There are several factors to consider when deciding whether commercially bottled or your own tap water is best for your family. When you look at the labels on the various bottles of water in the grocery store, here are the terms you are likely to see and what they mean:
- Spring water: natural underground water that comes up to the surface.
- Mineral water: water containing only the natural minerals from its underground source, but not less than 250 parts per million of dissolved solid material.
- Sparkling water: water that has been naturally carbonated
- Purified water: all contaminants have been filtered out. (A word of caution to mothers mixing this water with formula: purified does not mean “sterile.” For newborns it still should be boiled.)
- Drinking water: ordinary tapwater
- Artesian water: water from an underground, natural reservoir.
Now, which one do you choose?
Consider the source. This is one of the main facts you want to know – where does the water come from? Does the bottle contain that pure-as-snow, fresh mountain spring water that the bottle pictures seem to portray? Or, is it simply municipal water that has been ultra-filtered or purified? If the bottle doesn’t list a source, the stuff inside may be little better than what comes from the tap. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to call the 800-number listed on the bottle and ask. Members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) must list the source of the water (e.g., spring). If the bottler doesn’t list the source, the contents are probably municipal water.
Consider the tester. Bottled water is regulated by the FDA because it’s considered a food, and the FDA should require that the label identify the source of the water, not what’s in it. Tapwater, on the other hand, is regulated by the EPA and state governments. Would you rather have your individual state or local government test your water or the FDA? The International Bottled Water Association includes 85 percent of bottled water processors, and the organization claims to have a stricter code than EPA regulations. Members must submit to an annual, unannounced inspection by an independent, third-party tester. So, at least in theory, bottled water seems to have a slight safety edge over tap. Practically speaking, the bottled water industry is primarily self-regulated. One thing you can be certain of in nearly all bottled waters: the water is chlorine-free. Bottled, distilled water is the cleanest water you can buy. For general information about bottled water, call the International Bottled Water Association (800-WATER-11)