Tap Water vs Bottled Water - What's the Story?

I’m embarassed to admit that ever since it seems that most people have switched from tap water to bottled water, I have remained woefully ignorant of the pros and cons.

What kind of experiences have you had with bottled water vs tap water? Did you switch? If so, have you remained switched?

I know some people who seem to go out every week and fill their refrigerator with cases of bottled water. Some seem to use the bottled water for everything - even for washing their dishes! I think they must be crazy. Using bottled water for washing dishes?

What would you recommend? Is there a big difference between tap water and bottled water? If so, what size bottles are best to buy? Is there a big difference between brands? If so, which brands are best? Is it necessary to get the imported stuff? I understand that some French bottled water supposedly comes from “springs”. But I have no idea what that means. Is there a difference between “purified water” and “spring water”?

I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences and in hearing your recommendations for people living in a big city as well as a small town. What to do about water?

It depends on where you live, of course, but here in New York City, there is no good reason to buy bottled water, unless you’ve absolutely got to have some cold water *right now *and there isn’t a drinking fountain within convenient walking distance.

Spring water is just that, water that comes out of a natural spring. I believe that for the most part such water isn’t treated in any way. “Purified water” just means water that’s been filtered or chemically purified in some way. It’s plain old tap water.

In almost all of the developed world, bottled water is a huge scam.

Purely anecdotal, however, but here in my city a coworker of mine had to make a delivery to a bottled water company where he discovered that all they were doing was using water from a faucet to put into the bottles. Most of the time, unless it says “spring” water it’s usually just municipal tap water bottled by the local bottling company and marketed as being better for you than tap water and marked up considerably.


Look, in certain places there is a good reason for bottled water. Most of these places aren’t in the developed world.

If you really want to know how good your tap water is - well, you need a chemist, maybe a biologist, and a lab. Most people don’t seek out this data and just operate under the marketing assumption that “bottled” is “cleaner”.

What’s really ridiculous is in lots of places in the US where the tap water is perfectly fine - bottled water still sells. Silly? Wasteful? Yep.

When I live in Williamsburg VA the water was patently vile. It tasted of chlorine as strong as pool water, and tasted muddy/moldy besides. We filtered out water using Brita filter which did the trick nicely. In Culpeper VA it was sulphurous and metallic to undrinkability but at least it had the excuse of being well water (Williamsburg’s disgusting water was city water :open_mouth: ). I used both bottled water & Brita there. Part of the reason for keeping bottled water on hand, though, was because if I lost power I’d have no water for anything. Then naturally, you have to cycle your stores. I bought 3 gallon jugs though, not individual bottles.

In NYC the water tastes good right out of the tap. I don’t use the Brita filter anymore.

The taste of water depends where you live. Do you like the taste of your tap water? If yes, look no further.


I could not disagree with this more.
It all depends on what your city water is. In San Jose Calif if you are going to drink the tap water chew it well first. The amounts of desolved solids run 500 to 700 miro ohms. In some parts of San Jose what ever is in the water will eat up a brass valve in about 2 years to the point that you can not shut off the water completely.

My brother works in Salinas Ca. He says the water runs about 1700. In the plant where he works he has found it cheaper to replace the cooling towers every two years then try and pay for the chemicals to treat the water.


Many grocery stores now have vending machines where you can fill your own bottles with ‘purified’ water. Those are really just connections to the tap water system, run through a filter into your bottle, than then increased the price about 10-fold. The filter is supposed to be changed when needed by a store stockboy. How regularly that happens is anybodys guess.

Slow down,

Dissolved solids? Well, what are the solids? Is it simply minerals? If so, it’s probably perfectly safe to drink.

Around my parts ground water will foul most pipes eventually simply because a lot of it comes from aquifers made of limestone. Yeah, that will foul pipes but it certainly doesn’t hurt you to drink.

It’s delicious calcium carbonate!

I find chlorinated city water unpleasant, and in some cases undrinkable. Where I am it’s all well water.

That aside, I think the best approach is a filter on the tap (at home) and a stainless steel water bottle.

I buy a bottle of water about once or twice a year. If I am out and need to take a tablet or just want water and no tap is available. At work we get chilled water from a tap in the kitchen. At home i used just tap water but, when I moved, I started using a filter jug because I hate the taste of the local tap water and it scales my jug and coffee maker. I just use a Britta jug. I use the filters for about 4 or 5 times as long as they say to. As soon as the water starts to taste like tap water again I replace the filter. I have refillable metal water bottles at home and work.

