“What will you have – bottled or tap?” It’s not the most common question but one we probably have heard or asked ourselves. In today’s more health conscious society, we know we should stay hydrated and aim for drinking at least eight 12-ounce glasses per day, but have you ever stopped to think what type of water you should be drinking? Is tap better than bottled?
After the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., we may all question how good our tap water is. Adding to the confusion is the vast choices of bottled water: Artesian, distilled, mineral, purified, spring, mineral, as well as several different brands. How healthy each of these waters are and how do you know which to choose?
Fortunately, there are water quality regulations in place for both public and municipal water supply, and for bottled water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through the Safe Drinking Water Act, regulates public water and delegates each state to oversee water supplies and treatment. The EPA requires each public water supplier to provide annual Consumer Confidence Reports to customers. If you have not seen one, contact your water supplier.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the quality of bottled water and states that it must at least equal the quality of tap water. Some states place additional quality requirements on bottled water companies. Also, the International Bottled Water Association requires its 640 members to follow their code of practices.
For both public water and bottled water in the U.S., water is tested for 90+ contaminants and is treated for these if observed. This includes treatment for nutrients, chemicals, bacteria and viruses. Bottled water companies are required to include a nutritional label, which provides mineral content information. Companies often provide contact information on the label for you to learn more about the quality of water.
Homeowners are able to opt for additional water filtration in their home to remove the chlorine taste if present. This filtration, such as a faucet or under sink unit, will also remove many other contaminants if present.
Bottled water types vary by their source or type treatment used:
- Distilled water is typically a public supply water that is boiled and the steam condenses into a pure form of water. It typically has very little taste due to the lack of minerals.
- Purified water is also a public water source that undergoes treatment such as reverse osmosis to remove contaminants, and ozonation to kill bacteria.
- Artesian and spring water is groundwater from aquifers under pressure allowing water to come to surface. The composition of this water will vary depending on the type of geology within the aquifer. Treatment is also used for spring water however many of the minerals are retained.
- Mineral water is just that, water that contains either natural or added minerals, and will have a distinct taste in comparison with other waters. Note if you are concerned about sodium in your diet, read the mineral water label, as they may be a significant source of sodium.
- The sparkling water that has become popular can be any of the types mentioned earlier just with carbonation added and perhaps other flavoring.
Given all these choices, convenience and taste preference often drives what we drink. Regardless of the type, bottled or tap, it is still a good idea to find out more about the water you drink to support the choice you make.