Archive for January, 2012

Tap Trumps Plastic

Filed Under Category Health, Water, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

Running out the door, you grab a bottle of water. It’s calorie-free, it’s convenient, and it’s there.  Forget the ease of your home’s user-friendly faucet, and the countless refillable bottles you have somewhere in the kitchen.  Forget that you already pay for the water coming out of your tap, and that it costs mere pennies, compared to the dollar-something, name-brand H20.  Besides these factors, tap water is also significantly more regulated and green than bottled water packaged in plastic.

Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which sets the limit for more than 85 different contaminants in drinking water. Each municipality must test the drinking water it supplies on a required schedule to determine quality and safety.  When excess contaminants are found, the public water system is required to notify the community it serves, and to efficiently remove the potential threat, as mandated by the Safe Water Drinking Act.  This Act also requires that consumers receiving treated water be updated annually via a Consumer Confidence Report about the source and quality of their water. In a previous blog post titled “You Have a Right to Know” we discussed the importance and value of Consumer Confidence Reports.

Bottled water, on the other hand, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA requires manufacturers of bottled water to follow the specified Current Good Manufacturing Practices. These practices include sanitary handling, protecting the source of the water from pollutants, using quality control measures, and testing the water for contamination. Unlike the EPA, the FDA does not require certified lab testing nor do manufactures have to report violations regarding excessive contaminant levels. In addition, bottled water companies do not have to inform consumers about where their water comes from, which could be sourced from groundwater, surface water or even straight from the tap (which often is the case)! The key differences between EPA tap water and FDA bottled water rules are summarized in this table. Along with the other differences already mentioned, the FDA does not require testing for fecal coliform and E. coli (an indicator of disease causing pathogens) nor does it require the same frequency of sampling that the EPA does.

Although bottled tap water ensures quality, what’s the point?  On average, a gallon of municipally-treated water costs two cents, whereas an eighth of that amount of bottled water costs between one and two dollars! Beyond the personal financial cost, there is a large environmental cost that comes with bottled water.

Bottled Water Environmental Footprint:

  • • It takes nearly 7x the water consumed in a bottle, to produce and deliver a Fiji Water bottle
  • • 1.2 pounds of Green House Gases are emitted by the transportation of a one-kilogram bottle of Fiji Water
  • • In 2008, as much as 162 million barrels of oil were consumed to produce, transport and dispose of bottled water around the world
  • •Less than 20 percent of water bottles are recycled


It’s unfortunate that convenience is so readily chosen over safety, expense and waste. The market is full of reusable water bottles to choose from, which not only saves money, the earth and your health, but also will help you drink more water. So, make a choice today, pledge to do good and to Take Back the Tap.