Tap Water, Bottled Water, Filtered Water?

What’s the safest to drink, and why?

Guest Post by Ellen Kittredge, CHC

“Water, water everywhere, and nary a drop to drink.”

You may recognize this quotation from the famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The line refers to being stranded at sea, surrounded by water, yet with no drinkable water left on board the ship.

These words have been oft-quoted since the publication of the poem in the late 1790’s, usually to refer to a situation in which clean drinking water has been hard to come by. While in this country we are lucky enough to have ample drinking water, sadly it may not be as clean as we’d expect. I’m not saying that there is “nary a drop to drink”, however accessing clean and safe drinking water is not just as simple as purchasing a bottle of “spring” water from your local convenience store or turning on the faucet at home to fill up your glass.

Two questions I am frequently asked by my clients are: “Is bottled water better than tap water?” and “If I’m using tap water, what filter should I use on my tap?”

These are great questions, and ones I think I may finally be able to answer with some surety, thanks in a large part to the great investigative work done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC.

EWG’s most recent recommendations around safe drinking water boil down to the following: “Drink filtered tap water.” This may come as a surprise, as bottled water seems to be a better choice, given claims that you read on the bottle, such as: “pure”, “crystal-fresh” or “pristine source”. However, it turns out these claims don’t have any real verification or substantiation, so it is impossible to know if you can trust the claims you read on a bottle of water.

While federal law requires that municipal water suppliers identify the source of their water, the FDA does not require that bottled water companies disclose this information. Additionally, suppliers of tap water are required to not only test their water supply, but also share these results with consumers.  Bottled water companies don’t have this same requirement. In fact, 4 out of 5 bottled water companies do not publish the results of their water quality testing. And according to the Environmental Working Group, there were 38 contaminants found in 10 popular brands of drinking water.

Interestingly enough, consumers will spend up to 1,900 times more for a bottle of water, yet can not be confident that what they are buying is any safer than what might be coming out of their tap. This is not to say that tap water is pure. There are, unfortunately, contaminants in most of the public drinking water supplies, ranging from agricultural fertilizers to lead, to trace amounts of pharmaceutical medications. Since 2004, testing by municipal water facilities in this country has turned up more than 300 contaminants in public drinking water supplies.

This is why filtration is so important, and is the top recommendation I can make for ensuring that your drinking water is safe to drink. When choosing a water filter, it is important to do your research, read the fine print, and choose a brand that will actually remove contaminants. Carbon-based filters are good at removing many common water contaminants. A reverse-osmosis filter, while a little more expensive, will remove even more contaminants, and may be a better option.

To get a full understanding of the variety of different water filtration options and their effectiveness, I’d recommend checking out the in-depth recommendations EWG has made available online: http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/getawaterfilter. There are a wide variety of brands, filtration methods, and prices, and there is no one best choice. It is just important to choose one that will work for your home space and your budget. It may take a little research, but you should be able to find a brand that will work for you.

Water is essential to life: clean, pure water. Now that you know that filtering your tap water is the best way to ensure a safe water source, it is just a matter of determining which filter is the best option for you. Enjoy the process of learning more about the variety of options, and make a commitment to investing in a pollutant-free drinking water supply for you and your family. It’s worth it! Plus, it’ll be a lot cheaper than bottled water in the long run.Ellen Kittredge, CHC, is a Nutrition and Health Counselor offering individualized in-person and phone sessions, as well as group cleansing programs and other group services.

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