6 Lies You Always Believed About Bottled Water

August 27, 2013

bigstock Beautiful blond girl drinking 13192241 6 Lies You Always Believed About Bottled Water

As Americans have become more health-conscious, the water bottle has become a kind of status symbol.

Carrying a bottle of water—typically embellished with an idyllic scene of nature—sends a message: I care about my health and I care about the environment.

When it comes to beverages, I’m practicing a mindful austerity, deliberately sacrificing flavor and calories for the greater good.

It’s high time water drinkers faced the music. Bottled water isn’t particularly good for the health, it isn’t good for the environment, and it has almost nothing to do with the greater good.

It’s time for water drinkers to face the facts. If you’ve been subjected to the bottled water industry’s marketing campaigns, you have been exposed to some very questionable ideas. Here are some myths about bottled water and the truth behind each one.

#1 Bottled Water Comes From Unpolluted Natural Springs

There is no relationship between the image on your water bottle and the source of the water. While some companies make an effort to provide water from natural springs and wells, about 25 percent of the bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from municipal water supplies.

That means it’s tap water—the same water you get at home.

The bottled water industry is loosely regulated, and water sources are not clearly or consistently revealed on product labels. Don’t be taken in by the pretty pictures: Bottled water isn’t special. It’s just water.

#2 Bottled Water Is an Affordable Beverage

In the U.S., a bottle of water can cost $3 or more. The equivalent amount of tap water costs less than a cent. And remember—odds are good that the bottled water and the tap water come from the same source.

Consumers are willing to pay more for bottled water because it is conveniently packaged and because it may carry a prestige label. But that’s the bottle. The water itself is drastically overpriced.

If you must have the packaging, refill a used water bottle from your kitchen tap—preferably a glass bottle, just in case rumors of chemical leaching from plastic containers are correct. No one will know the difference.

#3 Bottled Water Is Better For You Than Tap Water

For most Americans, tap water is plenty healthy. Nonetheless, there is a booming market in filters and other technology for ensuring water is pure.

Municipal water supplies undergo daily testing to ensure quality and lack of contamination. Bottled water is tested too, but only once a week. So if there’s a problem with the water, inspectors will find it and correct it more quickly at home.

Testing standards are stricter for city water supplies than they are for water bottlers.

Moreover, bottled water is packaged in plastic bottles that are made from petroleum and other nasty chemicals. The government says that contamination from these bottles falls within safe levels, but who wants any contamination at all?

#4 Water Bottles Are Recycled

While the plastics used in water bottles could be recycled, the plain truth is that recycling doesn’t work.

Water bottles make up a growing percentage of the 4 billion plastic bottles that wind up in American dumps every year.

Some bottles go into landfill, where they will spend hundreds of years without degrading or decomposing. Others go into incinerators, where they release deadly cancer-causing gases into the atmosphere.

Even if you’re careful to discard your water bottles in bins marked “Recycling,” there’s a good chance they’ll wind up in a landfill somewhere.

#5 Bottled Water Tastes Better

A research firm called Corporate Accountability International has conducted bottled water taste tests across the United States for the past several years.

The tests have revealed that blindfolded tasters generally can’t tell the difference between bottled water and tap water. If they report a preference, they generally prefer tap water.

In a separate test, researchers offered New York City residents bottled water and tap water from the local supply. Get this: 75 percent preferred tap water.

#6 At Least Water Bottling Creates Jobs

bigstock water pouring into glass from 15034502 6 Lies You Always Believed About Bottled Water

In 2008, an organization called Food & Water Watch reported on the bottled water industry’s dismal employment record.

The organization’s researchers discovered that water bottling plants require few workers—typically only a couple dozen.

Most of these workers come from the home office. As a result, each plant employs somewhere between two and 10 local workers.

Food & Water Watch says that while the average American manufacturing worker was paid $51,428 in 2006, the average worker in a water bottling plant made 19.8 percent less, or $41,236.

Moreover, bottled water workers sustained more work-related injuries than workers in other kinds of manufacturing jobs.

The Bottom Line

There is no benefit to drinking bottled, supposedly-better-than-tap-water water compared to drinking from your faucet at home.

If you’re concerned about the purity of your home water supply, buy an inexpensive filter and invest the money you save in eating healthier, being more active, or buying yourself a gift to reward yourself for resisting the weight of a demanding, capitalist ploy to milk your pocket.

 


  • Claudio Cividino

    Interesting article but you left out a lot of important facts.

    Many bottled waters are tap water BUT it’s filtered or treated way beyond what the municipal water goes through. Many bottled waters are processed either by being distilled or via reverse osmosis, both processes provide water that is under 10 parts per million of total disolved solids, most municipal water is around 200 ppm TDS. RO and distilled water also no longer contain the chlorine that was used to treat the municipal water it was made from. Consumers must read the labels of the water they purchase and actually read how it was filtered and how much TDS there is in the bottled water to ensure they are getting something better than the tap water.

