The Benefits of Bottled Water vs Tap Water: An Expert's Perspective

When it comes to hydration, both tap and bottled water are considered good options. However, tap water is often the better choice due to its affordability and lower environmental impact. The water that comes out of the faucet is filtered, disinfected, and often contains added fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Safety regulations are set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and enforced by the local government.

Tap water is good, cheap, and safe to drink. The main advantage of bottled water is its shelf life; if stored away from sunlight and toxic chemicals, it can last forever. On the other hand, tap water cannot be stored as it is not extracted from a private source. In general, tap water tastes as good as bottled water.

While the mineral content and age of pipes can affect flavor, most people cannot differentiate between the two types of water in blind taste tests. The only place where bottled water could have an advantage is in the case of lead; since many older homes have lead pipes, the EPA standard for tap water is less stringent than the FDA standard for lead in bottled water. By definition, tap water is supplied through public water systems while bottled water is delivered in sealed containers that are filled at bottling facilities under controlled conditions. A study found that water that had been stored for 10 weeks in plastic and glass bottles contained phthalates, suggesting that the chemicals could come from the plastic cap or liner. The disadvantages include a greater possibility of pollution from external sources, the high cost for governments to establish and maintain necessary infrastructure, and the lack of safe and well-functioning tap water systems in developing countries.

Although mostly safe, faucets can sometimes present problems as well, especially if you live in a rural community with a higher chance of contamination from pesticide runoff or if you get your water from a private (unregulated) well or live in an old house. The European Union provides a simpler classification for bottled water, dividing it into natural mineral waters, spring waters, and other waters in bottles or containers. In fact, it's estimated that 25 percent or more of bottled water is actually tap water in a bottle, sometimes treated additionally and sometimes not. According to Sustainability Harvard, the entire life cycle of bottled water uses fossil fuels, contributes to global warming, and causes pollution. Tap water is still the best option in terms of environmental impact but bottled water is striving to be more environmentally friendly. States are responsible for regulating the water that is packaged and sold within their borders (which is most of the bottled water market), but one in five states doesn't even bother.

The EPA reports that while most community water systems (78%) are supplied by groundwater, more people (70%) are supplied year-round through community water systems that use surface water from lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. The development and expansion of tap water systems over the past century has transformed the world by making clean drinking water available to billions of people who would otherwise have continued to suffer from all the health and development problems caused by the scarcity of clean drinking water in past centuries. In this regard, bottled water will play an important interim role in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 (SDG 6), which aims to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all. Unfortunately, government infrastructure of these types of organizations is weak in many developing countries which partly explains why there is a lack of access to safe tap drinking water in many developing countries. In areas with drinkable tap drinking water there's no price reason to drink bottled drinking water simply to hydrate regularly; however, in certain situations bottled or tanker-delivered drinking water may be the only healthy solution.