The bottled Water Vs Tap Water debate – Is it worth paying more?
In this day and age that there is a growing concern among the public, there is an ongoing debate about bottled water vs tap water.
The question is whether the higher cost of bottles is justified.
Across all United States, there is a raised awareness among the public that tap water delivered to houses through public utilities is of questionable quality. Although public authorities try to reassure us that there is nothing wrong with it, there is a growing evidence from independent scientific studies conducted by various NGOs telling us that this is not the case.
It is worth mentioning the startling finding that Ralph Nader Research Institute published, after reviewing thousands of pages of EPA documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act:
“U.S. drinking water contains more than 2,100 toxic chemicals that can cause cancer”.
As a result of this unrest, demand has shifted in favor of bottles. Fuelled also by the successful marketing efforts undertaken by the companies that promote it, their sales of bottles have skyrocketed in the recent years, all across the United States.
Official scientific results, however, tell a different story.
According to the summary findings of a four-year study undertaken by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), “while bottled water marketing conveys images of purity, inadequate regulations offer no assurance”.
In their study, which was quite extensive including testing of more than 1,000 brands, about one-third of the waters tested contained levels of contamination including synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic.
NRDC largely blames inadequate regulations for this low quality. As you might know, while the tap is regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), on a national level bottled water is regulated by the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration). This is because it is considered to be a beverage.
Now, listen to this: According to relevant FDA rules, bottles which are sold within the same state are exempt from any regulation. Seltzer, other carbonated and flavored waters are also exempt. Considering now that roughly about 60% to 70% of all bottles sold across the United States is within the same state, then you can figure out yourself how reassured we, as consumers, should be!
It gets even worse: The FDA requires testing of bottled water less frequently than is required by the EPA for the tap. If a particular bottle exceeds any pollutant, then it can still be legally sold as long as it includes on its label a statement such as “contains excessive chemical substances”.
I should also mention that, apart from FDA regulation which is set on a national level, there is a second level of control set by each state. While some of the states such as California, Florida, Louisiana, Maine etc. have employed strong supervision, in general, most state programs have no obligation for informing the public when pollutants in bottles exceed FDA or state limits.
Having said the above, I guess that the outcome of the tap versus bottled water debate is clear in your mind: To a large extent, the bottle is no better than tap and is definitely not worth paying more to have it. Only if you are willing to go the extra mile and do your own research about the particular brand you want to buy, it is worth it.