Tap Water vs. Bottled Water: The Great Debate

For the first time in United States history, bottled water has beat out soda as the most popular beverage. Beverage Marketing, a consulting and research firm, says that Americans bought 400 million more gallons of bottled water last year than they did soft drinks. The consulting firm, Zenith Global, says that the global bottled water market is worth 147 billion dollars and has grown 9 percent.

It’s clear that culturally driven lifestyle changes have played a huge role in the shift from soda to bottled water. Public awareness campaigns aimed at educating the public on the negative health impact that sugar-filled soft drinks bring to the table seem to have proven successful.

The interesting part is that tap water is cheap and readily available, yet last year U.S. consumers spent over $21 billion on bottled water according to research firm, Euromonitor. It seems marketers have presented bottled water as an alternative to soft drinks when it really is an alternative to virtually free tap water. It’s not hard to understand why when you learn that some of the major players in the bottled water market are owned by soda giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

As Americans implement healthier lifestyles by cutting out sugary drinks and replacing them with water, it can be confusing and hard to decide if bottled or tap water is best for them.

Tap water in the United States is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency while bottled water is mandated but the Food and Drug Administration. So, what’s the difference? First, the FDA is far less strict or one. By law, tap water must be disinfected and tested for bacteria hundreds of times each month, while bottled water is only tested a few times a month and by law doesn’t need to be disinfected.

Another variable when looking at bottled versus tap water is fluoride. The American Dental Association says that fluoride in tap water helps prevent tooth decay by at least 25 percent. If you use a water filter at home, you may also be filtering out the fluoride so it’s important to be aware of this possibility. Fluoride has been called nature’s cavity fighter, says Dr. John Pappas, DDS, of Arcadia Dental Arts in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Fluoride helps the teeth by strengthening the enamel and protecting the teeth from damage and decay,” Pappas said. “It’s especially beneficial for children during the development of their permanent teeth.”

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to bottled water is the environmental impact that the disposable nature of the bottles creates. Organizations are trying to spread awareness about the waste that is created by the bottled water trend. One organization called Ban the Bottle says that the amount of oil used to meet bottled water demand is more than 17 million barrels a year and the energy wasted could power 190,000 homes.

As bottled water sales continue to skyrocket, consumers should ask themselves why they are choosing bottled over tap. It seems the benefits of bottled water are hard to see when you look anywhere but at the advertisements created to convince us otherwise.

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