Bottled water is a multi-billion dollar industry, as Americans have taken to buying water for nearly all of their H2O needs. But all of that spending may not be necessary. Research on water quality shows that bottled water is not necessarily any healthier than tap water. In fact, all water undergoes essentially the same treatment process and must meet the same safety standards as outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. The big difference is the filtration process that most bottled water goes through. "Filtering is fine, but it only deals with the taste as opposed to anything else, because we meet and exceed any standards that the EPA puts out there for us," says Alvin Wright, with the City of Houston Public Works.
Wright tells KTRH that a lot of bottled water actually starts out as tap water. "Many of the distributors of bottled water will use city-treated water, then provide their own little processes, and most of those processes are done for taste," he says. That explains the difference in taste between different types of water. But, as Wright explains, differences in taste do not necessarily mean any difference in quality. "There are certain parts of the city or this particular area where the water may taste different from other parts," he says. Those differences are only because different plants may use different treatment methods, but the end product always meets the same standard.
The bottom line is that bottled water may taste better and be more convenient, but if you're buying it because you think it's healthier for you, think again. The only exceptions would be if your home uses well water or if you have older or lead pipes. "Sometimes personal lines in your house can cause contaminants," says Wright. "So something like rust inside your water heater could cause discoloration or a smell." But when it comes to the public water supply, it's every bit as safe as bottled water. In fact, we probably rely on it more than we realize. "In the big picture, most every place you go in the city of Houston, you're going to find that tap water is being used," says Wright.