Bottled versus tap: how pure is your water?

Over our lifetime, we will put more water into our body than any other kind of food or drink, making the water we drink a major contender in the battle for good health. Even so, we may not know for years whether the water we drink is good or bad for us.

My husband and I have a difference of opinion about the source of the water we drink. He buys his water in bottles and resists drinking out of the tap. I, on the other hand, prefer not to pay anything extra for my water and drink right from the tap. After the umpteenth discussion about our water preferences, I decided to do a little research on the subject and must now swallow my pride and admit that bottled water seems to have a slight safety edge over tap.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water because it’s considered a food, although it is important to note that the FDA requires only that the label identify the source of the water, not what’s in it. Conversely, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state governments regulate tap water. So in choosing bottled over tap, the question becomes would you rather have the FDA or your individual state or local government test your water?

If like me, after a hard workout at the gym, you refresh yourself with cold water from the drinking fountain, you feel fine afterward. Yet, unbeknownst to you, contaminants from the water may be damaging your cells little by little — it could take decades for tests to find cancer or organs to fail.

Drinking water, including bottled water, may contain at least small amounts of some contaminants that may or may not pose a health risk to you. As water across the United States — sources for both tap water and bottled water — travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity.

The source of Raleigh drinking water is Falls Lake, a man-made lake created by a dam on the Neuse River, located northwest of the City of Raleigh. Falls Lake provides Raleigh with up to 100 million gallons of water a day. In addition, an average of 47 million gallons per day of wastewater begins its journey from kitchen sinks, bathtubs, toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers in the homes and businesses serviced by the City of Raleigh’s wastewater collection and treatment systems.

Upon arrival at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant, wastewater passes through screens and grit collectors where debris and sand is removed. Next heavy organic solids and grease are removed. Dissolved substances or lighter solids cannot be removed by settling them out, so those substances are converted to solids by microorganisms cultured within aeration basins. The resulting solids are next filtered through sand and coal and the water is disinfected by ultraviolet radiation before being returned to the Neuse River.

I’m not sure I’ll ever drink tap water again.

The Safe Drinking Water Act, passed in 1974 and amended in 1996 with more rigorous standards, requires the EPA to set allowable levels of contaminants in municipal water supplies and to monitor compliance with these standards. Let me say that again — allowable levels of contaminants — including pesticides, radioactive materials, chemicals and bacteria.

Here is what the Safe Drinking Water Act cannot control:

• Many municipal water purification plants are too old or too poor to totally comply with EPA standards.
• There may be contaminants that enter the water supply that are not on the EPA’s hit list, and thus they escape detection.
• Current testing and purification technology may miss some contaminants, which get past filtering systems and enter the water supply.
• Some germs may be resistant to current disinfecting methods. Other germs, such as E.coli and Giardia, are tiny enough to slip through some filtration systems.
• The long-term effects of drinking a gallon of chlorinated water every day for seventy years have not been determined

In the debate of bottled versus tap water, consider the source. If the bottle doesn’t list a source, the contents are probably municipal water. You can always call the 800-number listed on the bottle and ask what the source is.

Consider the tester. Bottled water is regulated by the FDA because it’s considered a food. The International Bottled Water Association includes 85 percent of bottled water processors, and the organization claims to have a stricter code than EPA regulations. A significant factor in nearly all bottled waters is that the water is chlorine-free. Bottled, distilled water is the cleanest water you can buy. For general information about bottled water, call the International Bottled Water Association (800-WATER-11).

The information in this blog was modified from:
Waste Water System Report
Water quality report


7 Responses to “Bottled versus tap: how pure is your water?”

  1. What about the recent reports of pharmacutical compounds that have been found in municipal water? Human eliminated chemicals that have not been removed from water sources during reclamation because reclamation facilities have not been testing for them.

    In this case ignorance is not bliss!! Now how crazy is that!!! Just my thoughts…


  2. Jim McClellan Says:

    I work with a bottled water company. If you read the actual FDA requirements for bottled water, you will see that the FDA requires bottled water to meet or exceed the EPA requirements for tap water. Be aware that there are a lot of folks out there who would have you believe otherwise.

    Also, even if your bottled water originates from a municipal supply, it is usually put through reverse-osmosis filtering and disinfected with UV rather than chlorine.

    That said, our company’s position is that Americans generally enjoy the safest tap water in the world. We believe people should drink more water regardless of the source. It is a healthy alternative to sodas, sports drinks, etc.

  3. The NY Times is running a series called Toxic Water in America that is a real eye opener. I have studied water in America in depth. The biggest shocker I found was that our bodies absorb all the contaminants found in water through our skin. Yep, doesn’t matter what you drink, if you wash in it, your still getting contaminated. Like Long hot showers? That’s even worse because you are absorbing through your skin, AND when the water turns to steam you absorb contaminants through your Lungs! In the bottled vs. tap challenge there are too many variables and bottled water has a lot of other negatives. (Chemicals in plastics, pollution, cost, etc). The results of my extensive research are that the only viable solution is to install whole house water filters – I don’t sell them! so I am not trying to promote a business. The cumulative effects of contaminants in water include a litany of diseases and illnesses that is heartbreaking, and kids and elderly people are the most susceptible. For most of us boomers it is too late to avoid the diseases a lifetime of exposure to water contaminants will cause us but it is critical that we spread the word to help protect future generations. I am doing my part. I built a website at (disclosure: I hope that my website makes a buck from referrals, but it ain’t about the money)

  4. My brother suggested I might like this web site. He was
    totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  5. Good post. I will be going through many of these issues as well.

  6. Hey, I need to spend some time learning more about topics like this.
    Thanks for great info I was looking for this information for one of my school assigments.

    I will com back to read more. Cheers. It’s So much appreciated!

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