Bottled water vs tap water

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In the question of bottled water vs tap water, taste and cost are two important factors
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The battle over bottled water vs tap water rages on

It's hard to go anywhere these days and not see someone with a bottle of water in their hand.  From movie theatres to meeting rooms, bottled water has taken over spaces formerly reserved for soda, beer or sports drinks. People carry their water with them into department stores, concerts and even other people's homes. And more and more restaurants are replacing the standard glass of tap water with a bottled version.

The bottled water vs tap water debate

So why has water, a beverage that in theory has no taste, become something we judge, compare and won't leave home without?  After all, most homes and businesses have running water. Are we so thirsty that we fear ending up in that one establishment where the taps have run dry?  Or is there something special about bottled water? 

Safety in a bottle?

One of the most common reasons people have for choosing bottled water vs tap water is a perception that bottled water is safer than what comes out of your tap.  Detractors claimed that the safety issue was all hype.  But the bottled water drinkers may be right.  One recent study found traces of over 50 kinds of pharmaceuticals in residential tap water samples. One of the most popular brands of bottled water had, on average, less than 4 -- many samples contained no medical contaminants.

But bottled water presents its own issues. One risk of bottle water that's garnered a lot of press is the contamination from the plastic. But researchers have found that the risk is minimal if consumers don't refill the bottles. Reusing, rather than recycling the empties puts consumers at a much higher risk of ingesting toxic by-products from the plastic containers.

But how does it taste?

Surely if we're paying as much as three or four dollars a bottle for some exotic imports, the taste must be much better than ordinary tap water, right? 

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding "maybe." In blind taste tests with popular brands of bottled water and several varieties of straight tap water, tap water fared as well or better than many bottled brands. To be sure, some premium waters did score higher than the home-grown variety.  Not bad for a beverage that by definition, should have no taste!

The convenience factor

Let's face it..carrying a sealed bottle of water in your purse or backpack is whole lot safer for the rest of your stuff than if you fill a standard sports bottle at the kitchen sink.  Bottled water very seldom leaks. Refillable bottles often do. And it's so easy to grab a bottle and go, especially given our hectic lifestyles. Bottled water is also available almost anywhere you go, so grabbing a second or third during the day is no problem no matter where you live. 

Snob appeal, anyone?

If bottled water only came with plain black and white labels, it probably wouldn't have become as popular as it is.  The status factor is definitely a part of the bottled water vs tap water challenge. Having a water with a cool label or one from a far away land increases the perceived value of the water.  Add in a mystical story about the sacred streams or crystal clear spring deep in a mountain, and the snob appeal leaps far ahead of the grocery store bottle of water.

So which is better?

The debate is far from over.  Tap water is cheaper and always accessible, but bottled water is easier to carry around and may be safer.  Which ever you choose, I raise my glass of crystal clear water in a toast!

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