We can’t live without water. And while most of us still reach for a glass and head to the faucet, many people prefer to get their everyday drinking water from a bottle. The following is information to consider before choosing your “brand” of water.
In the vast majority of cases, both bottled water and tap water are safe, healthy choices. If your tap water meets all the regulations under the Safe Drinking Water Act
, which sets the standards for tap water, you can have a high degree of confidence in its safety. In fact, some of the largest bottled water distributors use municipal water as their source.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates tap water, the Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water, because bottled water is considered a packaged food product. In fact, the FDA requires bottled water quality standards to be equal to EPA’s standards for tap water.
The FDA has Current Good Manufacturing Practices or guidelines for the safety of bottled water. They require bottled water producers to do the following:
- process, bottle, hold and transport bottled water under sanitary conditions
- protect water sources from bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants
- use quality control processes to ensure the bacteriological and chemical safety of the water and
- sample and test both source water and the final product for contaminants
States also may have additional regulations on bottled water and tap water.
Some consumers prefer the taste of certain bottled water. Bottled water may provide a vital alternative source during emergency situations. If your local tap water does not meet EPA standards, your water supplier must notify you by newspaper, mail, radio, TV or hand-delivery. In these cases, you may be advised to drink bottled water for a period of time. Visit our Water Emergencies page for more information.
If you have a severely compromised immune system, you may have different health concerns than the general population. Consult with your physician about your drinking water needs before choosing tap or a particular brand of bottled water.
The FDA has established regulations
for the labeling of bottled water. Here are some definitions to keep in mind:
- Artesian Water: Water from a well tapping a confined aquifer in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.
- Mineral Water: Water containing not less than 250 ppm total dissolved solids that originates from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. Mineral water is characterized by constant levels and relative proportions of minerals and trace elements at the source. No minerals may be added to mineral water.
- Purified Water: Water that is produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or other suitable processes and that meets the definition of "purified water" in the U.S. Pharmacopeia, 23d Revision, Jan. 1, 1995. As appropriate, also may be called "demineralized water," "deionized water," "distilled water," and "reverse osmosis water."
- Sparkling Bottled Water: Water that, after treatment and possible replacement of carbon dioxide, contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source.
- Spring Water: Water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth at an identified location. Spring water may be collected at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring, but there are additional requirements for use of a bore hole.
NSF International has a process
in place to certify bottled water. According to NSF, their certification is the accredited quality standard for bottled water, natural mineral water, beverages, packaged ice and caps and containers. This certification shows that the product meets all regulatory requirements and best practices.