Bottled Water vs. Filtered Water - The Age Old Debate

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Many water drinkers throughout the U.S. rely on bottled water as a safe and convenient means of hydration. This is particularly true when communities lack trust in their municipal water supplies. But is bottled water really safer than the tap water flowing from your kitchen faucet? And is it actually a more cost-effective solution than a home water filtration system?

If you opt for single-use bottles of water as a "cleaner alternative" to your tap water, you may be surprised to find out that the water often comes from the exact same source. Keep reading to learn why bottled water may not be the best option for consumers in search of a clean water source.

One Thing in Common

Unbeknownst to many, bottled water typically shares the same source as municipal water, meaning that bottled water is not a cleaner or safer alternative to tap water. Not to mention the risk of microplastics, BPAs, phthalates, and other toxic chemical compounds leaching into your water from the plastic containers it is housed in that can cause long-term health problems. 

For example, the world's largest bottled water brand, Aquafina, has been challenged by Corporate Accountability International, and is now changing its label to address claims of misleading marketing practices. The "P.W.S." that has been on Aquafina's label will now be spelled out as "Public Water Source," which means it comes from the same supply as your tap water... tap water that has chlorine, fluoride, impurities, and other contaminants that affect your water quality, taste, and safety. And all this with a healthy dose of microplastics from the plastic water bottles they're housed in! 

And it is not just Aquafina; the water industry is rife with companies filling their bottles with tap water and passing it off as high-quality spring water through sneaky marketing techniques. In reality, most bottled water has simply passed through the same water treatment plant as the water that flows freely from your tap and is then sold back to you at a premium price on the grocery store shelves.

What Contaminants Are Found In Bottled Water?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the governing agency responsible for regulating bottled water brands and ensuring they deliver safe, clean water for consumers. The question is, what is their definition of 'safe' and 'clean'? 

The short answer is that FDA regulations for bottled water are based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards for tap water. You can rest assured bottled water goes through a disinfection process and is acutely safe to consume, but there are still several chemicals and contaminants in bottled water that can cause long-term health issues when consumers experience long-term exposure. 

It's important to note that the federal government does not require bottled water to be safer than tap. In fact, the opposite is true in many cases.  Tap water in most cities must be disinfected, filtered to remove pathogens, and tested for viruses, while bottled water does not have to be. Both kinds of water are tested regularly for bacteria and synthetic organic chemicals, but municipal water is typically assessed much more frequently. 

The fact remains that bottled water and tap water come from the same source and oftentimes go through the same water treatment processes. As a result, it is more than likely that bottled water would contain the same amount of contaminants as your tap water, which would render bottled water as a safer option ineffective. 

Regardless of the water source, bottled water has historically been found to contain harmful chemicals, not to mention the increased risk of BPA, phthalates, and more from the plastic bottles that it comes in. While the FDA regulates the water within the bottles, it doesn’t regulate the plastic bottles themselves. Studies have shown that bottles can leach harmful chemicals into the water over time. Learn more about the known health risks of single-use plastic water bottles.

On the other hand, filtered tap water is a safer, more cost-effective way to ensure clean drinking water. While filtration systems require an upfront cost, over time it becomes much cheaper to maintain a filtration system than to continually purchase bottled water. Not to mention, some filtration systems are able to remove many of the contaminants that are missed by municipal water treatments. 

In fact, the Clearly Filtered filtration systems all feature breakthrough Affinity® Filtration Technology and are proven to remove up to 99.9% of 365+ contaminants that are hiding in your water. Clearly Filtered systems go beyond regulations to target contaminants that are not regulated by the EPA, but have still been linked to many health risks.

Financial Cost of Bottled Water Compared to Filtration Systems 

A report from the EWG states that while the water used by several bottled water brands is almost indistinguishable from tap water, a gallon of bottled water is about 3000% more expensive than a gallon of tap water from your public water supply. 

Trust us when we say that the addition of a chemical-laden plastic bottle is not worthy of that kind of markup. 

A better option if you're looking for a clean drinking water alternative is to employ a home filtration system and use the tap water you already pay for from your municipal water supply. The upfront cost of buying the filtration system is more than a 24-pack of plastic bottles, but the overall savings are astronomical, especially for a multi-person household. Plus, you'll now have access to high-quality drinking water free from the disinfection chemicals of tap water like chlorine. 

Switching from bottled water to a water filtration system is one of the simplest and most convenient ways to drink clean water, save money, and protect the environment. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests your best option for cleaner, healthier drinking water on the go is filtered tap water in a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle. 

Clearly Filtered makes it easy to make the switch to filtered water – our water bottles feature a hidden filter attached to the straw that removes up to 99.9% of 220+ contaminants. 

If filtered water bottles aren’t your thing, rest assured Clearly Filtered offers a variety of premium filtration systems to best meet your needs. Eventually, your costs will just be maintenance of the filtration systems (these systems are only effective if you regularly change your filters) and the cost of the municipal water (which, compared to the cost of bottled water, is negligible).

Environmental Cost of Bottled Water As Opposed to Water Filtration Systems  

While a home filtration system is an initial upfront investment, the overall cost savings make up for it in no time. Additionally, the environmental impact of plastic water bottles in landfills – as well as production of plastic water bottles – is severely reduced when we opt for its sustainable, economical counterpart. 

On average, billions of plastic bottles are disposed of in U.S. landfills annually. When taking into account that plastic waste can last hundreds of years before fully breaking down – anywhere from 5 to 500 years – it is an understatement to say that plastic bottles are a major pollution issue that needs to be addressed.

Beyond the aspect of physically polluting the environment, the production and distribution of plastic bottles leads to an increase of carbon dioxide pollution, as well as a toll on our natural resources. It takes three times the amount of water to produce the actual bottle than it does to fill it. 

In addition to the heightened financial cost of bottled water, an analysis by the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank, found that bottled water takes up to 2,000 times more energy to produce than tap water. This includes the energy needed to make the bottles, fill them with water and transport them to the point of sale. 

Similarly, the aforementioned Harvard report that revealed the significant cost savings associated with ditching single-use water bottles also sheds light on the dire environmental impacts these bottles create. Here are just a few concerning statistics:

  • America's demand for plastic water bottles requires more than 17 million barrels of oil annually.

  • 86% of plastic water bottles end up in landfills as plastic waste rather than being recycled.

  • More than 8 million tons of plastic produced annually ends up in the ocean.

  • As plastic waste decomposes over 450 years, toxic chemicals and microplastics are released into our waterways and groundwater systems.

Neither bottled water nor filtered water is 100% environmentally friendly, but since water filters, by nature, can be reused and last much longer, filtered water is the best option. 

Ultimately, filtered water doesn’t have the same price, chemicals, and environmental impact as bottled water.

So, filtered water and bottled water step into the ring. Who wins? The answer is clear. Filtered water offers higher-quality hydration that saves you money and eliminates the negative impacts bottled water has on our shared environment. 

Clearly Filtered offers convenient, high-quality water filtration systems to bring the best drinking water straight to your home. Explore our different water filtration options, such as our Clearly Filtered Pitcher, Clearly Filtered Bottle, Clearly Filtered Universal Fridge Filter, and our Clearly Filtered Under-Sink System today!

Get complete confidence in your water.