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Bottled Water vs. Tap Water: Differences in Regulations, Quality and Environmental Impacts

6184896091_ccc30d1d24_mThe growth of the bottled water industry is one of the strangest trends of the last few decades. Why would people spend money on bottled water when they can get it at home for a tiny fraction of the cost? One of the biggest reasons is that bottled water companies market their products as a healthier alternative to tap water. Today we’re going to investigate this claim by talking about bottled water vs. tap water and how they compare in regards to regulations, quality and impacts on the environment!

Bottled water vs. tap water: How are they regulated?

This may come as a surprise, but bottled water and tap water are regulated by two completely different organizations. Tap water is regulated by the EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act. This act requires the EPA to stringently test public water supplies on a regular basis and ensure that they don’t exceed maximum levels for a variety of different contaminants. In addition, the EPA requires that each city supplies its residents with a Consumer Confidence Report once per year that provides details of the test results of that city’s water supplies for the past year.
Unlike tap water, bottled water is considered a packaged good and is therefore regulated by the FDA. Although the FDA has similar quality standards as the EPA, its testing requirements are far less strict. Not only does the FDA have looser standards for how frequently bottled water must be tested, but it also does not require bottled water companies to share their test results with consumers.

Bottled water vs. tap water: Which one is healthier?

The biggest claim that bottled water companies make in their marketing strategies is that bottled water is safer to consume that tap water. This is a common misconception that should not be taken to heart.
As we mentioned above, tap water and bottled water have similar quality standards. And because the FDA’s testing requirements are looser than the EPA’s, the quality of bottled water is actually monitored less frequently than the quality of tap water. In addition, many bottled water companies actually just sell a purified version of the same tap water that’s delivered to homes around the country. There is no reason to believe that bottled water is any healthier than tap water.
One other thing to take into account is that bottled water is packaged inside of plastic bottles. Many of these bottles contain chemicals that can leech into the water, especially if the water sits in the bottles for a long period of time.

Bottled water vs. tap water: Environmental impacts

One of the biggest differences between bottled water and tap water is the impact that they have on the environment. Tap water’s environmental impact is limited to the energy it takes to treat the water and deliver it to homes. Bottled water, on the other hand, comes with some serious environmental concerns.
According to the Pacific Institute, in 2006 alone:

  • Producing the bottles for bottled water in the United States required 17 million barrels of oil per year, not including the oil needed to transport those bottles.
  • Bottling water produced more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.
  • It took 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water.

The above statistics only take into consideration the production costs of bottled water. Another big issue is the disposal of bottled water. An estimated 67 million water bottles are thrown away each day, and only 10 percent of those bottles are recycled.

The best choice: Home-filtered tap water

When you consider all of the factors above, tap water is clearly a better choice than bottled water. The quality of each is virtually the same and tap water is less expensive and has much less of an impact on the environment. However, tap water on its own is not perfect. Even though it is regulated, tap water typically still contains many contaminants when it comes out of your home’s taps.
The best option is to install a water treatment system in your home. Home filtered water will give you all of the benefits of tap water with the additional benefit that it is completely pure and better in quality than both bottled water and unfiltered tap water.
If you have any questions about bottled water vs. tap water, or if you’d like a water system serviced or installed in your home, contact McBride’s Water Advantage, your water softener and water filtration system dealer in Epsom, NH. We provide service all over New Hampshire, including towns like Rochester, Gilford and Laconia, NH.
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