Bottled water no better than tap water, sometimes worse.

There’s a common misconception that bottled water is healthier than tap water and the beverage industry has been making a killing off of it for years now. That’s why I was so glad to see this article by Tom Standage of the New York Times.

In 2004, Americans, on average, drank 24 gallons of bottled water, making it second only to carbonated soft drinks in popularity. Furthermore, consumption of bottled water is growing more quickly than that of soft drinks and has more than doubled in the past decade. This year, Americans will spend around $9.8 billion on bottled water, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Ounce for ounce, it costs more than gasoline, even at today’s high gasoline prices; depending on the brand, it costs 250 to 10,000 times more than tap water. Globally, bottled water is now a $46 billion industry. Why has it become so popular?

It cannot be the taste, since most people cannot tell the difference in a blind tasting. Much bottled water is, in any case, derived from municipal water supplies, though it is sometimes filtered, or has additional minerals added to it.

Nor is there any health or nutritional benefit to drinking bottled water over tap water. In one study, published in The Archives of Family Medicine, researchers compared bottled water with tap water from Cleveland, and found that nearly a quarter of the samples of bottled water had significantly higher levels of bacteria. The scientists concluded that “use of bottled water on the assumption of purity can be misguided.” Another study carried out at the University of Geneva found that bottled water was no better from a nutritional point of view than ordinary tap water.

Admittedly, both kinds of water suffer from occasional contamination problems, but tap water is more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than bottled water. New York City tap water, for example, was tested 430,600 times during 2004 alone.

Tom goes on to point out that in developing countries where access to clean drinking water is minimal bottled water makes a lot of sense, but in a country with one of the safest and most readily available water supplies it’s just a monumental waste of money and may even be doing more harm than good.

25 thoughts on “Bottled water no better than tap water, sometimes worse.

  1. I’ve known this for quite a while, now.  I think it was 60 minutes that did an investigation of the whole bottled water industry, and found some more legitimate studies online.  the only reason I drink it is because, to me at least, it truly does taste better.  Even as a kid (my family never bought sparklets or bottled water), I still despised the taste of tap water.  Perhaps there is no taste difference in some cities, but in the crappy parts of Los Angeles, there is.

  2. There may be an issue with the pipes used to deliver it in some cities. Have you tried just putting a charcoal filter on your faucet? Here in Canton our water tends to have a bit of rust in it as is evidenced by the rust stains that build up on our bathtub. I don’t notice the taste, but Anne does so we bought a Brita filter to put on the kitchen sink and that does the trick for her.

  3. Iolite writes: I think it was 60 minutes that did an investigation of the whole bottled water industry, and found some more legitimate studies online.

    Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit” season 1 DVD has a segment on bottled water that’s hysterical – they fill a buncha bottles with water from a garden hose, and offer it to people in a restaurant.  Everyone without exception believed that the water tasted different from bottle to bottle.  Funny how the mind (and power of suggestion) works . . .

    Les said: . . . Have you tried just putting a charcoal filter on your faucet?

    I would imagine chlorine odor (and taste) might be a problem, too.  I live out in the sticks, and whenever I visit friends or relatives who live in areas with piped-in water, I simply can’t drink it – the chlorine taste damn near bowls me over.

    Of course, my well water is high in minerals – my sinks, toilets and tubs get a pinkish-red crud buildup every other week.  I filter the water with a whole-house filter after the pressure tank, and I run my drinking water through a Pur faucet filter, then a Brita 2 gallon filter/dispenser. My wife thinks it’s overkill, but I love the taste – crystal clear and sweet.

  4. Is it just me or did an article just disappear?

    “I felt a great disturbance in the Force…”
    “A deja vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.”

  5. Wow, never mind… Maybe I am just losing my mind. Or more likely I read this article just a few minutes ago linked from BluesNews and now seeing it here… made… me… forget my name.

  6. isn’t it ironic that water which has seeped through the earth for millions of years has an expiration date printed on the bottle?

  7. I saw bottled water in the supermarket being advertised as “organic” on its label the other day. Just shows how nuts people are becoming.

  8. that in developing countries where access to clean drinking water is minimal bottled water makes a lot of sense

    But the poor often cannot AFFORD it. In Rio De Janeiro, apparently, it is more expensive per gallon than gas (got that from a Newesweek item)!

    isn’t it ironic that water which has seeped through the earth for millions of years has an expiration date printed on the bottle?

