Bottled Waters vs. Tap Waters

I am a proud drinker of Connecticut tap water and have been since my time at Wesleyan. I never understood the concept paying for water (maybe the bottle to hold the water, but never the water itself) and equally so could never understand why anyone would pay for water–especially since I could never tell the difference. Anyway, I found this article pretty interesting:

In fact…not only does tap water often taste the same as bottled water, but it is also often safer to drink as well. “They are spending tens of millions of dollars every year to undermine our confidence in tap water,” she says, “even though water systems here in the United States are better regulated than bottled water.” That’s because tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which imposes strict limits on chemicals and bacteria, constant testing by government agencies, and mandatory notification to the public in the event of contamination.

Bottled water, on the other hand, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which according to federal law is technically required to hold itself to the same standards as the EPA. The devil is in the details, however, since FDA regulations only apply to water that is bottled and transported between states, leaving out the two-thirds of water that is solely transported within states. State laws, meanwhile, are inconsistent, with some mirroring the FDA standards, some going beyond them and some falling far short of the national regulations. What’s more, FDA regulations rely on companies to do their own testing, and perform voluntary recalls if products are found to be in violation of standards (if a company fails to do so, the Justice Department can order a seizure of products).

A 1999 study by the National Resources Defense Council of more than 1,000 bottles of water found that, while most bottled water was safe, some brands violated strict state standards on bacterial contamination, while others were found to contain harmful chemicals such as arsenic. The report concluded that bottled water was no safer than water taken from the tap.

In fact, many times bottled water is tap water. Contrary to the image of water flowing from pristine mountain springs, more than a quarter of bottled water actually comes from municipal water supplies. The industry is dominated by three companies, who together control more than half the market: Coca-Cola, which produces Dasani; Pepsi, which produces Aquafina; and Nestlé, which produces several “local” brands including Poland Spring, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ozarka and Calistoga (a fact that itself often surprises participants in the Tap Water Challenges). Both Coke and Pepsi exclusively use tap water for their source, while Nestlé uses tap water in some brands.

10 thoughts on “Bottled Waters vs. Tap Waters

  1. Anonymous

    I totally agree; thanks for posting that article. Tapwater almost always tastes better than bottled to me, and I’ve never had any qualms about drinking it. Except when I’m at home in DC… I lost my faith in that water after it was revealed that it lead in it occasionally, and the city gave everyone Brita filters (literally). Water is going to be the next oil, though. Too many people on this planet, and not enough fresh water.

  2. Anonymous

    I totally agree; thanks for posting that article. Tapwater almost always tastes better than bottled to me, and I’ve never had any qualms about drinking it. Except when I’m at home in DC… I lost my faith in that water after it was revealed that it lead in it occasionally, and the city gave everyone Brita filters (literally).

    Water is going to be the next oil, though. Too many people on this planet, and not enough fresh water.

  3. Anonymous

    Very interesting. What about waters like Evian or other European brands? Are those composed of tap water as well or are they from “real springs”. Thanks, as always, for bringing my attention to often overlooked topics in everyday consumer life.

  4. Anonymous

    Very interesting. What about waters like Evian or other European brands? Are those composed of tap water as well or are they from “real springs”. Thanks, as always, for bringing my attention to often overlooked topics in everyday consumer life.

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