How Safe is Bottled Water? Isn't it Just Tap Water in a Bottle?


There are many myths about the safety and environmental impact of bottle water. Bottled water is promoted in much of the developing world as a safe method to ensure the purity of drinking water and many consumers choose it to protect their families from illness and contaminants. In the developed world, where the safety of water is generally considered secure, many anti-bottled water activists argue that drinking bottled water causes harm and is less safe than tap water. Consumers are caught in the middle, unsure which sources to trust and are left seeking answers.

The standards for bottled water in the majority of the United States are as stringent or even more strict than the standards for regular tap water. Bottled water often undergoes further purification methods such as reverse osmosis, filtration, or is distilled to produce water with reduced contaminant levels and offer significantly more purity of taste. Given media coverage of outbreaks of illness such as Cryptosporidium in Minnesota and amoeba related illnesses in Louisiana traced to municipal water supplies, combined with contaminated tap water in West Virginia, it is not surprising consumers are seeking a safer choice.

Bottled water does not remove drinking water from developing areas, much of the bottled water in the United States is domestically sourced and is only an extremely small percentage of the water drawn from local and national aquifers. Bottled water from municipal sources must list this information, so water sourced from natural springs and artesian wells are specifically sourced and are not just repackaged tap water. Agricultural uses have caused much of the water stresses seen in Western states and the impact bottled water has on these resources is infinitesimally small.

While plastic water bottles have been blamed for significant amounts of litter, most bottled water producers offer recyclable or post-consumer recycled bottles, which offer protection against accumulation of large amounts of plastic waste. Human behavior can prevent waste and promote environmentally responsible activities, such as free recycling programs. Bottled water can be enjoyed responsibly and is a safe alternative for consumers that are seeking security in their beverage choices.