Water is essential to good health. But when your water smells or tastes strange, you may be wondering what’s in your water, and whether it’s actually good for you or not. Let’s take a closer look at the clarity and purity of tap water vs bottled water vs vended water, and what’s in each one.
Where Does It Come From? Tap Water Vs Bottled Water Vs Vended Water
If you’re wondering what’s in your water, the first question you might be asking is, where does it come from? What is the source of the water you’re drinking? Though it may seem like there’s a lot of water in the world, the sources are limited. Taking a look at tap water vs bottled water vs vended water, you may be surprised to learn that many of the sources are the same.
For roughly 85% of consumers, tap water comes from a public water system. A public water system is defined as a system with at least 15 service connections or one that serves at least 25 people. The other common option is well water, which is generally used in rural areas, and usually only serves a single household or business. Small wells bring groundwater to the surface, for filtering and consumption. Public water systems may use a single water source or a combination of them, including rivers, lakes, reservoirs, groundwater, aquifers and more.
Bottled water comes from many of the same places as tap water. Remember, there are only so many water sources in the world. Whether it comes out of a tap or from a bottle, all water comes from the same limited number of water sources.
Bottled water may come from a public water system (AKA tap water) or a spring, which occurs when an aquifer, an underground water source, touches the Earth’s surface. The most common bottled water types, such as Dasani (owned by Coca-Cola), Aquafina (owned by PepsiCo), or Nestle Pure Life, comes from tap water sources around the US. Spring water, such as Poland Spring Water and Deer Park (both owned by Nestle) come from springs located in the Northeast region of the US.
Vended water also uses public water systems. The vending machine attaches to the public water system in a similar way that a home or business might. The filtration system is built into the water vending machine, so it undergoes extra filtration before reaching the consumer.
Is The Water Clean? Tap Water Vs Bottled Water Vs Vended Water
The source of the water does not necessarily mean that it is clean. All sources of water can become contaminated by all sorts of potentially harmful materials, from parasites to bacteria and viruses to heavy metals to radionuclides. So, how do you know if the water is clean? When comparing tap water vs bottled water vs vended water, which is cleaner?
The cleanliness of the water that comes out of your kitchen faucet depends on a few different factors: the source of the water (see the previous section), the water treatment facility, the city pipes that the water moves through, and your own home plumbing. Each of these things will vary by location, the time period it was built, environmental factors, and much more. Water treatment facilities may use a wide array of filtration and sanitation methods, such as aeration, chlorination, UV light exposure, coagulation, reverse osmosis and many more.
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for water clarity and sanitation. Many of these were set with the passage of the Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA). States or municipalities may pass their own water standards, but they must at least meet the SWDA standards. This law also requires municipalities to regularly test their water supply, make the results publicly available, and report any water sanitation violations. If you have concerns about your tap water quality, you can access your local Consumer Confidence Report to see the results of these tests.
As previously mentioned, bottled water often comes from the same sources as your tap water. Since bottled water is considered a consumable, sellable product, it’s regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The key regulation controlling the purity and safety of bottled water is the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), which enables the FDA to regulate, monitor and enforce purity standards, labeling requirements, safety standards, manufacturing practices and more for a wide range of packaged products. The standards for bottled water are similar to, though not the same as, the EPA regulations. However, both are designed to ensure that the water is safe for consumption.
Bottled water from a public water source is required to list the water source, unless it undergoes “distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes that meets the definition of ‘purified water,’” according to FDA bottled water regulations. If these processes are used, the water may be described on the label as “purified water,” “distilled water,” “deionized water,” etc. but the water source is not required. The requirements for labeling as “spring water” are also outlined. However, there are no standards for wording like “glacial water” or “mountain water,” for example.
Though water bottlers are required to test their water and meet quality standards, these reports are not required to be made public. The FDA also tests bottled water and enforces standards through plant inspections and sampling. However, independent organizations have found contamination in a number of bottles. Plastic water bottles also cause enormous environmental damage by contaminating oceans and other habitats, encouraging mining and petrochemical production, and polluting the air through plastic production and shipping.
Since vended water starts with the public water supply, it must meet the EPA standards set for tap water. Vended water also uses additional filtering methods, such as ion exchange, ultraviolet light cleansing, reverse osmosis, and more, to further eliminate contaminants. These water systems may be monitored or regulated by state or local authorities, though they are not regulated by federal authorities. Twice the Ice provides maintenance and filtration standards to vending machine owners to ensure the vended water is properly sanitized. Filters must be cleaned and changed regularly for the machine to work properly.
Conclusion: Tap Water Vs Bottled Water Vs Vended Water
Water sources are finite. That means your water may be coming from the same place, whether it’s in a bottle, from your tap, or from a vending machine. All different water sources can become contaminated, and water filtration and sanitation isn’t perfect, regardless of source. However, testing, monitoring and regulating water sources helps to ensure that the contaminants that do exist aren’t enough to harm your health.
If your water tastes or smells strange, the cause may be harmless, such as chlorination, which sanitizes water, or the presence of zinc, iron, or manganese, which are harmless metals naturally-occurring in many foods as well as water sources. However, if you notice this, discuss with another consumer to see if they notice the same thing. Talk to the person responsible for the water’s clarity as well, such as the municipal water treatment authorities, the bottling plant, or the vending machine owner.