    Municipal water is tested at the source, not your taps in your house. Older neighborhoods and houses contain iron pipes that degrade over time and may contribute to adding contaminants so the water at your house may not be as clean as it was when it left the treatment plant.

    I live in a province that charges a bottle deposit on every bottled liquid you buy, generally it’s 5 cents for a bottle of water. The deposit gets refunded to you when you return it to a recycling depot which encourages people not to throw them in the trash, especially when they are in a bin marked for recycling. Most bottles thrown in regular trash are also often recycled as homeless people often dig through public trash cans to collect the bottles and deposits paid on them.

    Bottled water does not have to be expensive. Buying a single bottle at a time is, but buying in bulk costs quite a bit less. I usually buy a case of 35 bottles for $5 when I go camping so about 14.2 cents a bottle, not a bad price for the convenience of clean water while out where there is generally no clean water supplies available.

    The biggest advice is buyer beware. Not all bottles of water are created equal, it’s up to you to read the labels and buy the stuff worth buying. Educate yourself on what constitutes a bottle of water worth buying and don’t get sucked into the fancy looking bottles that super expensive but aren’t any better than the lower cost water that was processed in the exact same way.

    • Maxadolf

      Commercially available bottled water is never distilled! It’s too energy intensive and unpallatable. Countries like Arab states who have ample and cheap energy resort to RO of seawater or brackish water from wells.

  • valentino14

    Yes, you failed to speak about filtered waters…

  • K.A.L

    #5- Corporate Accountability International is a biased group with an interest in getting more funding for tap water. I looked for the tests you mentioned (because you didn’t cite) but I found that they made no distinction between bottled spring water and bottled processed water.

    #2- As other posters have noted, you failed to mention the difference between bottled spring water and bottled processed water. Yes, the “spring” water can come from anywhere, and is sometimes equal or even inferior to tap, but that’s just one type of bottled water

    • TJP

      Evian = Naive

  • Nick

    Article seems to be a little biased. Most people can tell the difference between tap and other on-brand bottled waters.

  • Orean Pitts

    i dont notice much a difference in taste rarely do i ever buy bottled water

    • Claudio Cividino

      It’s not as much about the taste as the contaminants in the water you can’t taste. You can’t taste or smell carbon monoxide but that doesn’t mean you want to breathe it in.

  • Tony Pasqualucci

    not better then tap water? who ever wrote this simply doesnt know what they are talking about. i lived in places that standing tap water left red rings in the containers and tasted unbearable. I’m from the United States to (this country is a runaway train of misinformation) this article is wrong

    • TJP

      If you live in a desert yes bottled water is probably better. What a shame though. I live in the Pacific Northwest and the water that comes from the tap is clean and delicious. A vital factor in assessing quality of life is having clean drinking water

      • William Crawford

        I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Candler, NC (10 miles from Asheville, NC home of the Biltmore Estate, largest privately owned house in the USA) Our water is clean and good it doesn’t leave any type of stain whatsoever.

  • bottledwater

    that’s what you call an introduction,though it would leap straight into the list…

  • Julian

    Tap water is purposely medicated with sodium fluoride whereas bottled water generally isn’t.. and no this cannot be filtered out. Fluoride is used in rat poison and has no place in municipal water as many people are waking up to. Your article is biassed

    • Mim Parul Thompson

      Fluoride is also linked to a lot of modern illnesses too i have researched this for more than 2 years extensively i will not drink it myself nor serve it in my home to guests

  • Guest

    Municipal water tested at the point of distribution,not
    on your receiving end, where it is never tested.

    • TJP

      bottled water rarely, if ever, tested.

    • Twyla Dawns

      Municipal water is tested weekly from the taps of multiple homeowners throughout the distribution system. These homeowners receive a stipend in exchange for allowing water distribution workers access to their taps. The taps would also undergo additional sampling if they were downstream from any work being done to the water distribution pipes. Barring any criminal negligence on the part of the workers as happened in Walkerton, Ontario you can rest assured that your municipal water is entirely safe to drink. The only exception would be if there was an event which compromised the safety of the water and at such a time there would be public announcements warning you of such an incident.

  • jaykay

    It lost me a “capitalist ploy.” Obviously doesnt understand the true nature of capitalism.

  • aed939

    Anti-bottled water articles typically conflate bottled tap water with spring water. Yes, bottled tap water is tap water, but that does not mean bottled spring water is tap water. Read the label.
    Also advantages of bottled water: 1) Spring water may be free of added chlorine, flurorides, chloramines, and associated organochlorides and halogenic compounds added to tap water.
    2) Spring water may be safe for your aquarium.
    3) A sealed bottle is tamper-evident, so is preferred for athletes to avoid drug test positives.
    4) A reusable bottle can get moldy if not washed and dried properly.
    5) If you carry your own reuseable bottle, you have to carry it both ways. If instead you purchased a bottle of water on sight, you save the transportation costs.
    6) Bottled water is a safe alternative to tap water in foreign countries.

