MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology

Re: Is bottled water better than just a home water filter system?

Date: Wed Nov 29 18:27:15 2000
Posted By: Dean Cliver, Faculty, Food Safety Unit, Uiversity of California, Davis
Area of science: Environment & Ecology
ID: 974414470.En

	The Safe Drinking Water Act, passed many years ago, requires all 
public water utilities in the U.S. to supply safe water to their 
subscribers.  This is a national law, although many states take 
responsibility for enforcement within their borders.  It works well, almost 
all the time  I go anywhere in the U.S. and drink the tap water and don't 
get sick.  Once in a great while, there is an outbreak of illness from 
drinking water, but most of us are more at risk of catching an illness from 
our friends than from drinking tap water.
	Another question, however, is, "Does the water taste good?"  
Obviously, not everyone agrees on what good taste is for drinking water, or 
soft drinks, or almost anything else in our lives.  Filters can take out 
some materials dissolved in water that give it a distinctive taste.  
Typically, these aren't nutrients, even in the sense of minerals that our 
bodies need.  The biggest general problem with filters, as compared to 
bottled water, is that the filter element needs to be changed occasionally, 
and people often forget to do this.  Water treatment, packaging, and 
distribution are what the bottled water people get paid to do, so they tend 
to do it full time.  However, that doesn't mean that bottled water is 
better than what comes from your tap, with or without filtration.  It just 
depends on what you like.  
	Most of us would be better off drinking plain tap water than soft 
drinks, but name recognition makes specific brands of bottled water and 
soft drinks popular, so the bottlers pay to advertise so we'll buy their 
brand  and we pay for the advertising as well as the product itself.  On 
the other hand, we pay dearly to have safe drinking water produced from 
whatever water is available and delivered to our homes via the water mains 
under the streets.  If we use this safe drinking water only for washing our 
bodies, clothes, and cars, and for watering our lawns, that is quite a 
waste.  Imagine buying bottled water to wash your socks!

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