High Quality H2O

In 2003, Americans alone spent more than $7 billion on bottled water at an average cost of more than $1 a bottle. Is the price of bottled water really worth it?

In 2004, it was discovered that Coca Cola’s Dasani water (labeled “pure, still water”) was actually just tap water. This uncovered a common practice amongst the bottled water industry. A four year study performed by the National Resources Defense Council, in which researchers tested more than 1,000 samples of 103 brands of bottled water, found that, “an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not.”

In one case, a brand of bottled water advertised as “pure, glacier water,” was found to be taken from a municipal water supply while another brand, flaunted as “spring water,” was pumped from a water source next to a hazardous waste dumping site.

While “purified tap water” is arguably safer and purer than untreated tap water (depending upon the purification methods), a consumer should expect to receive something more than reconstituted tap water for the exceptional prices of bottled water.

Bottled water is regulated by the FDA, while tap water is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), which operates under much stricter regulations. The EPA mandates that municipal water systems must test for harmful microbiological content in water several times a day, while bottled water companies are required to test for these microbes only once a week. Similarly, public water systems are required to test for chemical water contaminants four times as often as bottled water companies. And, due to loopholes in the FDA’s testing policy, a significant number of bottles have undergone almost no regulation or testing.

The National Resources Defense Council found that 18 of 103 bottled water brands tested, contained, “more bacteria than allowed under microbiological-purity guidelines.” Also, about one fifth of the brands tested positive for the presence of synthetic chemicals, such as industrial chemicals and chemicals used in manufacturing plastic like phthalate, a harmful chemical that leaches into bottled water from its plastic container. In addition, bottled water companies are not required to test for cryptosporidium, the chlorine-resistant protozoan that infected more than 400,000 Milwaukee residents in 1993.

Bottled water companies, because they are not under the same accountability standards as municipal water systems, may provide a significantly lower quality of water than the water one typically receives from the tap.

Well, at least bottled water tastes better than tap water, right? Wrong. Obviously, taste is subjective, but in a blind taste test conducted by Showtime, they found that 75% of tested New York City residents actually preferred tap water over bottled water.

And let’s not forget the effect of bottled water on the environment. According to a 2001 report of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), roughly 1.5 million tons of plastic are expended each year due to bottled water. And the less obvious effect on the environment is the energy required to manufacture and transport these bottles to market, which uses a significant amount of fossil fuels.

Because tap water is not completely free from contaminants, filtered tap water provides the healthiest & most economical option. Try using a Britta or Pur filter and a Nalgene bottle, for your health, pocketbook, and the environment.

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Breakfast: Bean & soy cheese taco

Lunch: Spinach burrito from California Tortilla

Dinner: Spaghetti

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One Response to “High Quality H2O”

  1. Now you're venturing into my field! Take a look at Peter Gleick's blog at the SF Chronicle for more interesting stats on water/ag policy. He had a post last week about bottled water specifically — http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/gleick/index.

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