Tap it or bottle it?

People have asked for my opinion on the advantages of bottled versus tap water. Here goes:

When you drink pure, fresh water, the body loves it. You can almost hear it saying, ‘thank you’. So does it matter if it comes from a natural well or spring in a bottle, or from a processing plant through pipes and a tap?

In the developed world, tap water is regularly and extensively tested by the water companies to ensure it is of drinkable quality. But what is ‘drinkable’? Most tap water has been recycled many times from the sewage and drainage system using chemicals (mainly chlorine). The body’s immune system, liver and kidneys recognise foreign substances and have to work hard to eliminate them. Chemicals can leave an aftertaste, but what is far more worrying are the medicines, drugs, contraceptive pills, etc. that constantly find their way into the sewage system. Some say a concentration of hormones in the water is leading to a ‘feminisation’ of the male population! Moreover, boiling the water kills germs but doesn’t remove chemicals. Water filters can remove most toxins.

Even so, tap water is cheaper, widely available, convenient and easily transported to the point of use through pipes. There are no issues around the disposal of bottles or the carbon footprint of transporting the water from source to consumer.

Like tap water, the quality of bottled water is highly regulated in most countries. It is frequently tested both at source, the bottling plant and the point of sale to ensure there is nothing harmful in it. There are many forms – still and carbonated (artificially carbonated water is best avoided since it is more acid forming), plain and flavoured (with fruit juice, for instance). You have to be careful, though, because some commercially available brands, far from coming from a well or spring, are merely purified tap water.

Some say bottled water tastes better, and generally I concur. It often contains natural trace minerals, but probably not enough to make much difference to health. It can be purchased and carried with you when away from home (but so can tap water if a bottle is filled before you go out). But it has downsides too:

  • It is undoubtedly more expensive, and some say it is a waste of money.
  • The cost of bottling and transport in both financial and environmental terms is higher per litre than tap.
  • Glass bottles are better, but both plastic and glass bottles have to be disposed of. They can be recycled, of course; it’s good to reuse materials, but transport and recycling are energy intensive.
  • Some are stored in warehouses for long periods before sale.
  • The best water comes straight from a running spring where it absorbs the health-giving energies of the natural environment.  This is not something you can bottle.

Whether tap water or bottled water is best depends partly on where you are – I’ve lived in where the tap water is drinkable but highly chemicalised, and I’ve also drunk some unpleasant bottled spring waters.

On balance I prefer natural spring water, but overall, the benefits of being well hydrated far outweigh the differences between tap and bottled. It is better to focus on the health benefits of drinking clean, fresh water than the differences between bottled and tap, and experts agree it’s better to drink tap water than none at all.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 21.11.2017

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