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The Truth of Water
Bottled Water vs. Tap Water –
What’s the difference anyway?
Sarah Shimek Duda
Minnesota State University, Mankato, Water Resources Center
Bottled Water –Myth Busters
• "If you were cool, you were drinking bottled
water," says Ed Slade, Evian's vice president of
marketing since 1990. "It was a status symbol.”
• “… no one should think that bottled water is
better regulated, better protected or safer than
tap," says Eric Goldstein, co-director of the
urban program at the Natural
Resources Defense Council
(NRDC), a nonprofit organization
devoted to protecting health and
the environment.
• Up to 40% of bottled water is
sourced from tap water
• In 1999 the NRDC tested
more than 1,000 bottles of
103 brands & found a third
of the brands contained
bacterial or chemical
contaminants, including
carcinogens, in levels
exceeding state or industry
standards. (That’s 34
• Approx. 60-70% of bottled
water is not regulated at all.
• Contamination can come
from leaching of chemicals in
the bottles themselves.
Leave-no-trace or Muddy Boots:
Ecological Footprint
• The Fiji Water plant is a state-of-the-art facility that runs 24
hours a day. That means it requires an uninterrupted supply of
electricity, something the local utility structure cannot support.
So the factory supplies its own electricity, with three big
generators running on diesel fuel.
• According to his calculations, it takes about 72 billion gallons of
water a year, worldwide, just to make the empty bottles, says
Todd Jarvis, PhD, associate director of the Institute for Water
and Watersheds at Oregon State University.
• America’s recycling rate for PET is only 23%, which means we
throw away 38 billion water bottles a year – more than $1
billion worth of plastic.
• About 1 billion bottles of water a week are moved around in
ships, trains and trucks in the United States alone. That's a
weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering
Bottled Water's Environmental Toll (Eco Footprint con’t)
• The energy used each year making the bottles needed to meet the
demand for bottled water in the United States is equivalent to more
than 17 million barrels of oil. That's enough to fuel over 1 million cars
for a year.
• If water and soft drink bottlers had used 10% recycled materials in
their plastic bottles in 2004, they would have saved the equivalent of 72
million gallons of gasoline. If they had used 25%, they would have saved
enough energy to electrify more than 680,000 homes for a year.
• In 2003, the California Department of Conservation estimated that
roughly three million water bottles are trashed every day in that state.
At this rate, by 2013 the amount of unrecycled bottles will be enough to
create a two-lane highway that stretches the state's entire coast.
• In 2004 the recycling rate for all beverage containers was 33.5
percent. If it reached 80 percent, the reduction of greenhouse gas
emissions would be the equivalent of removing 2.4 million cars from
the road for a year.
• That bottle that takes just three minutes to drink can take up to a
thousand years to biodegrade.
Pennies from Heaven
• If the water we use at home cost what even
cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water
bills would run $9,000.
• “Bottled water costs more ounce by ounce than
oil,” Amber Collett, Corporate Accountability
• In the U.S. combined water & sewer bills
average only about 0.5% of household income
• National average cost of tap water is $2.00 per
1,000 gallons, the same amount of bottled
water would cost $8,000
Tap Water: Just as Pure &
Practically Free
• Indeed, while the United States is the
single biggest consumer in the world's $50
billion bottled-water market, it is the only
one of the top four -- the others are Brazil,
China and Mexico -- with nearly
universally reliable tap water.
• Minneapolis water tested 400 – 1,000
times daily
• Common treatment processes include
coagulation (settling), filtration, and
Filtered Water: The Perfect
• 4 out of 10 Americans use a home water
treatment unit
• Point of Use Filters (POU’s ) include
filter pitchers, faucet filters, distillers,
reverse osmosis units
• Point of Entry Devices (POE’s) include
adsorptive media (carbon filters),
aerators, water softeners
The Last Drop
Tap Water
Bottled Water
Regulated by EPA
Regulated by FDA
Cannot have confirmed E. coli or fecal Coliform
A certain amount of any bacteria is allowed.
Filtered and/or disinfected
No federal filtration or disinfection requirements.
Violation of drinking water standards are grounds for
Bottled water in violation of standards can still be sold.
Utilities must have their water tested by certified labs.
Such testing is not required for bottlers.
Tap water results must be reported to state or federal
There are no reporting requirements for bottlers.
Water system operators must be certified.
Bottled water plant operators do not have to be
Water suppliers must issue consumer confidence
reports annually.
There are no public right-to-know requirements for
Costs pennies a day
Costs $.80 to $4.00 per gallon.
Contains essential nutrients for the body such as
calcium and iron.
Natural minerals are removed by filtration.
Chlorine residual in water to prevent bacteria growth.
No disinfectant present to kill bacteria in bottles.
Sources for this presentation include:
– U.S. EPA, (Bottled Water Basics, Filtration Facts,
Water on Tap: What you need to know)
– Bottled Water: A river of money, by Fast Company
– Bottled Water vs. Tap Water, Readers Digest
– Bottled vs. Tap: Which is safer, L.A. Times Oct. 13, 2008
– Bottled drinking water, World Health Organization,
– Clean water shortages cause global concern, Minnesota Daily, March 26,
– Test Results: Chemicals in Bottled Water, Environmental Working Group,
Aug. 14, 2008