Bottled or Tap Water

A fiery growth in the water industry has placed bottled water in nearly every supermarket, convenience store and vending machine from coast to coast, where several brands compete for your dollars.  Industry experts anticipated that bottled water will be second only to soda pop as Americans beverage of choice.

Water, of course, is essential to our health.  You need to drink water to replace lost nutrients and hydrate so that your body functions properly.  But are we drinking enough water and is bottled water part of the answer?  You need to arm yourself with facts about what you are buying before grabbing the next bottle of Dasani, Evian or Perrier off the shelf.

Different Variations of Bottled Water

Bottled water may seem like a somewhat great idea born during the delicate awareness of fitness and probable water contamination during the last several decades. However, water has been bottled and sold far from its source for thousands of years. In Europe, water from mineral springs was often believed to have healing and religious powers. Pioneers traveling west across the United States during the nineteenth century also considered clean (drinkable) water a staple to be purchased in anticipation of a long trip across the barren West.

Today, there are dozens of brands of bottled water and many different kinds, including flavored, fizzy and vitamin.

FDA Regulations

The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water products that are in interstate commerce under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).

Under the FD&C Act, manufacturers are responsible for producing safe, wholesome and truthfully labeled food products, including bottled water products. It is a violation of the law to introduce into interstate commerce adulterated or misbranded products that violate the various provisions of the FD&C Act.

The FDA also has established regulations specifically for bottled water, including standard of identity regulations, which define different types of bottled water, and standard of quality regulations, which set maximum levels of contaminants (chemical, physical, microbial and radiological) allowed in bottled water.

From a regulatory standpoint, the FDA describes bottled water as water that is intended for human consumption and that is sealed in bottles or other containers with no added ingredients, except that it may contain a safe and suitable antimicrobial agent. Fluoride may also be added within the limits set by the FDA.


Is the extra expense of bottled water worth it? One thing your can depend on is that the FDA sets regulations specifically for bottled water to ensure that the bottled water they buy is safe, according to Henry Kim, Ph.D., a supervisory chemist at the FDAs Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Plant and Dairy Foods and Beverages.  Major changes have been made since 1974, when the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) first gave regulatory oversight of public drinking water (tap water) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each time the EPA establishes a standard for a chemical or microbial contaminant, the FDA either adopts it for bottled water or makes a finding that the standard is not necessary for bottled water in order to protect the public health.

Over the years, the FDA has adopted EPA standards for tap water as standards for bottled water.. As a result, standards for contaminants in tap water and bottled water are very similar.

However, in some instances, standards for bottled water are different than for tap water. Because lead can leach from pipes as water travels from water utilities to home faucets, the EPA set an action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb) in tap water. This means that when lead levels are above 15 ppb in tap water that reaches home faucets, water utilities must treat the water to reduce the lead levels to below 15 ppb. In bottled water, where lead pipes are not used, the lead limit is set at 5 ppb. Based on FDA survey information, bottlers can readily produce bottled water products with lead levels below 5 ppb. This action was consistent with the FDAs goal of reducing your exposure to lead in drinking water to the extent practicable.

Production of bottled water also must follow the current good manufacturing practices (CGMP) regulations set up and enforced by the FDA. Water must be sampled, analyzed and found to be safe and sanitary. These regulations also require proper plant and equipment design, bottling procedures and recordkeeping.

The FDA also oversees inspections of the bottling plants. Because the FDAs experience over the years has shown that bottled water poses no significant public health risk, we consider bottled water not to be a high risk food. Nevertheless, the FDA inspects bottled water plants under its general food safety program and also contracts with the states to perform some bottled water plant inspections. In addition, some states require bottled water firms to be licensed annually.

Members of the IBWA also agree to adhere to the associations Model Code, a set of standards that is more stringent than federal regulations in some areas. Bottling plants that adopt the IBWA Model Code agree to one unannounced annual inspection by an independent firm.

The FDA also classifies some bottled water according to its origin.

  • 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.
    According to the EPA, water from artesian aquifers often is more pure because the confining layers of rock and clay impede the movement of contamination. However, despite the claims of some bottlers, there is no guarantee that artesian waters are any cleaner than ground water from an unconfined aquifer, the EPA says.
  • 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 earths 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.

