Much Bottled Water is Tap Water

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While the current craze in bottled water has become more popular, it is not necessarily healthier nor does it even taste better. In a blind taste test conducted by Showtime in New York, the host found that 75% of residents preferred tap water over bottled.

  • Bottled water is presented as being higher quality water and it certainly costs more. Over 90% of the cost is actually in the bottle, label, lid and transportation.
  • Many of these bottles portray scenes of mountain springs and glaciers but some are simply purified tap water. It is in the bottled water industry’s best interest to promote the perception that bottled water is higher quality since people are paying $1.00 to $4.00 a gallon.
  • After the US Conference of Mayors passed a resolution to study the negative environmental impact of bottled water, at least one company agreed to add a source label to their water so consumers knew that it was simply purified tap water.

In 1999, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released the report “Bottled Water, Pure Drink or Pure Hype?

NRDC’s observations:

  • Up to 40% of all bottled water comes from city water systems (tap water). It may be run though filters or treated with minerals but its still tap water.
  • 60 to 70% of bottled water in the US is exempt from FDA standards. Unless water is transported across state lines, there is no federal regulation to govern its quality.
  • City water systems issue reports on what is in the water while bottled water suppliers have no such requirement.

In one case NRDC investigated a company that called their water “spring water” with the label portraying mountains and a lake. The source was in fact a well located in an industrial warehouse facility, which was next to an industrial waste site. The FDA concluded that the labeling was acceptable as long as the water comes to the surface sometimes. After this became publicized, that particular well was no longer being used.

NRDC’s conclusion: “Therefore, while much tap water is indeed risky, having compared available data, we conclude that there is no assurance that bottled water is any safer than tap water.”

  • In another study done in Geneva, researcher Catherine Ferrier said: “The only difference between some bottled water and tap water is that it is distributed in bottles rather than pipes.”
  • In 2003, the US spent 7 billion dollars on bottled water and many of these bottles end up polluting the environment in landfills. This ends up hurting our future water supply because of the toxins being released.

If people are truly concerned about their city’s water supply, they may be better off boiling and filtering it themselves. It would certainly be kinder to the environment not to mention cheaper.

Sources:, 2007, Newsweek, Dan McGinn, 2007, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) 2007,USA today, Study:Bottled Water no Better Than Tap Water, Geneva,2007 (I originally published this on Suite101.)


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