Your Tuesday Tip: Take Back the Tap

The rumor: Bottled water is healthier, purer and more convenient than tap water.
The facts: Tap water is more strictly regulated than bottled water, and is significantly more affordable.

Despite popular belief, tap water is subject to stricter oversight than bottled water. Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which establishes regulations on the production, distribution and quality of drinking water. Some of these regulations include the identification of contaminant levels, extensive oversight of the operation of drinking water systems and regulatory reports.

Bottled water, however, is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and thus is subject to “less stringent” regulations. For instance, FDA’s definition of “bottled water” covered by its standards actually exempts many types of bottled waters, which means they aren’t tested for contamination at all. However, even those that do meet the FDA’s definition of “bottled water” are not required by federal rules to meet the specific and strict testing requirements that apply to tap water.

Not only is tap water cleaner than bottled water (except in rare situations, like Flint, Michigan’s recent water problems), due to its stricter standards for testing and decontaminating, it also is more affordable. To put it into perspective, Convergex Group, an agency-focused global brokerage and trading related services provider, released an eye-opening statistic: at an average cost of $1.22 per gallon, consumers are spending 300 times the cost of tap water to drink bottled water.

Convergex Group Chief Market Strategist Nick Colas took this statistic to an even more mind-boggling level when he performed further calculations: if you factor in the fact that two-thirds of bottled water sales are single bottles (16.9 oz), the cost is about $7.50 per gallon. This means that the cost of bottled water ends up being 2,000 times the cost of tap water, which is more than twice the average cost of a gallon of milk.

Remember that next time you sip water from your single-serving plastic bottle.

As most people are aware, water bottles pollute the environment. According to statistics released by the Office of Sustainability at The George Washington University, it takes an estimated 1.5 million barrels of oil to produce the water bottles used in America each year; those bottles – if not recycled – end up in landfills and will never biodegrade.

Fortunately, this pressing issue has a simple solution: reusable water bottles. By carrying a reusable water bottle on your person, you’ll realize that tap water is highly convenient. You can fill your bottle from drinking fountains and bottle fillers located in a majority of buildings (as required by plumbing codes), you also can ask restaurants or food vendors to fill your bottle from the tap as well. Not only will you save money by investing in a reusable water bottle, you also will save the environment.

It’s time to refill, not landfill.


(Sources: Food & Water Watch, Natural Resources Defense Council. Photo by Daniel Orth.)


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