Bottled water may be used as an ingredient in beverages, such as diluted juices or flavored bottled waters. However, beverages labeled as containing -sparkling water-,-seltzer water,- soda water,- tonic water, or -club soda- are not included as bottled water under the FDAs regulations, because these beverages have historically been considered soft drinks.

Some bottled water also comes from City sources--in other words--the tap. City water is usually treated before it is bottled.

Examples of water treatments include:

  • Distillation. In this process, water is turned into a vapor. Since minerals are too heavy to vaporize, they are left behind, and the vapors are condensed into water again.
  • Reverse osmosis. Water is forced through membranes to remove minerals in the water.
  • Absolute 1 micron filtration. Water flows through filters that remove particles larger than one micron in size, such as Cryptosporidium, a parasitic protozoan.
  • Ozonation. Bottlers of all types of waters typically use ozone gas, an antimicrobial agent, to disinfect the water instead of chlorine, since chlorine can leave residual taste and odor to the water.

Bottled water that has been treated by distillation, reverse osmosis, or other suitable process and that meets the definition of -purified water- in the U.S. Pharmacopeia can be labeled as -purified water.-

Differences of Bottle and Tap Waters

Whether bottled water is better than tap water, and justifies its expense, remains under debate. Bottlers are selling the quality, consistency and safety that bottled water promises, and providing a service for those whose City systems do not provide good quality drinking water.

Bottled water is produced and regulated exclusively for human consumption, some people in their city markets have the luxury of good water and others do not.

Your can depend on bottled waters safety and quality. But you should feel the same way about the quality of their tap water. Tap water may sometimes look or taste differently, but that does not mean its unsafe. In fact, the most dangerous contaminants are those that your cannot see, smell or taste. But you do not need to worry about their existence. City water systems serving 25 people or more are subject to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  The water constantly and thoroughly tested for harmful substances. If there is a problem, your will be warned through the media or other sources.

Tap water has another advantage many people do not think about. It typically contains fluoride. Many cities have elected to add fluoride to drinking water to promote strong teeth and prevent tooth decay in residents, though some groups continue to oppose this practice and believe it is detrimental to health.

Bottled water often does not have fluoride added to it. Or, if it has been purified through reverse osmosis or distillation, the fluoride may have been removed. People who drink mostly bottled water, especially those who have children, need to be aware of this. They may need to use supplemental fluoride that is available by prescription from dentists or doctors. The supplements are usually recommended for children ages 7 to 16. Fluoride supplements cost around $15 for a three-month supply.

At the least, inform your childs dentist or doctor that you are relying on bottled water.

The IBWA says there are more than 20 brands of bottled water with added fluoride available to your today. When fluoride is added to bottled water, the FDA requires that the term -fluoridated,-fluoride added, or -with added fluoride- be used on the label. Your interested in how much fluoride bottled water contains can usually find out by contacting individual companies directly.

Surging Sales

Your do not appear ready to give up bottled water any time soon. Younger, health-oriented people are driving the markets growth, according to industry officials. –They have grown up with bottled water, and it does not seem like such a stretch for them to buy water.   Plus it is convenient to take a bottle water with you, where ever you go.  Vitamin water is great, because it comes in a bottle just like cola and has your essential nutrients for good health.

There are arguments that tap water is just as good if not better than bottled water. A glass from the tap, however, provides water that is discolored, chlorinated, and tastes like -pool water.  The extra money for bottles of Dasani water is worth it.

It tastes better and looks better, plus its easy to take with you.  There is nothing like a refreshing cool bottle of water to beat the heat during the hot days of summer.

Its a product that fits most peoples needs and lifestyles.

Why use a Water Filter?

Your can buy purified water. They also have the option of doing it at home.

Numerous companies sell filtration systems. Some attach to the faucet and filter the water as it comes through the tap. Others are containers that filter the water in them. Among the best manufacturers are PUR and Brita.

Water purified with these products typically costs less than buying bottled water. According to Brita, its high-end faucet filter system provides water for 18 cents a gallon, a considerable saving from $1 or more typically charged for an 8- to 12-ounce bottle of water.

Your can feel confident about the water quality provided by brand name home-filtration systems.

Home filtration systems can improve the taste or appearance of tap water at a low cost. But, you need to be careful about maintaining these filters. Normally, specific instructions are included with the purchase of these products. Without proper maintenance, it is possible bacteria or other contaminants can build up in the products.


-These statements are for information purposes only for making informed decisions when using bottled, tap, and water filtration systems.

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