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Tap Water Vs. Bottled Water

Keeping Your Family Happy & Healthy


Global sales

The global bottled water market valuation grew by 7% in 2006 to reach a value of $60,938.1 million. The volume of bottled water grew by 8.1% in 2006 to 115,393.5 million liters. In 2011, the market is forecast to have a value of $86,421.2 million, an increase of 41.8% since 2006. In 2011, the market is forecast to have a volume of 174,286.6 million liters, an increase of 51% since 2006.

The global rate of consumption more than doubled between 1997 and 2005.[2] Purified water is currently the leading global seller, with U.S. companies dominating the field, and natural spring water, purified water and flavored water being the fastest-growing market segments.

Effects of bottled water

The major criticism of bottled water concerns the bottles themselves. Individual use bottled water is generally packaged in Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). According to a NAPCOR study, PET water bottles account for 50% of all the PET bottles and containers collected by curbside recycling, and the recycling rate for water bottles is 23.4%, an increase over the 2006 rate of 20.1%. PET bottled water containers make up one-third of 1 percent of the waste stream in the United States.[4]

The International Bottled Water Association also reports that the average weight of a plastic bottle water was 13.83 grams in 2007, compared to 18.90 grams in 2000, representing a 26.7% decline. Pepsi-Co has since introduced a bottle weighing 10.9 grams and using 20 percent less plastic, which it says is the lightest bottle of its kind that is nationally distributed.

An estimated 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per annum in the US and around 200 billion bottles globally.[7]

Health effects

Bottled water processed with distillation or reverse osmosis lacks fluoride ions which are sometimes naturally present in ground water. The drinking of distilled water may conceivably increase the risk of tooth decay due to a lack of this element. (8)

According to a 1999 NRDC study, in which roughly 22 percent of brands were tested, at least one sample contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. Some of the contaminants found in the study could pose health risks if consumed over a long period of time.[9] However, the NRDC report conceded that “[m]ost waters contained no detectable bacteria, and the levels of synthetic organic chemicals and inorganic chemicals of concern for which were tested were either below detection limits or well below all applicable standards.”[10] Meanwhile, a report by the Drinking Water Research Foundation found that of all samples tested by NRDC, “federal FDA or EPA limits were allegedly exceeded only four times, twice for total coliforms and twice for fluorides.”[11]

The rate of total dissolved solids is sometimes 4 times higher in bottled mineral waters than in bottled tap ones.

Another study, conducted by the Goethe University at Frankfurt found that a high percentage of the bottled water, contained in plastic containers were polluted with estrogenic chemicals. Although some of the bottled water contained in glass were found polluted with chemicals as well, the researchers believe some of the contamination in the plastic containers may have come from the plastic containers themselves.[12] Bottled water in the marketplace

The Beverage Marketing Corporation defines the bottled water market segment as “retail PET, retail bulk, home and office delivery, vending, domestic sparkling and imports” but excluding “flavored and enhanced water.”[13] Bottled water versus carbonated beverages

Bottled water competes in the marketplace with carbonated beverages sold in individual plastic bottles,[14] and is often considered a healthier substitute.[15]

According to the Donkey Recycling Institute, sales of flavored, noncarbonated drinks are expected to surpass soda sales by 2010.[16] In response, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have introduced new carbonated drinks that are fortified with vitamins and minerals, Diet Coke Plus and Tava, marketed as “sparkling beverages.”[17] Bottled water versus tap water
An office water cooler with a reusable 5-gallon bottle

In the United States, bottled water costs between $0.25 and $2 per bottle while tap water costs less than US$0.01.[18] In 1999, according to a NRDC study, U.S. consumers paid between 240 and 10,000 times more per unit volume for bottled water than for tap water.[10] Typically 90 percent or more of the cost paid by bottled water consumers goes to things other than the water itself — bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing, other expenses, and profit.[19]

It is true that for some cases, tap water will cause health defects, but it is also true that some bottled waters will be more likely to cause health problems. Both bottle and tap water contain minerals and nutrients that can improve health, as well as contaminants that can cause diseases. The quality and content of water varies greatly by location and bottle brand. The tap water in U.S. cities is generally safe; if it is not, people are generally be notified and given details from the state. It is important for people to be aware of specific water content from the tap and in bottles if they have special dietary needs, weakened immune systems, or are pregnant because they can be more sensitive to effects from the bacterial content and mineral contaminants.

In some areas, tap water may contain added fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and cavities,[20] but may also produce negative toxicological side-effects.

