Despite the many kinds of beverages available, water remains as the most recommended drink because nothing can really quench your thirst better than water does. The question is: which kind of water should you drink — simply tap water, or bottled water?
For many Americans, they’ll probably be quick to answer that it’s better and safer to drink bottled water than tap water. This generalization, though common, would be wrong because based on research (not just one but several), bottled water is not much better for you than tap water. And the amount of money you spend on it isn’t really justified, because paying extra for it doesn’t automatically guarantee top-notch quality.
For starters, more than half of all that bottled water comes from tap water. And that already speaks volumes.
Although bottled water companies claim that their products regularly undergo quality control and testing, the regulating body they are under — the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — has less stringent rules.
In contrast, tap water isn’t just tested more frequently; it is also regulated by a stricter governing body — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Apart from conducting tests for quality and contamination, as mandated by one of its laws, by July 1st of each year, consumers should receive an annual drinking water quality report (also known as Consumer Confidence Report) showing details on where your water is coming from and what it contains. If there are safety issues, local tap water providers are required by law to inform the public, and of course, to do something about it.
To be clear, though, while the quality of tap water may be better than bottled water, it isn’t the same everywhere — tap water quality is dependent on your location.
On the other hand, when it comes to areas where households get their drinking water from privately owned wells, there’s a notable difference. The EPA isn’t as involved because they don’t have the authority or jurisdiction over such.
As stated on their website, ‘The EPA does not regulate private drinking water wells. Many states and towns do not require sampling of private wells after installation. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain the safety of their water.’
Unfortunately, findings suggest that water from wells isn’t as safe to drink as local tap water. As shown in a 2011 water assessment report, among the wells tested, about 19% (962 out of 5,097) were found to contain at least one undesirable trace element (such as arsenic, cadmium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and uranium) at concentration levels beyond what national guidelines deem safe.
In a nutshell, this implies that local tap water may be better than bottled water, but bottled water may be safer than water from private wells.
When it comes to taste, the difference is almost indistinguishable. As revealed by a survey conducted by Boston University students, only 1/3 of the respondents were able to correctly identify the sample as tap water; 1/3 thought it was bottled water; and 1/3 couldn’t tell the difference.
Production-wise, bottled water may have gone through the best purification process there is. But then it’s put in a plastic bottle. And plastic can contain harmful substances that can just as easily contaminate the purified water, negating all that complicated purification and filtration processes it went through.
Moreover, we all know that plastic is bad for the environment. Producing it does our environment no good. Improperly disposing of plastic products is just as bad.
In terms of cost, it’s a no-brainer. Bottled water is significantly more expensive than plain tap water. And without any clear advantage to its credit, it’s hard not to think we’re just being scammed into spending big for something that isn’t worth it, don’t you think?
In a sense, bottled water is similar to the cellphones we now can’t live without. A lot has to do with the way the products are marketed.
By constantly upgrading and improving the features of cellphones, the manufacturers were able to convince us that these devices are indispensable — we didn’t have them before, but now we can’t survive without them.
Bottled water manufacturers employ a similar strategy. And more than just making us believe that bottled water is superior in every way, they also instil fear which effectively convinces us consumers that tap water is unsafe to drink because of the impurities it contains.
All things considered, it may be prudent to think twice, maybe thrice, before stocking up on cases of bottled water. If you need convincing that your local tap water is safe, check out this link. And if you aren’t satisfied or have questions, the EPA’s contact information can be found on the same page.