crystal-clear mountain springs, sparkling glaciers, and pristine
landscapes pictured on bottles and in ads must help sell bottled
water, judging by the numbers. Soda may have an edge on bottled
water (in most industrialized nations), but bottled water
is catching up, its sales more than doubling in the U.S. during
the past decade, totaling nearly $10 billion last year.
look behind the pictures and names. Glacier Clear Water, for
example, doesn't come from a glacial source, but a municipal
water supply. That might look like Mt. Everest on the bottle
of Everest Water, but inside is treated municipal water from
somewhere else. The story is similar for Aquafina and Dasani.
Even when bottled water is not tap water, the rules are loose
enough that spring water may actually come from wells or aquifers.
Some bottled waters do come from mountain springs or glacial
sources, but they are a minority.
people, suspicious of tap water, buy bottled because they
think it's more natural, purer, more healthful, and better
tasting. But the facts usually prove otherwise.
It's not a negative that many bottled waters come from municipal
water supplies except that consumers may not realize they're
spending $5 or $10 a week on bottled tap water. Municipal
supplies are excellent sources of drinking water, and Americans
(along with Canadians and people in most other industrialized
nations) have a right to be proud of their public water systems.
studies have found that while most bottled water is of high
quality, some is out of line with the strict standards for
tap water. A few years ago, for instance, a study comparing
bottled waters with tap water from Cleveland found that one-quarter
of the bottled waters had significantly higher bacterial counts
than tap water. This doesn't mean that the bottled waters
contained enough bacteria to cause illness, but enough to
raise a red flag and these findings certainly dispel the myth
of the purity of bottled water.
What taste tests show.
In blind taste tests, most people can’t tell the difference
between bottled and tap. Sometimes plastic bottles can impart
a slight plastic taste, leading some people to worry about
chemical residues. The plastic bottles are safe, however.
Only mineral water (a tiny part of the bottled-water business)
has extra nutrients, and even these minerals don't add up
to much. Tap water does usually have one important nutrient
seldom found in the bottles fluoride, which is added to most
supplies to reduce cavities in children. Bottlers generally
filter out the fluoride from municipal water.
environment. If you care about conservation of resources,
tap water is by far the better choice. More than a million
tons of plastic is used every year to make water bottles.
It takes lots of energy to make, ship, and refrigerate the
bottles and energy production creates air pollution. Most
of the plastic, which is not biodegradable, ends up clogging
bottled water is a good idea
some places, and at some times, bottled water is safer than
tap notably in the developing world, where the water supply
is risky. Moreover, millions of Americans and Canadians get
their water from unregulated private wells, which are more
likely to be contaminated. On rare occasions water from a
public utility temporarily becomes unsafe, in which case the
utility must by law notify consumers and tell them what to
do. If your tap water is contaminated, however, your best
long-term option is to filter it which is more convenient
and cheaper than bottled water. The same is true if you know
your water is high in lead (from plumbing pipes) or if your
tap water simply has an off flavor or smell.