipal services all use lots of copper, and this metal can get into the rivers and freshwater lakes which feed many major water supplies. 

Fortunately, there are a few visible signs that your household water supply is contaminated with copper. If you notice blue or greenish stains around your faucets, in the base of your bathtub, or your kitchen sink, this could signal that there are low levels of copper in your supply. If your drinking water tastes unpleasant, particularly tart or metallic, this signals high levels of copper contamination. 

What Are the Effects of Copper on Your Health? 

If you are regularly drinking water that contains more than 1,300 micrograms of copper per liter of water (µg/L), this can have a severe and adverse effect on the health of you and everyone else in your household. Although ingesting a healthy amount of copper is essential for your body to function correctly, drinking an excessive amount can lead to chronic liver damage, kidney disease, vomiting, gastrointestinal issues, and nausea. 

If you suspect that your drinking water contains exceptionally high levels or traces of copper, then you should take steps to resolve the issue immediately. 

What to Do About the Copper in Your Water Supply 

Fortunately, you can use several simple methods to quickly and effectively reduce the levels of copper in water. Here are some of the best tips and hacks for solving the issue of contaminated water in your own home.

Let the water run for a minute before using it 

If your plumbing system or network is only a few years old, you might find that small traces from the newer, integrated copper parts dissolve into your water supply whenever you turn on the kitchen faucet to get some drinking water. 

The simplest way to deal with this issue is to let your faucet run from anywhere between 30 to 60 seconds before using it. This process flushes the faucet and helps to remove standing water that’s been sitting stagnant in the pipe for a few hours. 

Make sure you’re flushing each faucet individually to clean the whole system properly before using the water. If you don’t like the idea of wasting water, use a watering can to catch the first flush. Then pour this water on your outdoor plants to give them sustenance. 

Try to use cold water when you can 

You should try to avoid using water from the hot faucets in your home if you’re aware of a copper issue. The warmer the water, the more effective it is at breaking down and dissolving copper when it flows through your plumbing system. You can’t remove copper from water through boiling. This process can produce a more concentrated solution than before. 

Whether you’re cooking, drinking, or washing clothes, make sure you’re using water from the cold water faucet. Sticking to cold water is an easy and cost-effective way to avoid ingesting or coming into direct contact with water containing copper.

Get in touch with your local Department of Health 

If you’re worried about the levels of the copper in water that you use, or if you live in a household with several young children or someone who has Wilson’s disease or liver problems, you might want to contact your local Department of Health. You can inquire about submitting a sample of your household’s water to an officially recognized laboratory for proper testing. 

Once you get the test results, you can decide whether to invest in a high-quality water treatment system for your house. If you find your water is still contaminated with over 1,300 µg/L of copper even after you’ve let the faucet run for a few minutes, you should look at various water treatment and filtration options. You could be drinking hard water instead of soft water and it's a massive difference in magnesium and calcium intake that could be harmful to your body.

Invest in a water filtration system

Investing in a premium-grade water filtration system is one of the most effective ways to remove copper from your household supply. The best reverse osmosis water filters push your contaminated water supply through an integrated semi-permeable membrane which traps up to 98% of the copper ions in the water. You can install these types of units conveniently under your kitchen sink. They tend to be affordable and highly effective for purifying your drinking water. 

If you don’t want to buy a reverse osmosis filtration unit, you could invest in a countertop distillation system instead. These models use electricity to boil the contaminated water, turning it into a vapor, then condensing this gas, so it forms a pure, clean drinking solution. During the boiling process, the larger copper ions are deposited in the unit's base. You can also get water softener as an alternative to remove the unwanted substances from your drinking water.

coin in water

Solve the Issue of Copper in Your Water Supply 

When your household water supply is contaminated with unsafe levels of copper, drinking, cooking, or cleaning yourself with this water can lead to short-term gastrointestinal problems and long-term kidney and liver issues. Fortunately, you can take a number of simple steps to purify your water supply and remove excess levels of copper.

Peter Lombardi

About the Author

Peter is a Los Angeles based water quality specialist, and works as a surveyor for businesses and communities looking to be informed and active about the quality of their water. He shares his expertise with 64 oz. to ensure everything is accurate, and to prevent the spread of misinformation about water contaminants.