Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bottled vs. Tap Water

Twenty years ago, people were arguing between Coke and Pepsi as the beverage of choice. But since 1977, "consumption of sugared beverages has climbed threefold from an average of 50 calories per day… to nearly 150," reports the LA Times this week. That doesn't sound like much, but it's "enough to pile on about 15 pounds per year."

These days, people may still argue over Coke vs. Pepsi, but the hot debate is over water: that which comes from the bottle and the stuff that comes from the tap. Which tastes better? Which is better for you?

The short, boring answer is: it depends on the tap and the bottle.

In
a taste test done by ABC news show 20/20, New York City tap water tied for third place against five bottled waters. Evian came in last. Kmart's "American Fare" brand bottled water, the cheapest of the bottles, came in first.

For me, personally, I can drink water from the tap at home (though it tastes a little like sulfur), but I can't drink it at work where it tastes like someone poured metal shavings into your glass. I don't think it's the city water department's fault, I think it's the building's pipes.

But what about health? According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
reported by the LA Times, tap water may be safer for you. In the study, the NRDC found that 60 to 70 percent of bottled water is "exempt from FDA bottled water standards." And even if they are regulated by FDA standards, the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, which apply to tap water, are stronger.

Given that, I was surprised to hear that,
when 20/20 sent bottled water and tap water to a microbiologist, test results showed that their was no difference at all.

As far as the vitamins you think you're getting in enhanced waters, "independent tests show that some bottled waters don't contain what they claim," reports the LA Times. "Only one -- Propel Fitness Water -- provided the amount of vitamins listed on its label."

So why are people spending 10 billion dollars to drink 8 billion gallons of bottled water annually? In some cases, say you buy Evian, you're paying more for water than gas. But what's the point?

I think we can credit a large chunk of annual spending on bottled water to clever advertising. The rest may be people with bad pipes and terrible tasting tap water.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.