|MadSci Network: Environment & Ecology|
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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