Drinking lots of clean water is essential to good health. But which drinking water is cleanest? You might guess bottled water, but it’s not that simple.
Bottled water is probably not the best choice. Here’s why:
- Bottled water is not necessarily cleaner than tap water. In fact, FDA purity requirements for city water systems are far more stringent than for bottled water companies.
- The plastic in bottles can leach into the drinking water they contain.
- Bottled water creates more pollution by filling our landfills with gazillions of wasted plastic bottles.
- Tap water is cheaper. A gallon of filtered water from your tap costs about 10 to 18 cents per gallon. At $1 to $4 per gallon, bottled water is at least 10 times more expensive.
By the way, if you’re frequently on the go and want to carry tap water with you from home, consider the wisdom of a metal water bottle.
Your tap water is probably provided by one of three sources: City water system, town/community water provider, or private well.
Since 1996, changes in the Safe Water Drinking Act require that town water providers supply consumers with an annual drinking water quality report. The report provides info about contaminant levels in your town drinking water, and how well the levels comply with the national drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. If you live in a town and get a water bill, you should receive the report from the place that sent you the bill.
If you live in a house with a private well, it might be wise to test your tap water once a year. More frequent might be a good idea if you live in a heavily populated or recently developed area, if your well is new, if you have a history of well contamination, or if you notice changes in the quality of your water such as funny tastes, odors or a cloudy appearance.
The best time to take a well water sample is after a heavy rain. Sampling kits can be purchased online, but be sure to have samples analyzed by a state certified laboratory.
A standard water test measures levels of arsenic, chloride, copper, fluoride, water hardness, iron, lead, manganese, pH, and sodium. Presence of these substances is not necessarily cause for alarm. It depends on how much is in your water. Standard tests also check for the presence of coliform bacteria, nitrates/nitrites, and radon. Testing for pesticides and herbicides is generally not part of a standard screening due to high cost, but you may want to investigate having your water tested for those as well.
More Tap Water Info
If you want to do some in depth research about the water you drink at home, go to the online National Tap Water Clarity Database. There you can learn things like:
- How many people your water provider serves.
- How much water is consumed in your area.
- Contaminant levels of a variety of U.S. city water systems.
- Which states have the highest levels of water contamination.
- What contaminants are NOT regulated by the EPA.
If you have questions about your water, you can call the Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water hot line: (800) 426-4791.
Whether you live in a city, town, or rural area, your best bet for clean drinking water is to install a filtration system into your home. Your choice of device will depend on what you are trying to filter out of your water, where you live, and your budget. Find out more about water filtration systems here.
Remember: Water is a precious natural resource, one that needs to be cherished and consciously tended. So drink up, but conserve where and when you can. Keep in mind, too, that there are some exciting new water treatment options out there for towns and other larger groups, such as the Eco Machine, a non-polluting filtration system that uses living plants, bacteria, algae, snails and fungi to clean and recycle wastewater.