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Is bottled water really better than tap water? January 7, 2010

Posted by WaterWise Consulting in Water & Business, water conservation.
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In the global community, millions of people buy bottled water. However, a recent survey by the University of Birmingham shows that people don’t necessarily know what, if anything is better. When asked, many of the subjects responded that they bought bottled water because they thought it was better, but didn’t know exactly why. One participant said they thought bottled water was healthier because it has more minerals.
Is there really a difference when it comes to bottled water and tap water? Yes, there is a difference. The real question is: is this difference substantial? I’ll let you decide that for yourself. Here are some definitions from the FDA on sources of bottled water:
• Artesian well water. Water from a well that taps an aquifer–layers of porous rock, sand and earth that contain water–which is under pressure from surrounding upper layers of rock or clay. When tapped, the pressure in the aquifer, commonly called artesian pressure, pushes the water above the level of the aquifer, sometimes to the surface. Other means may be used to help bring the water to the surface.
• Mineral water. Water from an underground source that contains at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids. Minerals and trace elements must come from the source of the underground water. They cannot be added later.
• Spring water. Derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the earth’s surface. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. If some external force is used to collect the water through a borehole, the water must have the same composition and quality as the water that naturally flows to the surface.
• Well water. Water from a hole bored or drilled into the ground, which taps into an aquifer.
Artesian well water is possibly the “best” water. Being trapped in an underground aquifer, the water has little chance of being contaminated. These water systems are often sealed by rock formations, and put under pressure from the rocks above. As a result, contaminants such as heavy metals and particulate very seldom enter.
Mineral water is simply that: water with minerals. There is no “concentration” of dissolved solids that are most beneficial to human beings. In fact, there is debate as to what exactly these dissolved solids can be.
Spring water has relatively little regulation as to the minerals or particulate in the water. However, the water must still pass strict standards set by the FDA to be sold for consumption.
Well water is very similar to spring water, except it does not need to be naturally transported to the ground surface.
Now for tap water. Tap water can come from just about any source listed above as well as above-ground reservoirs and bodies of water. This water, too, must be tested by the FDA if the municipal district that markets it serves more than 25 people. While many customers argue that bottled water is healthier because it tastes better, the harmful contaminants that are sometimes found in water are colorless, scentless, and most shockingly: tasteless.
It is ultimately up to consumers to decide whether bottles water is better than tap water, but make sure you know the difference before you do. Do you really want to spend more money on water that has “minerals” in it? What about water that would otherwise have flown to a reservoir and into your tap for a fraction of the cost? I’d rather save my money for something more important.
To read more about this topic, read an article by Science Daily at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618200927.htm
Or read a publication from the FDA Consumer Magazine at http://www.ncsu.edu/project/bio183de/Black/chemreview/chemreview_news/402_h2o.html
Brian O’Neill
boneill@waterwise-consulting.com

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