    Maybe its carbonated? As long as the bottle is sealed well, it should be fairly okay even so.

    BTW, most bottled water is tap water ANYWAY!

  9. Actually, over here in the UK one water company were sued and I believe closed down after it was discovered they were selling bottled tap water.

    And, boring as it is, I believe it’s the law (at least in this country) that all consumables sold must have an expiration date on the pack.

  10. We drink bottled water at my house because the stuff tastes like Sulfur.  Damn Sierra Nevada mountains.

  11. After making the above post, I realize that it sounds like I’m saying the Bottled water tastes like sulfur.  This is not the case, it is the well water that tastes like sulfur.

  12. We use municipal water.. (still not free by any stretch) my wife is big on charcoal filtering our water still. We both grew up on wells. The well she grew up on has a pretty good taste and no odor at all. The well I grew up on smells and tastes like water should. I swear its the only source of water on the planet that can quench my thirst. I wonder why that is.. oh well, Ill stick to beer.

  13. The well I grew up on smells and tastes like water should. I swear its the only source of water on the planet that can quench my thirst. I wonder why that is.. oh well, Ill stick to beer.

    Your well wter tastes like BEER? Why haven’t you bottled THAT yet, Qoayn? wink

  14. haha now that would be nice… a utopian well for the whole of the planet to fight over.

    i’m still laughing here.. damn that was funny

    tks

  15. but Anne does so we bought a Brita filter to put on the kitchen sink and that does the trick for her.

    I too have a Brita filter and I can’t seem to taste the difference but my cat does.
    She drinks twice the amount and asks for more.
    Maybe the filter leaves a mineral taste…or an “outdoors” type of taste to the water…what do I know. I’m starting to wonder if the plants we have in the appartment would prefer Brita water.
    Anybody here know cat or plant language?

  16. Anybody here know cat or plant language?

    No, but Rev. Moon claims it’s possible…

    Close your eyes and ask your mind, your conscience…You will reach a state in harmony with nature, able to communicate fully with animals and plants. It’s possible. Can you believe it? You will be able to converse freely with the beings of the spirit world.

    Sun Myung Moon, 10/28/04, Washington DC

    Sometimes he’s funny in spite of himself. I wonder if the “spirit world” prefers Aquafina or Polar Springs? Maybe we can convince him to take a poll: “4 out of 5 dead people prefer Aquafina. The other one? well, he’s dead.”

  17. Bottled water is a scam – this is certain. But it does have a convenience value.  I’ll – not happily mind you – pay 99 cents (where the hell did the cents symbol go!?) for a bottle if I’m thirsty.  Great for camping, sports and whatnot. Also great for my son if we’re out and about and I don’t want to give him a sugar bomb soft drink.
    I am curious about organic water.  Any guesses as to what makes water organic?  I’m sure its a hoot.
    I’ve had well water that tastes something like what Qoayn’s well must taste like – and I must say I think it tastes like ass. Of course I’m spoiled by the muni water where I live.

  18. It reminds me of someone I know that eats BIO food once a week and feels great about it…He’s convinced himself that he probably will outlive all of us.
    Sure it’s great if you eat everyday Bio vegetables
    I’d like to do that but it’s no big deal… once a week.
    I’ll stick to the food made out of plastic for now.

  19. I think it’s better simply not to drink water at all. Don’t you know that you can drown in the stuff? And what fish do in it doesn’t bare mentioning.

  20. Since the term “organic” means “of, or relating to, carbon compounds” or alternatively “containing living matter,” that would hardly be a recommendation for drinking water. 

    I’ve heard NYC has some of the best drinking water on the planet, on-tap.

  21. Iolite —
    Some people will believe anything.  Kinda reminds me of the whole “dangers of dihydrogen monoxide

  22. There may be an issue with the pipes used to deliver it in some cities. Have you tried just putting a charcoal filter on your faucet? Here in Canton our water tends to have a bit of rust in it as is evidenced by the rust stains that build up on our bathtub. I don’t notice the taste, but Anne does so we bought a Brita filter to put on the kitchen sink and that does the trick for her.

    That’s not a bad idea Les.  I might just run down to Super K-mart and buy one.

  23. You guys still drink from wells over there?  wink

    You bet frumpa. Dont piss im my mountain streams
    either pal.

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