|Remember the good old days when getting a drink of water consisted of little more than getting a glass out of the cupboard and filling it to the brim in the kitchen sink with good old fashioned tap water? Well long past are those days and the growing number of bottled water companies seems to keep sprouting up in America and abroad. From “natural spring water” to fancy “mineral water” it seems that each company sells the purest of pure in the drinking water game. But looks can often be deceiving and just because that bottle of water costs you an arm and a leg don’t assume that you are getting what you pay for.
When you visit your local grocery store and go down the isle that has the bottled water, it can be overwhelming. There are many different brands to choose from and each has a catchy name or a picture of a glacier that can be seen on the bottle. Some of the pictures and descriptions make you down right thirsty. "But no one should think that bottled water is better regulated, better protected or safer than tap," says Eric Goldstein, co-director of the urban program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting health and the environment. What?
While it is true that many brands of bottled water do indeed come from a very natural source, it is also true that over 25 percent of the bottled water available for sale in the United States comes from a municipal supply. That means that some of the spring water or mineral water that you pay through the nose for is nothing more than glorified tap water that has been treated, purified and sold to consumers for a HUGE profit.
Many of the labels that you see depicting a fine spring day are in fact bottled in a place that is anything but spring fresh. In one infamous case, there was actually a well that produced water that was sold to many bottlers that was located right near a hazardous waste site. Many of these bottlers labeled their water as spring water. Yet another case saw a company call its bottled water as pure glacier water when in fact it came from a public water system in Alaska. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, bottlers are not required to list where their water source comes from.
When it comes to drinking water it is much more than tap water versus bottled water. The differences between the so called mineral water and regular tap water can be vast at times and not so vast at other times. It all depends on the company that bottled the water you bought. The main problem lies in the fact that tap water and bottled water are regulated by two separate entities. The EPA regulates tap water and the FDA is the overseeing eye when it comes to bottled water. Even at that, FDA standards DOES NOT apply to drinking water packaged and sold within the same state. This leaves a staggering 60 to 70 percent of bottled water unregulated by the FDA. Pretty scary huh?
While the FDA does require that bottled water be regularly tested for contaminants, but because they also consider bottled water a low-risk product, there is many times that the plants that manufacture the water are overlooked and not even checked on a yearly basis.
The scariest part is that the bottlers don’t have to tell the consumers when their bottled water has become contaminated even if they pull the drinking water off the shelves of the stores. In fact, between 1990 and 2007, this happened about 100 times, says Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California. Among the reasons for recall was contamination with mold, benzene, coliform, microbes, even crickets. GROSS! But what can you do about it?
Most bottling companies have a website that can be checked to see where the source of water comes from. If it doesn’t have it on the website, assume that it comes from a municipal source. If the company has nothing to hide, then they should proudly display the fact that their bottled water is from the purest of sources. Remember, just because you have to take out a second mortgage to buy your special spring water or mineral water, it doesn’t mean that as a drinking water you are getting any better quality than good old tap water.