Many people drink bottled water and think it is better than tap water, but that is not necessarily true. The source of many bottled waters is a municipally treated water system or a natural spring. Additional treatment may, but not always, be applied to bottled water. Since bottled water does not have a standardized label and can vary from brand to brand, you should always check the label to determine the source of the water and if any additional treatment processes were used to clean the water. So which is better? Let’s discuss bottled water vs tap water.
The best quality bottled water follows the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) regulations. The US FDA bases their regulations on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for tap water, the same as municipally treated water plants.
Illness outbreaks, though rare, can happen with bottled water. Contact your local public health department if you suspect an illness.
Some reports suggest, on average, it takes about 1 ½ gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of bottled water. Because of this, and the use of disposable plastic bottles, many environmental organizations do not recommend bottled water, suggesting that bottled is no better than tap, and has a more negative impact on the environment. Some studies have also shown that bottled water may contain microplastics, an emerging contaminant.
Bottled water also has a higher price than tap water. Where tap water may cost less than pennies per gallon, some bottled water costs the equivalent of $6 per gallon.
Tap Water vs. Bottled Water
Bottled water allows options based on personal taste. But do not be misled by pictures of mountains or streams on bottled labels. Tap water is the source of many of the bottled waters produced in the U.S. which makes the tap vs. bottled comparison confusing.
Investing in your home’s water with a water treatment system and using reusable water bottles is better for the environment. Water treatment systems provide additional value that bottled water cannot. You can access clean, filtered water from any tap in your home.
Your Residential Water Treatment System Options
Residential water treatment systems, or home water treatment systems, include:
Many home water treatment systems are considered a final barrier treatment. They can reduce:
- Disinfection byproducts, which can cause health concerns, formed during municipal treatment and while the water is delivered to homes
- Corrosion products from the distribution system
- Corrosion products from the home plumbing itself, such as: lead from plumbing fittings, faucets, and pipes
- Disease-causing microbiological organisms that can survive disinfection or be introduced into the pipeline
- Other contaminant intrusions into the system
The drinking water filtration technology you choose depends on the contaminant(s) in your tap water.
Test your home’s water quality with an Antunes Water Sample Analysis Kit.
Pour-Through Pitchers and Faucet-Attached Devices – Main Usage: Drinking Water
These filters usually contain activated carbon for taste and odor reduction, and/or an ion exchange resin for heavy metal reduction. Because of their small size, they have a limited capacity and need to be changed frequently. They are used for low water usage requirements and typically for drinking water only.
Refrigerator Filters – Main Usage: Drinking Water
These filters are built into the refrigerator directly from the factory. They are used to treat the ice maker and/or chilled water dispenser. Each refrigerator manufacturer has their own unique filter. It is difficult to dispense water for cooking purposes from a refrigerator water dispenser.
Countertop Units – Main Usage: Drinking and Cooking Water
Countertop units include activated carbon for taste and odor reduction, and/or an ion exchange resin for hardness or mineral reduction. Some countertop units also incorporate reverse osmosis technology for dissolved solids reduction. Countertop units can have their own separate faucet or connect to a faucet-attached dispenser. Valuable counter space is needed for these systems.
Under-The-Sink Filters – Main Usage: Drinking and Cooking Water
Under-the-sink filters incorporate activated carbon for taste and odor reduction, ion exchange resin for mineral reduction, lead/metals reduction, and/or cyst reduction for protozoa cysts. Not all under-the-sink filters contain all these technologies; carefully check the reduction claims for each system considered.
Whole House Ultrafiltration Systems – Main Usage: Complete Water Solution
Whole house ultrafiltration systems incorporate mechanical filters for particulate, turbidity, and cyst reduction, and activated carbon for chemical, chlorine, and taste and odor reduction. These larger systems treat water not just for kitchen cooking and drinking, but for bathing, clothes, and dish washing. They also protect water heaters and ion exchange softeners from sediment and chlorine.
Ion Exchange Softeners – Main Usage: Complete Softening Solution
While not necessarily considered a ‘final barrier’ treatment, whole house water softening systems or ion exchange softeners serve an important role in residential water treatment. A softener exchanges hardness ions – calcium and magnesium, with sodium ions. The result is soft water that reduces scaling on water heaters, faucet taps and other equipment that uses water. Some iron reduction may be possible, too. Less soap usage and cleaner feeling skin (less skin irritation) are other advantages.
Reverse Osmosis Water System for Home – Main Usage: Drinking and Cooking Water
Reverse Osmosis (RO) Systems use semipermeable membranes. Semipermeable membranes allow only small molecules to pass through, while filtering out larger particles from the water.
RO systems provide high quality water for drinking and cooking. RO’s reduce dissolved solids, heavy metals, organic compounds, and chemicals. Carefully check the reduction claims for each RO system considered.
Residential Water Treatment System Certifications
How can regulators and homeowners find out which drinking water treatment technologies work? Purchase a water treatment system that has been tested and certified by an accredited laboratory. Accredited laboratories certify products towards National Sanitation Foundation/American National Standards Institute (NSF/ANSI) standards. Here are some of the common standards:
- NSF/ANSI Standard 42 – Aesthetic contaminant performance evaluation for water filters
- NSF/ANSI Standard 44 – Contaminant performance evaluation for ion exchange softeners
- NSF/ANSI Standard 53 – Health contaminant performance evaluation for water filters
- NSF/ANSI Standard 58 – Contaminant performance evaluation for reverse osmosis systems
Who is an accredited laboratory that tests and certifies water treatment products?
- Water Quality Association (WQA)
- National Sanitation Foundation (NSF)
- Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
- International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAMPO)
- Underwriters Laboratory (UL)
Always check the label for the certifier and review the claims the product is certified to reduce. Products will be listed on the accredited laboratory’s website. Each website contains live listings for product certification claims.
Take control of your home water quality, waste, and spending by exploring a water treatment system for your tap water. Test your home’s water quality with an Antunes Water Sample Analysis Kit. No longer will you need to hassle with buying bottled water. Simply turned on the tap and enjoy high quality water delivered straight to your glass.