The best tasting water I've ever tasted came straight from a natural spring, gushing forth from a tap in the middle of a small town in Portugal. Locals invited me to cup my hands to enjoy the sparkling clear water to parch my thirst during a warm afternoon, and the memory of the delicious and refreshing water lingers till this day. Here in LA the municipal water isn't nearly as palatable, requiring filtration to remove the scent/taste of chlorine, similar to many cities where water has been treated or still contains sediment...
As someone who drinks a lot of tap water, I've mainly depended upon a carbon filtering pitcher for years. It's economical and doesn't create the additional waste bottled water produces (as an avid hiker, besides cigarette butts, plastic bottles are the most common waste product I see littered across the landscape). I've always harbored the hopes of upgrading the quality of our municipal drinking water for both taste and purity, noting a single stage filter wasn't always producing great tasting H20. I've used numerous water pitchers and they've all performed within the same range of filtration quality (except for this model, which traded off improved filtration for slow water filtering speed), all limited by designs which need to balance filtration within a small container with acceptable filtering speed for home users. The compromise equals so-so results.
The Zerowater was notably more effective at filtering tap water compared to traditional pitcher systems, but it was hampered by slow times which supposedly have since been improved since our initial review.
The best filtration option currently available for homeowners is a reverse osmosis system (here's an in-depth, but easy to understand explanation of the filtration process). But I wasn't sold on a process notorious for wasting a lot of water, a big no-no here in Southern California where water is becoming increasingly a valuable resource. My hunt for improving the taste and water quality had me investigating several new options that have popped up on the horizon:
The Brondell Cypress Countertop Water Filtration System: this 3-stage water filtration system looks similar to a reverse osmosis system, utilizing three separate advanced water filters inside a sleek countertop dispenser which connects to the kitchen faucet using a diverter. I was able to install this unit in under 10 minutes, and the filtration flow proved not only impressively fast, dispensing filtered water instantaneously at the touch of a button, the taste of our Los Angeles municipal water was notably neutralized of all the disagreeable chlorine scent/taste which often lingers even after using pitcher filtration.
The system doesn't waste any water in the filtering process like reverse osmosis, yet is still capable of filtering up to 99.9% of VOCs and 98% of chlorine (depending on the water source and state of the filters' life). A performance data sheet shows both optimal and maximum permissible performance, but even an inexact side-by-side blind comparison pitting pitcher filtered, unfiltered, and Cypress filtered samples made it evident the $199.00 system was a serious upgrade from single stage pitchers (Amazon sells the system for even less). The taste is best described as completely neutral, ideal for coffee and tea drinkers, and even for pet owners with finicky cats or dogs turned off by chlorinated water.
Note: the system requires two of the filters to be changed out every 6 months ($29.95 each), with Nanotrap filter requiring replacement once every 12 months ($49.95).
Soma: Imagine a Chemex coffee brewing system, but instead of being designed to hold ground coffee for brewing java, the top unit is replaced with an all-natural ﬁlter made from Malaysian coconut shell carbon (many manufacturers are moving away from traditional carbon water filters for these more eco-friendly coconut shell sourced filters), four layers of ﬁne silk, and a plant-based ﬁlter casing all for the purpose of a cleaner glass of water. Each filter is designed to last 60 days with the $49 carafe (one filter included); additional replacement filters are $12.99 and are delivered free every two months, but require enrollment in an automatic filter replacement subscription plan.
The KOR NAVA: built-in filtering water bottles are now all the rage, an increasingly common sight at gyms, and a response to the overuse and waste of bottled water. The $29.95 KOR NAVA stands out from the crowd with a sturdy and streamlined design with filtration hidden within an ingenious pop-top straw (the push button action is surprisingly satisfying), making filling-up and sipping anywhere where there's a tap convenient. A BPA-free construction combined with an active carbon coconut fiber based cleans up water in excess of NSF 42 standards for chlorine taste and odor removal (good for 3 months use per filter), offering taste and odor sensitive individuals a quantifiable and economic argument to ditch bottled water for good. A single filter solution like this won't be nearly as effective as a multi-filter system, but the NAVA's portability and ability to reduce chlorine taste/odor provides the equivalent of a PUR or Brita on-the-go, which works fantastic as a secondary water filtration option when away from home.
New Wave Enviro 10 Stage Water Filter System: Maybe 3 stage filtration isn't enough to solve your home's seriously poor tasting/smelling tap water. The New Wave Enviro is a countertop system packing in 10 separate filtering membranes inside a compact vertical housing, and purifies water for a family of 4 for up to a year, removing major contaminants to below EPA minimum levels. Besides a reverse osmosis system, this under $100 system may be the best affordable system solution for poor water, with 156 mostly positive customer reviews on Amazon (though those concerned about removing fluoride from water should note this unit is not capable of doing so and the root of most of the negative reviews).
(Images: as linked above)