Tap Water vs. Bottled Water: Which is Better for You?

Bottled water use has increased significantly in the past couple of years because it is thought to be safer and tastes better than tap water.  Here, in the US, each person drinks approximately 30 gallons of bottled water per year.

But environmental concerns and potential health effects, many people are beginning to wonder if tap water is better.

How Does Tap Water Stack Up Vs. Bottled Water?

Tap water, also called municipal water, comes from large wells, lakes, rivers or reservoirs, typically passing through a water treatment plant before being piped into homes and businesses.

While contaminated drinking water is an issue in some regions as we know from Mississippi and Michigan, tap water is generally safe, convenient, and environmentally friendly.

Contamination Concerns

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has one of the world’s safest drinking water supplies.  US tap water is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) which has legal limits of potential contaminants in drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act.  There are legal limits on over 90 contaminants like heavy metals like lead and microbes like E. coli.

Drinking water contamination can still occur.  Some regions may have greater exposure to toxins, such as industrial pollutants or bacteria from agricultural runoff.  Also, old plumbing may introduce contaminants like lead and natural disasters like floods can temporarily pollute water systems.  Home water filters can improve the safety of your tap water as well.

How Do They Fare in Blind Taste Tests?

Bottled water is often said to taste better than tap water.  Yet, in blind taste tests, most people cannot tell the difference between bottled water and tap water.  In general, tap water tastes the same as bottled water.  Factors such as mineral content and the age of your pipes may affect the flavor.

Now, before it reaches your house or business, water is stored in a treatment facility in which it undergoes several processes to remove potential contaminants.  During disinfection, chemicals are added to kill off any remaining microbes and protect against germs.

All the steps utilize chemicals and energy. The environmental impacts are significantly different between tap and bottled water. Bottled water contributes more negatively against the environment.  Plastic bottles end up in landfills or in the ocean harming aquatic life with no disintegration or deterioration.  Tap water has none of that environmental mess and is much more cost effective as well.

Tap Water is Fluoridated

Another very important aspect of tap water is drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities (also called tooth decay) by about 25% in children and adults. By preventing cavities, community water fluoridation has been shown to save money both for families and for the US healthcare system.  Bottled water, although falling under the standards set for the by the Food and Drug Administration, can contain microplastics which can pose health risks.  Microplastics appear to fall within the same category of endocrine-disrupting chemicals as obesogens (chemicals that disrupt the body’s normal homeostatic controls in such a way as to promote adipogenesis and lipid accumulation), affecting human, animal, and marine metabolism, reproduction, oxidative stress and several other factors.  When purchasing bottled water, people may wish to consider the source. A lot of bottled water is simply filtered tap water.

According to some estimates bottled water is almost 2,000 times the price of tap water, with a gallon — obtained from combining single-serve water bottles — costing almost three times the national average for a gallon of milk.

Final Verdict

Overall, it appears that tap water is a better option in most cases. It is convenient, free or inexpensive, and has much less of an environmental impact than bottled water.  It seems that tap water consumption is much better for the environment, poses fewer health risks, and tastes very similar to bottled water — especially if filtered.

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