Tap vs. bottled water

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Via Flickr by tico_24 / Creative Commons

Evian, Fiji, Pellegrino – aren’t these all just fancy ways of saying water? Well kinda. When it comes to what’s inside that bottle, it’s not much different than what you get from the tap. In fact, it’s basically the same thing.

Both kinds of water are sourced the same way, coming from aquifers, lakes and springs. In fact, 44 percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. started out as municipal water – meaning it’s just tap water that’s been filtered to make it taste better.

And when it comes to safety, both sources of water are held to basically the same standards, but the two are regulated by two different bodies and they aren’t tested quite the same way. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for our bottled water, while the EPA regulates your tap water. And your tap water undergoes more rigorous testing.

The DWP reports that it tests LA’s water every day to ensure its safety. According to the website, L.A.’s “water is tested at about 300 locations around the City, for over 200 different constituents. The water delivered to you meets or exceeds all State and Federal drinking water standards.”

Bottled water is not tested with quite the same frequency. The FDA requires that bottled water be tested weekly for certain contaminants and annually for others. The NRDC, which has been pushing for stricter standards for bottled water since 2009, reported that just this past year, the FDA has agreed to stricter standards. 

But we love our artisanal water. Cleanair.org reports that “between 1997 and 2007, bottled water consumption in the U.S. more than doubled, from 13.4 gallons per person to 29.3 gallons per person.” All those plastic bottles, take a toll on the environment.

There’s the production: It takes about 1,100 to 2,000 times as much energy to produce and transport the average bottle of water to Los Angeles as to produce the same amount of tap water (Cleanair.org).

And then the disposal: In 2004, only  about one in six plastic water bottles sold in the US was recycled, according to container-recycling.org. 

Still thirsty?  Check out the Mayo Clinic’s post on the health of your water. Here’s LA’s DWP article addressing the differences between tap and bottled. WeTap is trying to change the culture around municipal water supplies, and has an app to let you know where the nearest drinking fountain is so you can stay away from plastic and celebrate all the hard work that’s been done in the name of safe drinking water.