Bottled Water – Is it safer than tap water? What’s the real story?

I can only think of three reasons to drink bottled water – you hold the view that bottled water is safer than tap water, it’s convenient and/or you prefer the taste.

Bottled water is convenient, may taste better than area tap water and it’s not full of sugar or artificial sweeteners like other convenient choices.  But is it safer? Let’s look at the facts.  Beyond that, we all know how bad the plastic bottles are for our environment so I won’t belabor that point, but I have to show you this picture.

Major Takeaways

There are so many studies dealing with the quality of bottled water that one could read for days, and I have.  The takeaway is that most bottled water is chemically indistinguishable from tap water. Labeling is often insufficient or misleading.   The quality of the bottled water when you open it may be different than when it was bottled.  Bottled water can take on additional contaminants due to storage time and conditions and chemicals leaching from the plastic bottle. 

Bottled water is not regulated by the EPA, but by the FDA.  The contaminant levels allowed, testing schedules and public disclosure requirements are nowhere near as stringent as the EPA’s requirements for tap water, which are an embarrassment themselves. In fact, the bottled water industry is not required to disclose the results of any contaminant testing it conducts. According to government and industry estimates,  as much as 40 percent of bottled water is derived from tap water - sometimes with additional treatment, sometimes not.


I found this really depressing, but let’s discuss it anyway: Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2008 study, “Bottled Water Quality Investigation - 10 Major Brands, 38 Pollutants”,  should make you question your reliance on bottled water.  As the byline states, "Bottled water contains disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication". Laboratory tests found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand.

READ MORE: About the pollutants found.

READ MORE: Can you trust the label on your bottle of water? What are you really drinking?