The bottled water industry is ubiquitous, spouting healthy-sounding slogans promising clean water fresh from mountain streams. Implicit in that message is the idea that your tap water is somehow unclean or unhealthy. Don't be fooled by the hype – the municipal water that comes from most people's plumbing installations is actually subject to more stringent safety controls than bottled water, and is cheaper and better for the environment to boot.
If you like to load up the fridge with your favorite brand of bottled water, you aren't alone – more than half of all Americans drink it, and the industry takes in $100 billion per year globally. Many people cite safety as their reason for turning to the bottle, but tap water in cities is regulated extensively by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Among the standards that water from municipal plumbing installations must meet, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council:
- The water must be tested 100 times per month for fecal-related bacteria.
- Tap water must be filtered and disinfected to meet federal standards.
- Chemicals that are known carcinogens must be tested for and eliminated from city water.
- There are strict certifications for the people who treat and test city water to ensure their skills are up to par.
- Any violations must be publicly reported so consumers know what they are drinking when they turn on the faucet.
Factoring Cost and the Environment
That doesn't mean that bottled water is bad for you, either. It is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which mandates sanitary bottling conditions, extensive quality control and testing for contaminants. And some bottled water is even tested twice, thanks to the industry's dirty little secret – a lot of what you buy in bottles actually comes straight from the tap. Considering that bottled water costs between 240 to 10,000 times more than what comes from the faucets in your household plumbing installation, it seems hard to justify the expense.
Then there are the environmental concerns. Bottled water uses millions of tons of plastic and also requires the burning of fossil fuels to transport it around the country. When it comes to environmental stewardship, there's no question tap water is king.
A previous study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund International found similar results. "Bottled water isn't a long-term sustainable solution to securing access to healthy water," WWF's Richard Holland said to ABC News. "Clean water is a basic right. Protecting our rivers, streams and wetlands will help ensure that tap water remains a service which delivers good quality drinking water for everyone at a fair price."
Don't Count Out Bottles Just Yet
All that isn't to say that bottled water has no place in the world. In many countries, tap water is not safe to drink and bottled water is vital to public health. Furthermore, if your home has an older plumbing installation, it's possible that buildup could degrade your water quality and require you to switch to bottles until you can upgrade or clean your pipes.
If you have any questions or concerns about the quality of your drinking water, call up a local plumber today. Your local Benjamin Franklin® is always available to help!