Bottled Water or Water Filtration System for Your Home?
Credit: Myrabella via Wikicommons

Everything you read tells you to drink more water. Easy enough right?

However, that simple act has become more complicated in the last few decades as more and more pollution and contaminants have entered the water supply. Couple that with old 100 year old pipes carrying it into our homes and bottled water manufacturers making bold claims about their products, it is easy to see how we have become so confused.

So what is the best way to proceed if you want to drink more H2O?

Should you buy bottled by the gallon or the 16 ounce bottles? Are you comfortable paying more for it than you pay for a gallon of gasoline?

Bottled or filtered?

Should you invest in a home filtration system, or should you just drink from the tap and stop worrying about the background noise? After all, the worst tap water in the country is better than drinking a soda drink of any kind. If you want to talk about contaminants, read the side of any cola.

If you are looking for some advice on what you can do to drink the best water, this article will provide the basics about the options being sold today.

Who Regulates the Water Industry?

The answer depends on the type you are talking about.

The EPA regulates tap water, while the FDA oversees bottled water but there are holes in the system.

For instance, the FDA does not regulate water that is packaged and sold within the same state. They consider that the responsibility of each state which can lead to problems. Most states have limited resources to devote to this area so leaving roughly 60 – 70% of bottled water unregulated in states by some estimates.[1]

Instead, the FDA requires the bottles to Police themselves, testing for contaminants on a regularly basis.  Some plants only receive and inspection by a government official once a year.[1]

Best Options for Home Drinking Water

There are four basic options for drinking water in your home:

  • Bottled
  • Pitcher filters for filtering tap water
  • Whole-house drinking system
  • Tap water

Bottled Water

Bottled Water or Water Filtration System for Your Home?
Credit: mjpyro

Bottled has become the most popular choice over the last couple of decades but it is actually one of the most expensive per glass, especially if you are buying the 24 packs of 16 ounce bottles. The price per those small bottles would translate to more than you are paying for a gallon of gasoline.

There are also some practical aspects that make this choice rather unappealing. You have to physically lug it home from the store once a week.

The other option is to buy one of the 5 gallon blue water jugs that attach to the stand-alone device that can keep it chilled. However, those are very heavy and require you to be able to lift more than 50 lbs to flip them over.

Bottled water is sold is several types of varieties and it is important to understand the differences.

What is Purified or Distilled Water?

Distilled water goes through a rigorous filtration process that strips it of all contaminants and minerals. This type of water is best used in small appliances or car engines since it contains no minerals and will not cause build-up in the items.  In fact, when you flush your coolant system, car manufacturers recommend that you use distilled water to avoid mineral build-up in the radiator.

It is not the best first choice for drinking water however because it is stripped of its beneficial minerals.[2]

Another type you may see is referred to as purified water but it is essentially the same as distilled water. It too goes through a purification process to remove any chemicals or contaminants but it not the best source for drinking water.

Some types of bottled options are really from municipal sources that the manufacturer and run through a purification, or filtering process to remove additives.

What is Spring Water?

The other type of bottled water is referred to as spring . It literally comes from natural underground springs that originate from rain water that slowly collects in the water table.

Typical springs are located near mountainous areas because gravity allows the run-off to eventually emerge at lower levels.

Only water that comes from underground springs can be classified as such but plenty of manufactures try to get tricky with this definition. Be sure to check the source on the label. If it is from a municipal source, it must state so on the label.

Pitcher Water Filters

Pitcher filters use granulated activated charcoal to remove some of the contaminants in tap water, however it is important to understand that they do not remove everything including fluoride. Their primary benefit is to improve the taste by removing some of the contaminants and smell.

They tend to be less expensive than other purification options in upfront costs, but depending on how much you use them, can be more expensive in the long run if you use a lot and need to replace the carbon filter often.

Pitcher filters can be had for under $30 and last for months, making them one of the cheapest options to cleaner drinking water in the home.

Should I Invest in a Home Drinking Water System?

Whole home drinking systems are the most expensive in up-front costs, but can pay for themselves in the long run.

Unlike local under sink filters that only filter it coming out of one faucet, in the kitchen for example, a whole house filtration system is installed in the crawl space or basement of your home and filters it as it enters your house from the street.

The up-front costs are a lot more than a simply under sink mounted filter. If you are willing to make the investment, this might be the best long-term option as it will not only filter the water in the kitchen, but also in the bathrooms.

Why is this a concern?  Because the contaminants and additives have been shown to be detrimental to your skin and hair.[3]

Tap Water

I will admit, I avoid it from the tap as much as possible. I typically only use it when I am cooking. For anything else, I use either bottled or filtered either through my refrigerator or a separate pitcher filter with activated carbon.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), tap water contains over 300 chemicals and pollutants even after being treated at treatment facilities.[4]

In fact, municipalities do not remove most of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as pesticides and herbicides just to name a few.  These compounds get into the system from run-off from farming and other sources of manufacturing and construction, eventually working its way down into rivers and lakes.  

Here are some additional facts tap water:

  • Some contains high sources of lead and mercury depending on the area you live in and the age of the pipes. [4]
  • Fluoride is added to fight tooth decay has been shown to affect the thyroid gland in negative ways.[4]

However, if taste is your only concern, it should be noted that blind taste tests in large cities like New York found that the subjects could not detect the difference between the sample from the tap and expensive "designer" water.[5]