New babies help us rethink our old habits, and water filtration is a great place to make improvements if you haven't already. Clean, safe water is a health priority for the whole family, and it's especially important for formula-fed babies who will be drinking water directly through their bottles from day one.
How contaminated is your water, anyway?
Urban areas are typically served by municipal water systems, where water is pumped directly into homes in a form that is—by the state's standards—safe to drink. Municipal water is treated against toxic levels of heavy metals and other waterborne contaminants like viruses and bacteria, but it often includes added fluoride, chlorine, and can sometimes contain trace pharmaceutical compounds and herbicides like glyphosate. (Yuck.)
For those of you with well water, you'll need to test your water directly to understand what you're working with and how to treat it accordingly. Using a service like Tap Score or getting a full lab work up from your local water authority is a good place to start.
If you've done your research and have decided you'd prefer to limit your exposure to the chemicals and compounds contained in your water, you'll need to do additional filtration after water enters your home.
The Best Gravity-Fed Water Filters – Berkey & Clearly Filtered
The two best gravity-fed water filters on the market are the Berkey and the Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher, both of which filter out the vast majority of contaminants you want gone. (For a full list, see here for a list of contaminants filtered by Clearly Filtered and here for a list of contaminants filtered by Berkey. The lists are very similar.)
The Berkey is more expensive initially, but it is a huge cost savings over the long run ($0.45/gallon for Clearly Filtered, $0.04/gallon for Berkey). It is also bulky and not particularly attractive, so storing it neatly in your kitchen might require some creativity.
The Clearly Filtered pitcher is a lot more manageable to use, and as far as storage space goes, it'll fit in your fridge. However, because the filters need to be replaced more often than Berkey filters—and because they're more expensive—the overall cost of ownership for Clearly Filtered is nearly 10x more. If your kitchen is already cramped, it may very well be that your counter space is worth an extra ~$100/year in water filtration costs. Totally your call.
Note: If you're serious about filtering out contaminants, water filters like Brita and Pur are not going to do the job. These carbon systems are primarily designed to improve the taste of water by removing chlorine, not to improve the quality of water by removing heavy metals and other contaminants.
If purifying your home's water at every single tap is a priority (including showers, sinks, and laundry), check out reverse osmosis systems.
Reverse osmosis is extremely effective at removing contaminants—even better than gravity-fed filtration systems. A “point of use” reverse osmosis system can be installed under the kitchen sink for purified water out of that tap exclusively. A “point of entry” reverse osmosis system typical goes in the garage (or wherever your water enters your home), and purifies water coming out of every tap thereafter. This is the ideal water purification situation.
Problematically, reverse osmosis is so effective at removing all contaminants that it also removes “good” minerals, including calcium and magnesium. It is also quite expensive (~$1500+ to buy and install in a typical home) and because everyone's water situation is unique, it's nearly impossible to recommend one system for everyone.
If reverse osmosis sounds like a good call, do some further sleuthing to discover which system is best for your family and your home.