Expose debunking the myths of tap water.
- Drinking home-filtered tap water is just as healthy as drinking bottled water.
- Bottled water that says “from community sources” is the same water as tap. Bottling companies put their water through filtration that is accessible and affordable for your own home.
- There are three main types of water filtration that can help filter tap water based on your preferences – Activated Carbon, Reverse Osmosis, and Ion Exchange.
- Bottled water is around 2000 times more expensive to drink than tap water.
- If you’re worried about contaminants, do some research! See what is in your municipal water with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) database.
Rise of the Water Bottle
The idea of making water portable is not new. Thousands of years ago, humans used a variety of different containers to create portable water, but the invention of the individual water bottle that we think of today arose in the 1760s. Two centuries later, plastic water bottles were created following the rapid popularization of polyethylene plastic. Companies cleverly marketed bottled water as an alternative to tap water, claiming bottled water was less likely to be contaminated, with exclusive health benefits like special minerals. Today, over 480 billion plastic bottles are used annually. Consumers in the United States purchase 50 billion bottles of water every year. In order to bottle this enormous amount of water, more than 17 billion barrels of crude oil are used to turn into plastic bottles. This is enough oil to fuel 1 million cars annually. Misconceptions about tap water further encourage people to buy bottled, even with the negative environmental and health impacts tied to bottled water.
Debunking Common Tap Water Myths
Doesn’t bottled water taste better?
The taste of bottled water is affected by a number of minerals like sulfate, magnesium, and calcium, which companies add to water to make up for minerals lost in the purification process. Though some people argue that bottled water tastes better, in many cases, differences in taste are minuscule. When given both tap and bottled water, many people actually cannot detect which one is which. In a study by the University of Konstanz, in a blind taste test, over 70% of water bottle drinkers preferred tap water over bottled water. Filtration and temperature aid in altering taste to the personal preference of the drinker. Location also has an impact on the taste of water, with places like New York being known for having tasty tap water without any extra filtration.
Isn’t bottled water higher quality than tap water?
The truth is that the quality of bottled water and tap water varies depending on the source, treatment, and handling process. Tap water can be contaminated by lead pipes and other chemicals, whereas bottled waters are more susceptible to contamination due to their packaging process. Some studies have shown that when plastic leaches plasticizers into the liquid, it can have adverse effects on human health. The most important thing for you to know about bottled water is this: it’s not any safer or healthier than your own home-filtered tap water!
The water that flows into our homes and businesses comes from city and municipality water sanitation plants. Tap water has to be tested daily and pass quality standards that are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most water bottle companies use the same city water to put into their plastic water bottles, which they further purify. The crazy part is that the company’s purification processes and your at-home filtration systems are the same! There are three main ways to filter municipal water: activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange.
Carbon helps to rid of undesired tastes, odors, and radon, a carcinogenic gas. There are multiple types of activated carbon systems that fit a variety of price ranges. This includes a pour-through unit like a Brita filter and most filters in refrigerators.
Reverse osmosis can take out 99% of salts (ions), particles, organics, and bacteria in water. Pressure is used to force water through a semipermeable membrane, filtering out contaminants and leaving you with clean water.
Ion exchange replaces undesirable ions in water with favorable ions. Water softeners remove positively charged ions like calcium and replace them with sodium, and negatively charged ions like arsenic are replaced with chloride. remove positively charged ions like calcium and replace them with sodium, and negatively charged ions like arsenic are replaced with chloride.
The EWG database recommends filtration systems based on the location of your tap water to help you choose the best filter for your water.
Isn’t water better if I have to pay for it?
Bottled water is one of the most heavily marketed products in the world. While some water is pumped from glaciers or volcanos, the majority of the bottled water you buy at the store is the same water that is in water fountains, sinks, and even our toilets. Although most bottled water came from natural springs in 2000, by 2018, most bottled water was just ‘purified’ municipal water. Beverage companies are spending millions of dollars in marketing to make people think that their product is better than what’s coming out of their faucets. Companies like Pepsi have been recognized for treating and bottling municipal water with markups of 133 times the original price.
The idea that bottled water is better for you than tap water has been around since the early 1900s. However, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that bottled water surpassed tap water in popularity. This was largely due to marketing campaigns by companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Nestle, who invested heavily in advertising their own brands of bottled water.
While the EPA regulates the quality of water that cities provide, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the water that is in plastic bottles. Instead of being tested every day like tap water, bottled water only gets tested every week or so, disqualifying myths on promised safety from bottled water.
Relying on the accessible, tested-daily tap water can save you tons of money. How is that possible? Well, if you drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day in bottled form, you could spend $1400 on bottled water every year. The same amount of tap water would cost you 49 cents. It is estimated that Americans spend over $16 billion on bottled water every year, but in reality, the money being spent on bottled water is the same that comes from tap. Bottled water companies have just taken tap water and put it in a bottle with a brand label to sell at a much higher price.
You are also paying for the increased energy it takes to produce bottled water, which is estimated to be around 1,000 times more energy-intensive than tap. Bottled water goes through a long process of being treated, sealed, transported, and occasionally refrigerated, whereas tap water is treated and distributed.
How can tap beat the convenience of plastic bottles?
Truth is, plastic bottles can be convenient. But the negative environmental cost and health impacts associated with plastic bottles are an overwhelming inconvenience.
With a reusable bottle, tap water can be even more convenient than bottled water. Water bottle filling stations are on the rise, allowing you to fill your reusable water for free rather than having to find a vending machine or store to buy water from. If you fill your bottle up with tap water at home, you can customize it to your taste by adding fruit, ice, or flavorings!
Another convenience of drinking tap water is the avoidance of microplastics. In a study conducted by the State University of New York, 93% of bottled water from around the world was contaminated by microplastics. An Orb Media study found Nestle water bottles with over 10,000 particles of microplastic. Since microplastics have not been around for long, the impacts they have on human bodies are not confirmed. Tests on animals, however, showed that microplastics caused abnormal behavior, delayed growth, oxidative stress, and reduced food intake. By filtering tap water, you are effectively removing microplastics from your drinking water. Some filtration systems, like TAPP, remove 100% of microplastics. Filtering tap water is especially important in certain areas where municipal water is contaminated.
It’s Time to Switch to Tap
Tap water, besides being a decent money-saver, is more environmentally friendly than bottled water. It results in less waste, less energy consumed, fewer materials used, and the same precious product- drinking water. Tap water is the more sustainable option.
1. Research the water quality in your area with tools like the EWG database
2. Treat and drink your tap water if it is not highly contaminated
3. Carry your water with you in a reusable bottle; use aluminum or steel instead of single-use plastic bottles
4. Pass along this information to local community groups, and ecologically-minded people.
5. Speak up when you see plastic water bottles being sold, politely ask people not to buy or use them, and provide them with alternatives (water stations, fountains, etc.)
6. Encourage a carbon tax on plastic water bottles
7. Refuse bottled water whenever you can