I think most of the discussions of bottled vs. tap miss a pretty obvious and crucial distinction. Bottled water is bottled… in a bottle. It’s convenient. In circumstances in which I’ll gladly pay a $1 for a bottle of water, I’d probably also pay $0.75 for an empty bottle and access to a tap to fill it from. You pay not to have to wash, carry and fill your own water containers, and it seems that for a lot of people it’s worth it. Even if they find taste or safety issues a plus.

Water utilities must provide a consumer confidence report annually. You can find a great many of them here.

Water utilities continuously test the quality of the water in their system. You may find the taste objectionable for various reasons, but it’s safe.

Embarrassed? Wha? Be proud that you’re not following the sheep.

Bottled water is incredibly stupid. If you’re worried about taste, get a filter at home. Or water cooler service. Most bottled water (like Dasani and Aquafina) is just filtered tap water put in a wasteful plastic bottle, trucked across vast distances, and then sold to you for pure profit. Due to differences in regulating authorities, bottled water is sometimes worse than tap water. Here’s one report; other similar ones abound if you Google around. There are other sites like this or this or this or this that also discuss the issue. The overwhelming consensus is that tap water (at least in the USA) is just as safe, though the taste may be different.

Brand? Pfft. It’s just a matter of who you’re unnecessarily enriching. If you’re that keen on throwing money away, buy a filter for every tap in your house (or a whole-house filtration system). The health benefits of bottled water range somewhere between homeopathy and snake oil. The environmental impacts, however, are very real.

What are you really paying for? The privilege of being some marketing exec’s favorite victim.

Get a reusable water bottle and bring it with you.

How much of that is just cultural brainwashing? It’s entirely possible to get by with drinking fountains and bathroom faucets. If you only need a sip, finding a faucet is often easier than finding a vending machine. If you need more than that, well, you’d be carrying a bottle around whether it’s a disposable one or a reusable one.

“If you need more than that, well, you’d be carrying a bottle around whether it’s a disposable one or a reusable one.”

Except of course you’re able to rid of it once you’re finished with it, rather than having to carry it around before and after.

It is possible to do without it, and generally I do where convenient. But I do like having the option of being able to get a bottle of water without a major hassle where my alternative would otherwise be a coke. Its a great reminder for weight loss too.

Obviously ‘branded’ water is a massive scam though, its classic expectancy effects.


Yep, very true. But a reusable bottle may save you the trouble of having to find a fresh disposable one when you’re thirsty again. It’s hardly a perfect solution, but it’s also nowhere near as difficult as people sometimes make it out to be.

That Coke is even considered an alternative to water is really quite a sad statement about the triumph of marketing over personal health and the environment. Talk about going from bad to worse.

Weight loss? Use the money you save from not buying either and get a gym membership.

“But a reusable bottle may save you the trouble of having to find a fresh disposable one when you’re thirsty again.”

We all make choices about what we carry around and what we get as we need. I dont carry around food either much of the time, other people do.

“That Coke is even considered an alternative to water is really quite a sad statement about the triumph of marketing over personal health and the environment. Talk about going from bad to worse.”

People buy drinks they like the taste of - its only a problem if you do it to excess, like most things in life. Having water as an added option isnt a bad thing, but the whole issue gets hijacked by radicals who do this all or nothing shtick.

We’re now getting to the point where some places are talking about banning bottled water, and all that means is many people will buy flavoured drinks instead. Im sure that will really improve population health and the environment immensely - not.


I’ve yet to find a filter that makes water as good as buying the distilled water my dad gets from work in gallon jugs. The closest I’ve found is from a neighbor who payed a ton of money to get one. I drank the water, and it was actually sorta sweet, like the good bottled water.

I really don’t understand how so many people say they can’t taste the difference. There are some bottled waters that taste like tap, but many that don’t. Aquafina and Sam’s Choice taste remarkably different, with that slight bit of sweetness, to the point where I think that, although Aquafina doesn’t list any additives, there must be the same ones as the Sam’s Choice. The dissolved salts counteract the slightly bitter taste of most tap water. (It actually surprised me that distilled water is also sweet–I thought that was something being added.)

Do you guys not even notice that different restaurants have different qualities of water? In fact, if the fountain drinks taste different from one place to another, that’s often the reason.

For at home, I recommend an under the sink osmotic water filter. Lasts forever used as drinking and cooking water, and you don’t have to remember to keep filling the jug.

For on the road, they makereusable drinking bottles that have the filter included. It is a bit expensive, but you can damned near pour in ditchwater and get potable water out.