Tap water, filtered water, or bottled water?

With so many options, sometimes it’s hard to know from what source to draw your drinking water. Unlike some parts of the globe, people in the United States, with rare exceptions, can drink water from the tap without concern that it will contain harmful bacteria. In spite of that fact, many people choose not to drink tap water for a variety of reasons. For some it is simply the taste, for others it is because of concerns about trace amounts of contaminants such as PFAS compounds, pharmaceuticals or disinfection byproducts and for others, it is simply a health concern.

Public Water

If the source of your water is a public supply, periodic testing is performed and annually a report is available called a CCR or consumer confidence report.

If you still have concerns about the quality, then consider having the water tested by a certified lab. This link is to an EPA site where you can search by state to find a certified lab
www.epa.gov/dwlabcert/contact-information-certification-programs-and-certified-laboratories-drinking-water ».

Private Well Water

When the source of your water is a private well then it is your responsibility to have the water tested periodically by a certified lab to ensure it is safe to drink.

Read more about the Chemical and Microbial Content of Our Tap Waters by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) ».

Bottled Water

Bottled water is an option many people choose for their drinking water. According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll for the IBWA (International Bottled Water Association), 71% of Americans drink both tap and bottled water, while 39% drink only/mostly bottled water. Read more about the survey at bottledwater.org/nr/consumers-want-bottled-water-to-be-available-wherever-drinks-are-sold-and-if-its-not-most-will-choose-another-packaged-beverage-that-uses-much-more-plastic ».

Within the world of bottled water, there are a number of types from which to pick. These include spring water, mineral water and more recently Alkaline water. According to many, including the Mayo Clinic’s article “Is alkaline water better for you than plain water?”, the claim that alkaline water provides health benefits appears to have questionable science behind it it.

According to the IBWA, bottled water is regulated by the FDA which has similar standards to the EPA drinking water standards. The IBWA says “…not just any water in a bottle can be called “bottled water.” Read about IBWA’s 6 different types of bottled water.

One of the considerations regarding bottled water is the plastic bottles in which it is frequently packaged. Depending on the configuration, the plastic waste can be significant. National Geographic published an article in 2019 titled “How The Plastic Bottle Went From Miracle Container to Hated Garbage”.

“Globally more than a million plastic bottles are purchased every single minute…it takes at least 450 years for a plastic bottle to completely degrade”. To read the full article www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/plastic-bottles ».

There are efforts underway to increase the amount of recycled plastic used in the production of new bottles, which to some degree will help to deal with the waste issue.

Filtering and Treating Water

Filtering your drinking water with a point of use (POU) system is another option to improve the quality of your water.

Systems are generally available in one of three configurations:

  1. Clips onto the faucet
  2. A countertop unit
  3. An under the counter system

Carbon Filter

One of the most economical filters used to simply improve the taste is a carbon filter. The vast majority of POU systems incorporate carbon as part of the filtration process. Carbon is very effective at removing taste and odors, especially chlorine. Most public water supplies are chlorinated to kill microorganisms. If applied properly carbon can also be effective at removing certain health related contaminants. Carbon is normally produced from one of three sources: wood, coconut or coal, each of which has unique properties.

Reverse Osmosis

If you are interested in something more comprehensive, reverse osmosis (RO) may be the answer. Almost all POU RO systems have as part of their design a carbon filter.

The heart of any RO is a semipermeable membrane which allows water molecules to diffuse through it but rejects approximately 90-98% of the TDS (total dissolved solids) present. In general only about 25-35% of the water entering the system passes through the membrane. The rest of the water, along with the contaminants rejected by the membrane get flushed down the drain. RO has the potential to reduce a broad spectrum of contaminants.

Read more about RO in the Water Conditioning and Purification International Magazine’s Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water: The Myths and the Facts ».

Take Action Based On Your Goal

If the goal is to improve the quality from a health standpoint then consideration needs to be given to the quality of your water before determining what type of system best suits your needs.

Step 1 – have your water tested by a certified lab
Step 2 – determine if the proposed water system is certified by an independent third party such as NSF, WQA or IAPMO.

Without knowing that a system has been certified for a specific contaminant or group of contaminants it is very difficult to have confidence in it’s performance, especially over time. Some manufacturers make claims that their system has been tested by a certified lab and imply that their testing is as comprehensive as an NSF performance standard—ensure they have third party certification as this is the gold standard against which systems should be evaluated.

Other Options

In between a simple carbon filter and a reverse osmosis system are a number of options including systems that are certified to reduce a specific contaminant from the water.

In addition to the quality, the decision to drink tap, bottled or filtered water may vary depending on whether you rent or own your home, are traveling or at work, as well as the cost of each option.

You can find the EPA standards at www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations ».

If you are interested in a more in depth discussion about any of this information or unsure what the right option for you is, book a free, no-obligation 15-minute discovery call at getwateranswers.com/appointments to see how we can help.

Paul Friot

Paul Friot

Get Water Answers

Get Water Answers is a water quality consulting company based in Florida, USA, operating nationally. Founded in 2021, after 45 years in the water quality industry, the founder Paul Friot provides unbiased, professional, scientific water treatment advice to residential customers and training to students obtaining water quality certifications.