Bottled Water vs Filtered Tap Water: Important Facts

Bags full of used plastic water bottles.

Bottled Water vs Filtered Tap Water: Important Facts

“Companies that promote bottled water as being safer than tap water are defrauding the American public.”

– Statement made by FDA

Americans consume around 1,500 disposable plastic water bottles each second, or nearly 2.2 million each day. Many Americans place a high trust in bottled water, and assume it’s safer than tap water. The truth is there are virtually no real benefits to consuming bottled water. Most bottled water is little more than over-priced tap water in a bottle that contributes to over 2 million tons of plastic waste in our landfills every year. To help you be informed on what you’re drinking and if there are better alternatives, we’ve compiled some good-to-know facts about bottled water.

What’s in Bottled Water?

The FDA regulations that govern the quality of bottled water only apply if it is transported across state lines and only require it to be “as good as” tap water, not better. In fact, 60-70% of bottled water companies bottle and sell the water in the same state to avoid Federal purity standards, thus avoiding complying with basic health standards, such as those that apply to municipally treated tap water. There are no assurances or requirements that bottled water be safer or better than tap water.

In addition, plastic water bottles can contain Bisphenol-A (BPA). This toxic substance has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and shown to cause a resistance to insulin, making it life threatening for some, even in low doses.

The U.S. FDA says: “Companies that promote bottled water as being safer than tap water are defrauding the American public.”

Why Bottled Water is Bad for the Environment

Each year, 38 billion plastic bottles are disposed of in U.S. landfills, which take up to 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose. However, bottled water negatively impacts our environment in many other ways. About 17 billion barrels of oil are used each year to produce the plastic bottles consumed by Americans, resulting in 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution. It takes three times the amount of water to produce the bottle as it does to fill it. 

Bottled Water vs Tap Water: Know the Facts

All public water systems in the United States are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for bacteria and toxic chemicals. All city tap water must be filtered, disinfected, and regularly tested to ensure it’s safe for use. In contrast, there are no federal filtration or disinfection requirements for bottled water.

In March of 1999, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report called “Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?” This report presented the following points:

  • City tap water can have no confirmed E.Coli or fecal coliform bacteria. FDA bottled water rules include no such prohibition (a certain amount of any type of coliform bacteria is allowed in bottled water).
  • Most cities using surface water have had to test for Cryptosporidium or Giardia, two common water pathogens, that can cause diarrhea and other intestinal problems, yet bottled water companies have no such test.
  • City tap water must meet standards for certain important toxic or cancer-causing chemicals, such as phthalate (a chemical that can leach from plastic, including plastic bottles); some in the industry persuaded FDA to exempt bottled water from the regulations regarding these chemicals.
  • City water systems must issue annual “right to know” reports, telling consumers what is in their water. Bottlers successfully killed a “right to know” requirement for bottled water.

The idea that bottled water is safer than tap water is a common misconception, but in actuality tap water may be safer than bottled water because it’s under a higher and more consistent level of scrutiny. Additionally, using a water filter at home can further improve the quality of tap water. 

Benefits of Filtered Water Over Bottled Water

Switching from bottled water to home water filtration is one of the fastest, easiest and most impactful steps to live healthy, save money and protect the planet. Home water purification is by far the most economical, most convenient and most effective way of producing high quality, healthy water.

The facts are clear:

  • Home water filtration offers better quality water than bottled water
  • Home water filtration is 1/10th the cost of bottled.
  • Home water filtration is far more convenient, offering “Pure water on tap.”
  • Home water filtration is virtually pollution free.

Filtering out the chlorine, lead and other contaminants with a quality home water filtration system, at the point of use, just prior to consumption, is the best way to know for sure about the quality of your drinking water. It’s also the most economical and the most environmentally responsible. It’s the right choice. If you’re interested in switching from bottled water to filtered tap water, check out product comparisons and reviews on our site for more information.