If you’re concerned about contaminants in the tap water you drink every day, you’re not alone. We all deserve to know what we’ll be putting in our bodies when we turn on the tap. This is one of the reasons why EWG created its Tap Water Database in the first place.
But if you want safer water for yourself and your family, bottled water isn’t the solution – not for your pocketbook, not for your health and certainly not for our planet. Your best option for cleaner, healthier drinking water on the go is filtered tap water and a reusable glass or stainless steel container. As we say here at EWG, know your water, pick the best filter and choose a BPA-free container.
Here are five reasons why you should say no to bottled water and choose filtered instead.
1. The cost
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, tap water costs about $.002 per gallon1 – that’s two-tenths of a penny – while a liter of water from the cooler in your local convenience store costs about a dollar before tax. That means you’re paying about 2,000 times more for bottled water. Nonetheless, Americans drank 12.8 billion gallons of bottled water in 2016, an increase of nearly 9 percent over 2015, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.2 There are much better things you could spend your money on than water in bottles – perhaps even a nice tap water filter.
2. The quality
Laboratory testing by EWG has found all sorts of nasty stuff in popular brands of bottled water – disinfection byproducts, industrial chemicals, prescription drugs and even bacteria. And unlike your local tap water utilities, which are required to test for contaminants each year and disclose the results to the public, the bottled water industry can hide the results of its testing. Knowledge is power, and with bottled water you’ll likely know nothing about what you’re drinking.
3. The bottle itself
It’s bad enough that the bottled water you’re drinking might be contaminated. But the bottle itself could add to the problem. An EWG investigation found that PET plastics – the kind used to make plastic water bottles and marked with a “1” code on the bottom – can contain dozens of chemical additives, manufacturing impurities and breakdown byproducts. That’s more than 80 additional contaminants that could be leaching into your water. So get yourself a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle, and fill it with filtered tap water.
4. The trash
EPA statistics show that less than 32 percent of PET plastic bottles and jars were recycled in 2014.3 That means the other 68 percent was left to clog landfills, harm wildlife and pollute waterways. In fact, the marine conservation organization Oceana estimates that up to 20 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans each year,4 with some collecting into huge free-floating landfills like the Pacific Garbage Patch, which is estimated to be about the size of Texas.5
5. The wasted energy
And trash isn’t the only environmental issue caused by water bottles. Analysis by the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank, found that it takes up to 2,000 times more energy to produce bottled water than tap water.6 It takes energy to make the bottles, fill them with water and ship them to your local convenience store – sometimes over great distances.
In extreme circumstances, bottled water might be the best bet. Residents of Flint, Mich., for example, are relying on bottled water until their tap water is safe again. But for almost everyone else, filtered tap water is the clear winner.
1 EPA, Water Facts of Life: Ride the Water Cycle with These Fun Facts. 2016. Available at www3.epa.gov/safewater/kids/waterfactsoflife.html
2 Beverage Marketing Corporation, Press Release: Bottled Water Becomes Number-One Beverage in the U.S. 2017. Available at www.beveragemarketing.com/news-detail.asp?id=438
3 EPA, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet. 2016. Available at www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-11/documents/2014_smmfactsheet_508.pdf
4 Madeleine Simon, Global Issue of Marine Plastics is Gathering Significant Media Attention. Oceana, 2014. Available at usa.oceana.org/blog/global-issue-marine-plastics-gathering-significant-media-attention
5 Oceana, Pacific Garbage Patch. Available at usa.oceana.org/pacific-garbage-patch
6 P.H. Gleick and H.S. Cooley, Energy Implications of Bottled Water. Environmental Research Letters, 2009, 4(1). Available at iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/4/1/014009