Tap vs Bottled Water, Which is Safer?

Water has gone to Washington.

drinking_waterThe Environmental Working Group presented an 18-month study to a congressional oversight hearing about the gaps in government regulation of the bottled water industry.

Summing up the problem nicely is Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the non-profit consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch:

“The Bottled water industry’s strategy has been to market bottled water as the safe and clean alternative to tap water…This myth has been used to trick consumers into paying thousands times more for a product that is the same or even more polluted than the water available from our faucets. Tap water in the United States undergoes rigorous testing for contaminants—as often as 480 times a month, far more than the once–a–week test for bottled water.”


Under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, bottled water companies have complete latitude to choose what, if any, information to divulge to consumers about their water.

Compare that to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the federal agency that oversees the nation’s municipal water utilities. All 52,000 nationwide community tap water suppliers need to produce an annual water quality report detailing the water source and pollutant testing results, as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act. (Although tap water does come with its own set of problems…)

Watered Down Labels

Furthermore, EWG researchers analyzed labels and websites from 188 bottled waters to learn which bottlers voluntarily disclosed the same information as required of community water suppliers. EWG found that many disclose little to no information at all on water source and purity.

What You Can Do

To sum it up, aqua junkies, I suggest that you:

  • Buy a sturdy reusable water bottle which will save the on plastic waste and save you money
  • Install a high quality water filtration system in your home

If you have to buy bottled, make it one that counts, like:

  • Ethos: Available at Starbucks, this company gives .05 of every bottle to humanitarian water programs around the globe.
  • Park City Ice Water: Uses 75% less energy to produce packaging than its counterparts
  • Project 7: 50% of sales go to one of 7 critical areas including feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc.
  • Keeper Springs: Robert Kennedy’s own, all profits go to the environment

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  • Nik  July 16, 2009 at 6:34 am

    I’m really glad that Congress is getting involved with this. The bottled water industry has been deceptive for years and they need to be held accountable. I would definitely recommend using reusable water bottles. If you’re worried about your water quality then by all means get a filter, but it’s not always necessary. The bottled water industry has brainwashed us into believing that our water is not safe, when for the most part it is. As for the “charity waters”, if you must buy bottled water then I guess that’s your best bet, though the irony is fantastic in that Ethos sells expensive water and then in turn provides water the impoverished communities… after they’ve taken the water from a different impoverished community… They’re also owned by Pepsi who distributes Aquafina and has admitted that Aquafina is from a municipal tap source. Just keep those things in mind. If you’re looking for more information about the issue of water as a human right rather than for-profit commodity, check out this campaign I’ve been following that’s done some great work: http://www.thinkoutsidethebottle.org It’s one of Corporate Accountability’s campaigns. Their main page is http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org They’re doing great work! Check em out :)

  • Dick  July 17, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Tap water may be more closely regulated, but I don,t take that as an endorsement to drink the
    tap water in most US cities. If you pick and choose your bottled water carefully, there is a difference.
    The real problem is that most Americans have no technical ability to tell one bottled water from
    another. When congress get involved only the big multinational food companies will be left
    to price gouge us and then the poor in this country will be left without any clean water.
    Where water comes from is only part of the question, the real question is how it is purified, filtered and processed before the public drinks it. We really need a reliable consumers guide to safe drinking water.

  • Marti  July 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    I don’t care how regulated tap water is, as long as they add chlorine and fluoride, I wouldn’t drink it. We use a good osmosis type filter at home, but we travel alot and don’t have much choice but to buy bottled water. I go for the natural spring water versus the purified drinking water. Any comparisons on that?

  • Kai  July 22, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Regardless of water quality from any source, how does a person know where the water is from, what is in it, etc.? The answer: through public reports.

    If bottled water companies started to publicly list its quality standards, its sources, and so forth, there would be no problems.

    At least citizen-consumers know when their municipal water is poor quality from because they get it from water quality reports.

    Doesn’t it make sense that bottled water companies do the same? It’s water after all.

    In the end, how does a person know if they are actually getting spring water or are simply buying filtered tap water unless it’s reported? More information please.

  • Lee  July 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    What is not fair is the fact that we are forced to ingest fluoride in the water and other chemicals and unnatural substances that our body clearly does not need and hence the arrival of many diseases too as many sports people are drinking more water and ingesting higher dosages of things that even the doctor would not subscribe to you without having known your medical history or seeing you.

    However I have hope because luckily the word is spreading about fluoride in water and the side effects in ingesting it consistently. More and more people are becoming aware of the studies that some authorities are ignoring so that they can ignorantly continue to sell their toxic fluoride and laugh their way to the bank. Never mind the babies brains and bones that are being effected and the risks of overdose? The chemicals in food and in water is making us ill and affecting the normal functions of our body. Who cares? I do and plenty of people who care about their families health!!!!!

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