15 Interesting Bottled Water Facts to Take into Consideration

There is still a certain stigma about tap water nowadays. Scandals like the one in Flint, Michigan from 2016 when city officials changed the city’s water supply which led to the contamination of the entire system with lead shocked Americans everywhere. Strong marketing campaigns to promote bottled water emphasize on its purity compared to tap water.

Objectively speaking, tap water is a better choice for the environment. However, the combination of public safety issues, such as the citizens of Flint had to face, and marketing led to the booming of the bottled water industry. The labels on these bottles show beautiful mountains and crystal-clear rivers. Companies now market ‘premium’ bottled water and the price to show for it. However, things aren’t always what the labels describe them to be. That is why, in this article, we’re going to look at some interesting bottled water facts to see exactly what the difference is between tap water and what the companies try to sell on the market.

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Regulations: Tap vs Bottled Water

quality control worker examining bottled water

Quality control worker checking bottled water at bottling plant

Evidently, there are regulations in place for both tap and bottled water so that they do not end up containing pathogens and chemicals. However, there are different agencies who oversee these procedures. The Environmental Protection Agency is in charge of regulating tap water while the Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water. The FDA checks if the labels on the bottled water that companies are going to sell throughout the States are truthful. However, it is interesting to notice that tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water.

Both kinds of water have to be tested for bacteria and synthetic chemicals. However, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, bottled water is tested once a week for coliform bacteria, while tap water is tested 100 times or more per month. Tap water has to be disinfected, filtered and tested. And the limits on chemical pollution don’t differ between them. In this case, the advantage of bottled water is that it avoids lead contamination, which is a great possibility in homes where the piping is old.

Safety: Tap vs Bottled Water

In 1999, NRDC conducted tests on over 1,000 bottles to check the standards. The results showed that there is no certainty that bottled water is cleaner than tap. NRDC estimated that 25% or more of the tested bottled water is, in fact, tap water, sometimes having undergone further treatment. A concerning result is that 22% of the brands tested positive for chemicals above health limits. If consumed for a long period of time, serious health issues including cancer could start developing.

NRDC suggests that bottled water is a safer option for those who live in a rural area to avoid possible pesticide contamination. Testing kits are also available on the market for those who want to check for contaminants. As an extra precaution, there are also filters certified by the Public Health and Safety Organization that can be purchased at an affordable price.

Related: Germs Everywhere: The Problem with Reusable Water Bottles

Checking the Bottle

If you decide to continue buying bottled water, make sure to check the label for the sources. There are some state bottled water programs that list all the sources but there are many that do not. If the label says, “from a municipal source” or “from a community water system” then the water comes from tap. You might get some more information if you call the local bottled water program to ask for the source.

Bottled Water Facts – Industry

woman drinking bottled water

  • Bottled water consumption goes up by 10% each year, worldwide. The rate is the slowest in Europe and the fastest in North America.
  • In 2008, U.S citizens consumed 9 billion gallons of bottled water, with an average of 30 gallons per person.
  • Beverage companies discourage the consumption of tap water and create demand for brands such as Pepsi, Coca Cola, and Gatorade. Reportedly, Coca Cola pushed restaurants to expand beverage choices and limit serving water.
  • Conversely, Coca Cola and Pepsi did not follow regulations and had to change labels to inform customers of the fact that the premium water came from the municipal water supply.
  • In 2009, Food and Water Watch reported that 47,8% of bottled water comes from public water sources. The U.S Government Accountability Office reached the same conclusion.

Bottled Water Facts – Manufacturing

  • To produce the water bottles, the industry uses 17 million barrels of oil per year. This amount of oil could power one million cars for a year. In addition, to manufacture the bottles, the industry uses three times the amount of water than what will fill the bottles.
  • Because of the amount of oil used in manufacturing, bottling water produced 5 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2006. This only adds to the issue of global warming.
  • In addition, the energy used to produce bottled water could power 190,000 homes.
  • In 2005, 30 billion plastic water bottles were sold in the United States. Only 12% were recycled. This leaves 25 billion plastic bottles that were either littered and landfilled. In addition, recycled plastic bottles can only be used in non-food products.
  • The average costs of drinking bottled water per year amount to $346. However, drinking the same amount from the tap costs only 48 cents. Over 10 years, one could save over $3,000.
  • The plastic itself is not risk-free. The chemicals known as phthalates can leak into the water. Exposure to these chemicals could lead to testosterone imbalance in boys, men, and women.
  • Bottle caps constantly harm sea turtles who ingest them and might lead to some of them dying.

RelatedCan You Recycle Bottle Caps? 5 Tips and Useful Recycling Advice

Final Words

It is certain that the bottled water industry makes a profit from the soaring sales. The bottles themselves are a serious harm to the environment and contain harmful chemicals. These bottled water facts show an alarming trend in today’s industries to push for bottled water and other beverages and distract attention from the fact that tap water is just as clean and is free.

Image source: DepositPhotos: 1 and 2 and 3

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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