Bottled water has reduced amounts of copper, lead, and other metal contaminants since it does not run through the plumbing pipes where tap water is exposed to metal corrosion. However, this varies by the household and plumbing system. [21]

In a study with 57 bottled water samples and tap water samples, all of the tap water samples had a bacterial content under 3 CFUs/mL and the bottled water samples’ bacterial content ranged from 0.01-4900 CFUs/mL(colony-forming unit). Most of the water bottle samples were under 1 CFU/mL, though there were 15 water bottle samples containing 6-4900 CFUs/mL.[20] In another study comparing 25 different bottled waters, most of the samples resulted exceeding the contaminant level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) for mercury, thallium, and thorium.[22] Being exposed to these contaminants in high concentration for long periods of time can cause liver and kidney damage, and increase risk for lung and pancreas disease. Since there has been little research strongly discouraging consumption of bottled water so one can only assume, given the effects of mercury, thallium and thorium contamination are quite severe, that the MCL set by the EPA is extremely low making it uncommon for bottled water companies to have contaminant levels just barely above the limit.

For tap water in the U.S. chlorine is added as a disinfectant, which can create leave other products in the water like trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids. The level of chlorine found is small, 1L of chlorinated water gives 0.2mg of chlorine, which is too small to cause any health problems. [21]

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and World Wildlife Fund have all urged their supporters to consume less bottled water. Anti-bottled water campaigns and organizations, such as Corporate Accountability International, typically argue that bottled water is no better than tap water, and emphasize the environmental side-effects of disposable plastic bottles.

The Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! demonstrated, in a 2007 episode, that in a controlled setting, diners could not discern between bottled water and water from a garden hose behind the restaurant.[23]

The United Church of Christ, United Church of Canada, National Council of Churches, National Coalition of American Nuns and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation are among some of the religious organizations that have raised questions about whether or not the “privatization” of water is ethical. They regard the industrial purchase and repackaging at a much higher resale price of a basic resource as an unethical trend.[24]

The recent documentary Tapped argues against the bottled water industry, asserting that tap water is healthier, more environmentally sustainable and more ecologically just than bottled water. The film focuses on the bottled water industry in the United States. The film has largely seen positive reviews, and has spawned college campus groups such as Beyond the Bottle.

In Finland, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat once ran a blind tasting test containing various brands of bottled water, both Finnish and international, and regular tap water from Helsinki. The majority of the tasters preferred the tap water.

It is not uncommon for business or individuals to subscribe to a bottled water service. These services deliver water either monthly or weekly, sometimes even daily.

A number of companies worldwide, among which are a number of North American supermarket chains, have vending machines that dispense purified water into customer’s own containers. This again obviates the costs and environmental issues involved in manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of plastic bottles.

In what may be the first case globally, the New South Wales town of Bundanoon voted to outlaw bottled water.[25] The small town of Bundanoon has become bottled water-free. Its citizens voluntarily chose to ban bottled water in response to a bottling company’s desire to extract millions of liters of water from the local aquifer [26]. The initiative for a bottled water-free town was proposed by local businessman Huw Kingston and carried out by the grassroots organization, Bundy On Tap. In a community meeting of 356 of the town’s 2,500 residents, all but one voted in favor of the ban [27]. According to Bundy On Tap, the organization responsible for proposing and passing the ban, it is now prohibited to sell or give away bottled water within the town precinct [28].

Bundanoon’s six stores have removed bottled water from their stock. The town now offers public drinking fountains and filtered water dispensers where people can fill up reusable water bottles. The reusable bottles are sold in place of bottled water in the local stores for a cheap price. Bundanoon’s bold stand against bottled water’s damaging effects on the environment and on communities has thrust it into a global spotlight. Bundy On Tap has caught the attention of many other cities around the world who could soon have similar policies [29]. The bottled water industry in Australia is worth approximately $400 million per year [30]. But access to drinking water in Bundanoon is now greater than before Bundy On Tap began [31]. It appears the citizens of this town recognize that the convenience of bottled water is not necessarily worth its cost.

Not only did the residents of Bundanoon not want a bottling plant in their town [32], but they are opposed to the environmental and health effects of producing, using, and disposing of plastic water bottles. Some residents are skeptical, however, that singling out bottled water is the best way to protect the environment and maintain quality of life in Bundanoon. For example, water is certainly better for human health than soda is, but soda has not been banned. There is a worry that soda will be purchased more frequently in place of bottled water because of the convenience the disposable bottle offers [33]. Also, according to the chief executive of the Australian Bottled Water Institute, most bottled water in Australia is produced domestically in recyclable bottles that make up a very small proportion of landfill waste. Additional criticism asserts that other disposable items and imported goods have a greater environmental impact and carbon footprint than bottled water [34]. In general, the response to Bundanoon’s bottled water ban has been to point out other environmentally damaging policies that might be more beneficial to address. It seems Bundy On Tap has done well by bringing a major environmental issue to the forefront, and sparking new conversations about human impact on the environment. They have proven that it is possible for people to collectively help the environment of their own accord.

