The choice to drink bottled water or tap water is ultimately your own, but there are some things you might want to take into consideration. People have been drinking water in bottles for a very long time, but the popularity of the product really began to explode in the 1990s. The proliferation of companies and products in this business became a major news item in the early 2000s, when many organizations debated the issue of bottled vs tap water. By being informed about the issues, you can make a better choice and defend that choice to people who might challenge it.
The history of bottled water is older than many people realize. As far back as Roman times, people collected water from special springs and wells and sold it in bottled form. This early product was collected for its perceived health benefits, and when the water industry started heavily marketing its product in the 20th century, claims of health benefits were common. The industry also suggested that this form was convenient because of its portability and safety.
There is a major problem with the safety claims made about this water, however. Safety standards are actually often more rigorous for tap water than they are for bottled. Municipal water supplies around the world must meet very strict requirements and undergo frequent testing to ensure that they remain safe. Bottled water standards tend to be more lax, and water is subject to contamination during the bottling process. If safety is your concern, you may want to stick to tap water.
The labeling of water is also not very carefully monitored. Much of it is actually straight from the tap, without any additional filtering or added ingredients. Not all companies are required to label the source of their water, and those that do label may hide the source information or flat-out lie. Unless their water is tested, these companies can profit on their claims of “artesian well water” or “spring water” until proven otherwise.
Bottled water is also much more expensive than tap water, and not just directly. While the price often exceeds the cost of an equal amount of gasoline, it also carries a hidden environmental toll. Many consumers view water bottles as disposable items, and the plastic chokes landfills. Recycling can repurpose the plastics for other uses, but the bottles still stimulate the market for petroleum, as water bottles are rarely made from recycled plastic due to the expense involved.
If your concern is the taste of your tap water, this is entirely legitimate. The taste of tap water varies widely, depending on the pipes in your home, the source of the water, and how it is processed. You can reduce bad flavors by filtering your water, and you can rest assured that your tap water should be free of pathogens and contaminations by writing to the company that oversees the water supply and asking for test results. Many municipalities and water utilities also release test results to their customers yearly. To make tap water portable, just pour it into a bottle — ideally, a ruggedized bottle that is designed for a lifetime of use, rather than a flimsy plastic disposable one.