Why Does Bottled Water Contain More Than Just Water?

We learn early on that water is H2O. In other words: hydrogen and oxygen. But when you buy a bottle of water, you often get more than just good ole H2O. Turn that bottle around and you’ll see that the list of ingredients is often above and beyond a simple listing of “water.” There can be magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, potassium bicarbonate and salt, all part of some of the common additives in big brands of bottled water.

So why does bottled water have more than just water in it? First off, none of these ingredients are cause for health concerns. According to TIME, “the additives being put into water are those naturally found in water and the quantities of these additives are likely too small to be of much significance.”

It’s a question of flavor. “If you had pure water by itself, it doesn’t have any taste,” Bob Mahler, Soil Science and Water Quality professor at the University of Idaho told TIME. “So companies that sell bottled water will put in calcium, magnesium or maybe a little bit of salt.”

In other words, to sell bottled water, companies have to ensure that the water tastes like the stuff we get out of the tap. Which raises the question: shouldn’t we just drink water from the tap?

Our bottled water addiction is an expensive one, which is of course why the bottled water companies stay in the game. A glass of tap water costs a few pennies. A bottle of water, however, is going to run you a few dollars, and about 90% of that is going to the packaging, cap, label, etc. In other words, you’re paying mostly for the bottle and not the water itself. And while the marketing claims of a bottle of water may lead you to believe that the water comes from a pristine spring, chances are it’s the same stuff that’s coming out of your tap, just more expensive.

According to the NRDC, “Government and industry estimates indicate that about 25 percent to 30 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States comes from a city’s or town’s tap water — sometimes further treated, sometimes not. One IBWA expert reportedly estimated in 1992 that 40 percent of the bottled water was derived from tap water. The percentage of bottled water derived from tap water may be rising, because some major bottlers have begun to sell new brands of water derived from city tap water.”

In other words: save your money and reach for the tap instead.

Photo Credit: liz west

116 comments

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla9 months ago

I don't remember the last time I bought bottle water: bad for you and the environment!

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

I drink tap water most of the time. My water tastes great! We live in the country so there are no chemicals in it. I do buy bottled once in a while though, usually Deer Park. Then reuse the bottle a few times. My hubby always takes a bottle everywhere he goes, but most of the time it's been refilled with tap water.

Barbara G.
Barbara G.1 years ago

For the most part I do drink tap water since both Yosemite & El Portal tap water tastes great.

Sometimes when I am on a grocery or other type of shopping trip I will buy a bottle of water to take with me for the two hour drive home if I am thirsty. I don't like carbonated sodas.

Rosemary Diehl
Rosemary Diehl1 years ago

I try to only use the filtered water from my tap. Too many plastic bottle out there

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F.1 years ago

great article

Nimue P.

My water only contains water :)

Nimue P.

My water only contains water :)

Shailja Mukhtyar
Shailja Mukhtyar1 years ago

i dont take bottled water. Actually NYC water is supposed to be among the best in the world... my New Rochelle water is supposed to be the tastiest in the nation!! .. at least no plastic waste !!

Mm M.
MmAway M.1 years ago

Had to forward this! thx

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B.1 years ago

Terrible.