The Australasian Bottled Water Institute is a regional member of the International Council of Bottled Water Associations.
European Union

European Directive 80/777/EEC[35] – modified by Directive 96/70/EC[36] – deals with the marketing and exploitation of natural mineral waters in the European Union. The two main types of bottled water recognized are mineral water and spring water.

Broadly speaking, “mineral water” is groundwater that has emerged from the ground and flowed over rock. Treatment of mineral water is restricted to removal of unstable elements such as iron and sulfur compounds. Treatment for such minerals can only extend to filtration or decanting with oxygenation. Free carbon dioxide may be removed only by physical methods, and the regulations for introduction (or reintroduction) of CO2 are strictly defined. Disinfection of natural mineral water is completely prohibited, including the addition of any element that is likely to change bacterial colony counts. If natural mineral is effervescent, it must be labelled accordingly, depending on the origin of the carbon dioxide: naturally carbonated natural mineral water (no introduction of CO2); natural mineral water fortified with gas from the spring (reintroduction of CO2); carbonated natural mineral water (CO2 added following strict guidelines).

Council Directive 65/65/EEC[37] deals with bottled water that is considered a “medicinal product” and is thus excluded from the scope of the other regulation.

The U.S. is the largest consumer market for bottled water in the world, followed by Mexico, China, and Brazil.[3] In 2008, U.S. bottled water sales topped 8.6 billion gallons for 28.9% of the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage market, exceeding sales of all other beverages except carbonated soft drinks, followed by fruit juices and sports drinks.[13] Americans drink 21 gallons of bottled water per capita per year.[38]

About 25% of U.S. bottled water sold is purified[clarification needed] municipal water according to a four-year study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).[39] Both Aquafina from PepsiCo and Dasani from The Coca-Cola Company originate from municipal water systems.[40] However according to the FDA, about 75 percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from other sources, including “natural underground sources, which include rivers, lakes, springs and artesian wells.” Federal regulations also require that the standard of identity be noted on the bottle label.[clarification needed] Regulation

In the United States, bottled water is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration according to standards of identity, standards of quality and good manufacturing practices.[41][42][43]

Standards of identity define types of water for labeling purposes. To be called ground water, the water must not be under the direct influence of surface water. Water containing not less than 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids is mineral water. Artesian water comes from a well tapping a confined aquifer in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer; it may be collected with the assistance of external force to enhance the natural underground pressure. Water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or similar processes is purified or demineralized water. Sparkling water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source, although it may be removed and replenished in treatment. Spring water must be derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the Earth’s surface. Sterile water water meets the requirements under “sterility tests” in the United States Pharmacopoeia. Well water is water that has been removed from a hole bored or drilled in the ground which taps into an aquifer.

Standards of quality regulate acceptable levels of the water’s turbidity, color and odor, according to sample analysis. Exemptions are made according to aesthetically-based allowable levels, and do not relate to health concerns. An example is mineral water, which is exempt from allowable color levels.[43] Pakistan

Due to contaminated water being widespread, in the mid 1990s urban families started installing filtration units at home. This later developed into companies providing mineral water delivery services at home. These gallon bottles that could be attached to a dispenser are still widespread.

Bottled water was made famous by one of the largest marketing campaigns in Pakistan history undertaken by Nestle. Eventually other bottlers including dozens of local ones, Coca Cola, Pepsi and other imported brands such as Evian also made their way.
Bottled water in popular culture

Fiji Water has actively sought product placement in popular movies and TV shows, including Desperate Housewives, Entourage, The Office, Friends and Sex and the City. In the 2005 movie Jesus is Magic, comedian Sarah Silverman lampoons behavior of show business prima donnas with a tirade declaring she will drink only Fiji Water.[44]

In the TV show Monk, Adrian Monk is known to only drink water that is of the Sierra Springs brand. In the episode Mr. Monk Goes To Mexico, Monk went thirsty for days because he couldn’t find any Sierra Springs water.
See also
Water portal

* Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI)
* International Bottled Water Association
* Reuse of water bottles
* Bottled water phenomenon


