For most of us, memories of childhood summers involve at least a few instances where, parched after an intense game of tag, we squatted in flowerbeds to take a long, satisfying drink from the garden hose. Would you do that now as an adult? When did we become so afraid of tap water? We must have, at some point, come to think that the water that flows from our kitchen taps and backyard hoses is dirty, full of chemicals even, and that the cleanest water comes individually packaged at the grocery store.
But is it true? Is bottled water purer than tap?
The answer is, surprisingly, a resounding no. We fear tap water, in large part, because we’ve been taught to by brilliant marketing strategies that preyed on insecurity and established distrust in essentially free tap water, creating a market for more expensive, but often less reliable, bottled water.
In 2001, Susan Wellington, president of the Quaker Oats Company’s U.S. beverage division, famously declared, “When we’re done, tap water will be relegated to showers and washing dishes.” In 2014, it looks as if Wellington’s prophecy is pretty close to true, with Americans consuming 9.67 billion gallons last year — almost 40 gallons for every American.
Bottled water is an 11.8-billion-dollar industry, but what does that money buy us? Is bottled water really safer than tap water? Many waters bill themselves as cleaner, more natural alternatives to plain tap water, but is there anyone checking up on these claims?
Or maybe we’re drinking bottled water because it’s a more convenient alternative to trotting to the taps every time we feel a little bit thirsty. But what’s the environmental impact of all those single servings of water?
The answers to these questions are pretty surprising. Below, we’ve compiled a list of facts about bottled water that may send you running back to the tap.
It’s Probably Just Tap Water Anyway
According to both government and industry estimates, approximately 40 percent of bottled water comes from city and municipal water reserves. Sometimes it’s additionally treated, but sometimes it’s not.
There’s No One Assessing it for Quality
60 to 70 percent of percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. is exempt from the FDA’s rigorous water standards because the FDA says its rules do not apply to water packaged and sold in the same state.