  • Jennifer Eze

    MY chemistry teacher said that bottled water is basically a scam, because when he worked in the sewage plant where the tap water in my area is cleaned out. He said that bottled water is stuffed with minerals, which, as your body actually can’t use most of them, turn into kidney stones. Therefore, in the long run, it is better to just drink tap water, which is basically, recycled waste fluids.

    • Carolyn Coombs

      He is Right my Uncle worked @ a Sewage Plant and a few times I went to drop off his lunch he would take me and my cousin for a tour of how they separate the Solids {Poop, Toilet Paper} From the Liquids {PEE} and run the liquids thru a huge filtered Vat that was filed with chlorine … So My family never fell into the “Bottled water Trap” Next time you flush your toilet…Just sit for a moment and think… HHMMMM In about 3 days someone is going to buy a bottle of that YUMMMY :) Have a great day all you “Nature Lovers”

      • http://pozmu.net/ pozmu

        Just buy mineral water, not “table water”

      • Twyla Dawns

        Water from lakes, rivers, or wells is processed at a water distribution
        treatment plant. It is first filtered through sand, then injected with
        an agent which causes tiny particles to clump together (this is known
        as floc), then it is spends time in a settling tank (
        a
        clarifier) to settle out the particles and then as it enters the
        distribution system it is injected with fluoride and chlorine gases.
        The fluoride gas prevents cavities in children as evidenced by the
        substantially lower rate of caries in children who drink fluoridated
        water as opposed to those who drink non fluoridated water. The
        chlorine is added to kill harmful pathogens which could very easily kill
        you. Water which enters the sewage treatment system is 95% gray
        water, that is water from laundry, cleaning, bathwater and water from
        storm drains. The water enters a sewage treatment plant (which is not
        the water distribution plant) and a chemical is dripped into it which
        creates a floc which is settled out in a clarifier. If it is a small
        municipality and the plant is only a primary treatment plant the water
        is then directed to a second clarfier. If the municipality is a large
        one and the plant is a secondary treatment plant, the water is then
        directed to a biological oxidation unit where it is continuously bubbled
        with air and where bacteria and other microorganisms consume all the
        solid waste. The water then enters the second clarifier. Following
        that as it leaves the plant it is injected with chlorine gas to kill any
        pathogens and is discharged into a receiving lake, river or ocean.

  • Talitha Garlic

    I live in a town where the tap water tastes terrible, so I make it into iced tea. Problem solved.

  • Alan Lancaster

    I live in Melbourne, and while it may not be the absolute purest tap water in the world, it’s pretty damn close to it :)

    Tap water FTW!!!

  • Santee Jack

    The author somehow left out transportation costs and effects.

  • allabarra

    If I water my plants with tap water they fail to thrive. If I water them with rain water they thrive quick and strong. If tap water is not good enough for plants, it’s sure as h3ll not good enough for me.

    • http://pozmu.net/ pozmu

      It’s probably because you have hard water in your tap (as most people do)

  • Jonathan Freeman

    This article is just someones opinion. Provable facts about bottled water:

    It is a larger industry than Oil.
    Nearly all the water in bottling plants comes in contact with toxic factory equipment
    If bottled in plastic the plastic bottles leach cancer causing toxins into the water. (buy glass like VOSS)
    The markup/margins on water is the highest of any liquid sold on earth.

  • http://pozmu.net/ pozmu

    Do a little test, put tap water into the bottle and try to drink it… It’s awful at least mine. Due to anti mineral water propaganda I tried drinking tap water, result: I got sick twice, while I have no proof it was from the water, I’m 99% sure it was

  • Daniel Hunt

    I use to work at a huge recycling center that was at the recieving end of the chain of mandatory city recycling. We would keep the metals, then dump all of the glass, plastic, ext. into dumpsters and pay to have it sent to the landfill. There is simply NO ONE out there willing to buy post-consumer glass/plastics, ect. at a price that would even cover the cost of fuel to ship it.

  • Laura Sisk

    I have well water. Since I am renting and plan to move in the next 6 months, I’m not about to pay for a new well. The water tastes awful and there is brown sediment in it. So I cook and drink only bottled water. I do recycle my gallon jugs that I buy it in! I have tried a Brita filter and a tap filter but the water still tastes awful.

  • Seanny59

    Fluoride should be banned in water supplies in Ireland.

  • patmcgintysgoat

    Is it coincidental that one of the most popular bottled waters is Naive spelled backwards?

  • goldberd20

    They do.

  • Skyhawk95

    Looks like a ton of people have been sucked in by the bottled water industry and aren’t ready to shed their wool.

  • Dharma Midget

    That’s a local issue, particular to the water providers in your area. You need to hold them accountable. Testing has been done throughout the country, and most municipal water is clean, and most people can’t tell the difference, whether you want to believe it or not. Assuming your personal experience is ultimate truth does not make it so.