1. ^ King, Mike. Bottled Water – Global Industry Guide,, July 7, 2008.
2. ^ Li, Ling. Bottled Water Consumption Jumps, Worldwatch Institute. November 8, 2007.
3. ^ a b “Changing Consumer Tastes Creates Explosive Growth For Domestic And International Bottled Water Brands – Revenue In 2007 Expected To Reach $5.974 Billion With Growth Set To Climb Higher Through 2012”, press release, IBISWorld, May 21, 2008.
4. ^ “US Conference of Mayors Resolution 70 Concerning Municipal Water Systems is Not in the Public Interest”, press release. International Bottled Water Association, June 23, 2008.
5. ^ “Bottled Water Containers Now the Single Most Recycled Item in Curbside Programs”, press release, [1], International Bottled Water Association, February 19, 2009.
6. ^ Tong, Vin nee. Pepsi-Co introduces lighter water bottle, Associated Press, March 26, 2009.
7. ^ “A Fountain On Every Corner”, New York Times. Find A Fountain, May 23, 2008.
8. ^ Smith, Michael. Bottled Water Cited as Contributing to Cavity Comeback, MedPage Today, September 19, 2005.
9. ^ NRDC: Drinking Water FAQ, March 1999.
10. ^ a b Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?, Natural Resources Defense Council, March 1999.
11. ^ DWRF Analysis of the February, 1999 Natural Resources Defense Council Report on Bottled Water, Drinking Water Research Foundation, July 1999.
12. ^ Bottled water in plastic containers contaminated from plastic containers
13. ^ a b “Smaller categories still saw growth as the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage market shrank by 2.0% in 2008, Beverage Marketing Corporation reports”, press release Beverage Marketing Corporation, 3/30/2009.
14. ^ Hamermesh, Daniel. Ban Water Bottles to Reduce Pollution? Come On!, Freakonomics Blog,, January 19, 2009.
15. ^ Cutting down on liquid calories: A visual guide, Consumer Reports, August 2006.
16. ^ Gitlitz, Jennifer and Pat Franklin. “Water, Water Everywhere: The growth of non-carbonated beverages in the United States”, Container Recycling Institute, February 2007.
17. ^ Martin, Andrew. Makers of Sodas Try a New Pitch: They’re Healthy, The New York Times, March 7, 2007.
18. ^ Bottled Water Issues Summary, Worldwatch Institute, 2007.
19. ^ [2], NRDC, undated.
20. ^ a b Lalumandier, J.A., & Ayers, L.W. (2000). “Fluoride and bacterial content of bottled water vs tap water”. Archives of Family Medicine 9: 246-250. Retrieved 2009-11-1.
21. ^ a b Petraccia, L., Liberati, G., Masciullo S.G., Grassi, M. & Fraioli, A.. “Water, mineral waters and health”. Clinical Nutrition 25 (3): 377-385. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2005.10.002.
22. ^ Ikem, A., Odueyungbo, S., Egiebor, N.O., & Nyavor, K. (2001). “Chemical quality of bottled waters from three cities in eastern Alabama”. The Science of the Total Environment 285 (1-3): 165-175. doi:10.1016/S0048-9697(01)00915-9.
23. ^ Bottled Water. Penn Jillette, Teller. Bullshit!. Showtime. 2003-03-07. No. 7, season 1.
24. ^ Paulson, Tom. Thirst for bottled water may hurt environment, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 19, 2007.
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35. ^ European Directive 80/777/EEC, July 15, 1980.
36. ^ Directive 96/70/EC, October 28, 1996.
37. ^ Council Directive 65/65/EEC, January 26, 1965.
38. ^ “Learn More: Bottled Water”. Columbia Water Center. Retrieved 2009-09-15.
39. ^ Owen, James. Bottled Water Isn’t Healthier Than Tap, Report Reveals, National Geographic, February 24, 2006.
40. ^ Lempert, Phil. Is your bottled water coming from a faucet?,, July. 21, 2004.
41. ^ Posnick, Lauren M. and Kim, Henry (2002). “Bottled Water Regulation and the FDA.” Food Safety. August/September 2002. ISSN 1084-5984.
42. ^ FDA. “21 CFR Part 129 – Processing and Bottling of Bottled Drinking Water.” Code of Federal Regulations.
43. ^ a b FDA. “21 CFR 165.110 – Requirements for Specific Standardized Beverages: Bottled Water.” Code of Federal Regulations.
44. ^ Lazarus, David. L.A. business tries to make Fiji Water a star, San Francisco Chronicle, January 21, 2007.

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