If you’re reaching for bottled water thinking it’s cleaner or healthier than tap water, think again. A 2011 bottled water study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says to drink filtered tap water until there are stronger labeling standards for water bottlers.
While bottled water labels depict clear streams and glaciers, the labels fail to provide basic information about the source and purification of the water inside. More than half of 173 bottled water brands that EWG surveyed failed a transparency test: 18 percent of the products didn’t list the source, and 32 percent didn’t disclose any details on water treatment or purity.
Currently, bottled water companies aren’t required by the Food and Drug Administration to disclose where their water comes from or how pure it is. In fact, the National Resources Defense Council says 25 percent of all bottled water – or more – is actually just tap water.
So which brands received an “A” on EWG’s transparency test? None. Instead, the EWG recommends consumers’ best option is to drink filtered tap water.
Since tap water quality can vary and may contain man-made contaminants and bacteria, it is important for consumers to filter their water.
“With the proper filtration system at home, you can be confident that your glass of water is free of virtually all contaminants, including chromium-6 and other chemicals that have been in the news,” says Jerry Kovach, vice president of research and development at Kinetico, a leading manufacturer of water treatment products. “You don’t have that same assurance when drinking from a bottle.”
Homeowners should first assess the quality of their tap water and get a thorough water quality evaluation to see if any kind of water treatment is needed. Many local water treatment professionals offer in-home testing for free.
“Water filtration systems, such as those using ceramic technology, provide a proven barrier against harmful chemicals. Look for filtration systems that have been tested and certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF); this gives consumers confidence that the system effectively removes impurities,” says Kovach.
Until there are stronger federal standards that require water bottlers to provide clearer labeling, filtering tap water at home is a cost effective and less wasteful means to better quality water.