What’s It Going To Be? Tap or Bottled Water?

Photo by darkpatator via Flickr

Photo by darkpatator via Flickr

“Would you like bottled water or tap water, sir?” the waiter asked.

“Bottled would be great,” James answered.  Frankly, he was surprised there would be any question about which he would choose.  Everyone knew that tap water was poison, didn’t they?  “Do you have Evian?”

“Of course, sir. I’ll bring that right out.” The waiter smiled and walked to the kitchen as James continued to peruse the menu.  So many great dishes to choose from.  This was going to be a great meal.

Conversations like this one are quite common at restaurants around the country.  In many cases, the restaurant patron feels the same way as James did.  That begs an important question.  Is James right about tap water being poison?

Is bottled water healthier than tap?
Bottled water is one of the fastest growing segments of the beverage industry, but there are still some questions about whether bottled water is healthier than tap water.  In the United States, tap water is strictly regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  If you question the quality of your municipality’s water, contact them and they will provide you with the latest report on your area’s water quality.  If your area’s water meets the EPA’s standards, you know that you are drinking water that has has been treated for certain bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants, has been tested often and that it falls within strict water treatment parameters.  Bottled water, on the other hand, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is less strict than the EPA and requires less testing.

That difference in the stringency of regulations is enough to bring the superiority of bottled water over tap water into question.  In some cases, bottled water companies just bottle tap water into plastic bottles and sell it.  You wouldn’t expect much of a health advantage from that.  Supporting that position, some studies are showing that there is no significant health difference between tap and bottled water and, in some cases, bottled water even contains levels of potentially harmful contaminants that are not allowed in tap water. Worse yet, some bottled waters were found to have been processed and bottled under conditions that resulted in the bottled water having a higher bacteria count than tap water.

So, without any definite health benefits, bottled water comes with a higher price tag with nothing to recommend it, except possibly better flavor or convenience.  That means that if either price or health benefits are an important factor and straight tap water or a regular bottled water are your options, sticking to tap water is probably the way to go.  I don’t want to overstate things though because there are some places in the country where the water has been tested and shown to have unhealthy levels of contaminants.  In those cases, buying the right bottled water might be a healthier option.

The bottom line:
It is important to know what the source of your water is and how it is processed to make an educated decision on what water is the healthiest for you and your family to drink.  For the most part, at least in most of the industrialized world, tap water from a municipal system undergoes stringent treatment processes to make it drinkable and safe.  And many studies show that tap water is safer and healthier than many bottled waters.  So, before spending money on bottled water, do your research and know what you are getting for your money.

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  1. Maria Isabel says:

    We have switched from bottle water except when we go away from home. Good podcast.

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