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Fast & Easy Info

  • When it comes to health, safety and the environment, tap water is usually better than bottled water.
  • In the U.S., bottled water is regulated as a food product by the Food and Drug Administration. Tap water is treated as a utility by the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA's regulations for tap water are stronger than FDA's for bottled water.
  • 25-40% of bottled water actually comes from municipal drinking water sources; in other words, it's tap water! Other sources of bottled water include artesian wells, springs, groundwater wells, and mineral water from underground sources.
  • When you buy bottled water, you're buying plastic packaging and convenience, not necessarily healthier water that's safer to drink than tap water.
  • Approximately 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to make bottles of water. Because the bottles are petroleum-based and linked to the price of oil, they are more expensive than the water they contain, according to World Wildlife Fund.
  • Making bottles to meet Americans' demand for bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year.
  • Only about 12% of plastic water bottles are being recycled, which means 40 million bottles a day are going to the trash or ending up as litter.
  • Bottled water can cost as much as 10,000 times more than tap water. At $2.50 a litre, or $10 a gallon, bottled water costs almost four times more than milk.
  aluminum bottles

Dollars & Sense Options

  • Buy reusable aluminum water bottles here or stainless steel bottles here . A kid's size, 18-oz. stainless steel bottle is available here .

What Else?





Home filtration systems help improve the smell and taste of tap water. They also remove specific chemicals or particles that might be present in an individual's water supply. Systems can either be free-standing pitchers, units that attach to a tap, undercounter units, or appliances that centrally attach to treat all water entering the house , also known as a point-of-entry device. If you're concerned about contaminants like radon or chlorine, which can turn into gases and may pose a risk when inhaled (such as during a shower), you may want to consider a point-of- entry device. Otherwise, you can consider a filter pitcher or faucet filter. All of these options are cheaper over time than buying cases of bottled water. Different filters in each device capture different pollutants, as indicated by the chart below:




Activated Carbon Filter
(includes mixed media that remove heavy metals)

Adsorbs organic contaminants that cause taste and odor problems

Some designs remove chlorination byproducts

Some types remove cleaning solvents and pesticides

Is efficient in removing metals such as lead and copper

Does not remove nitrate, bacteria or dissolved minerals


Ion Exchange Unit

Removes minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium that make water "hard"

Some designs remove radium and barium

Removes Fluoride

If water has oxidized iron or iron bacteria, the ion-exchange resin will become coated or clogged and lose its softening ability

Reverse Osmosis Unit
(with carbon)

Removes nitrates, sodium, other dissolved inorganics and organic compounds

Removes foul tastes, smells or colors

May also reduce the level of some pesticides, dioxins and chloroform and petrochemicals

Does not remove all inorganic and organic contaminants

Distillation Unit

Removes nitrates, bacteria, sodium, hardness, dissolved solids, most organic compounds, heavy metals, and radionucleides

Kills bacteria

Does not remove some volatile organic contaminants, certain pesticides and volatile solvents

Bacteria may recolonize on the cooling coils during inactive periods

(source: www.epa.gov/safewater)

About lead: Older homes and apartment buildings may have lead solder in the pipes. The lead can leach into the water if it is left sitting too long. If you suspect your water pipes may be leaching lead, get your water tested. Check www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/sco.html for labs certified by your state to test potable water. One way to reduce lead in your water without filtering is to let the tap run cold for up to 2 minutes before the first use each day. You can capture the running water to water houseplants to avoid wastage.

Other possible contaminants : The Natural Resources Defense Council has produced a terrific report on drinking water safety. Find it here .

Does your drinking water come from a well? If so, the EPA suggests you test it every year. The EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline, 800-426-4791, provides useful information. Find more information about private wells here .

In My House

About ten years ago, I had my tap water tested for my own peace of mind. We had had no water contamination scares in our municipal water district. I just wanted to be sure my family was drinking safe water. I hired a private company to do the testing. The report showed that our water met or exceeded the EPA's drinking water quality standards. Nevertheless, I decided I'd still filter my tap water, and for a while I used both filter pitchers and a filter on the kitchen faucet. To tell you the truth, I never liked the taste of the filtered water as much as the tap water. Plus, I didn't really have room in my refrigerator for a water pitcher. We don't use a filter right now. I am going to get the water tested again, since it's been ten years since the last test.

If we have to buy water, we mostly buy it in aluminum cans, rather than bottles. We recycle all our bottles and cans.

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What Else?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency answers basic questions about drinking water here .

Drinking water suppliers (like your local water utility) now provide reports (sometimes called consumer confidence reports) that tell where drinking water comes from and what contaminants may be in it. Read your water quality report if it is online, or contact your water supplier to get a copy.

En espanol: El Agua del Grifo - lo que usted debe saber

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Message for Moms

Some research groups have raised concerns about a connection between miscarriages, birth defects and the chemical byproducts that occur in drinking water as a result of chlorination. You can read more about this in "Consider the Source: farm runoff, chlorination byproducts, and human health," a report prepared by U.S. PIRG, a public interest advocacy group, and Environmental Working Group, an environmental research organization.

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