Bottled water might seem like a silly product to consider using thanks to the reliability and safety of tap water around the world, but there are still many locations that need this product for basic life essentials. It is also very common to use a bottle of water as a way to stay hydrated while working, participating in athletics, going to the gym, and the other physical activities of life.
One of the reasons why it is such a common product is that it is highly affordable. For about 50% of the cost of a soda, juice product, or tea, you can purchase a zero-calorie option that can leave you feeling refreshed. Although glass bottles are sometimes available in some locations, small plastic containers tend to be the most popular option to use when bottling water.
The idea of drinking bottled water over a sugary beverage can make it seem like this product has multiple advantages and no concerns to evaluate. When we look at the bottling and disposal process that goes with this product, there can be some circumstances where the purchase of a bottle of water may not be the best choice.
List of the Advantages of Bottled Water
1. Bottled water provides a superior form of hydration.
When you are drinking a bottled water product, then you are consuming something that your body naturally wants when you feel thirsty. The reality of personal care in the United States and other developed countries is that 75% of the general population remains voluntarily dehydrated every day. If you have a portable water product that can go with you to any location, then it is easier to meet the needs of your body.
By drinking water, you won’t be adding sugars, sodium, or other unhealthy ingredients to your body’s systems that could lead to future health problems if the alternative items are not consumed in moderation.
2. Bottled water is a product of convenience.
Whether you choose to use your own bottle or container to bring water with you during the day or you purchase one from a store, you can take this beverage with you almost anywhere. You might be working out or practicing somewhere that doesn’t offer a source of water when you become thirsty. Most offices will allow you to keep bottled water at your desk so that you can take care of your personal needs.
The convenience of this product is undeniable. You can purchase a reusable bottle to fill it up wherever you happen to be, or you can decide to buy some at most convenience stores or similar locations.
3. Bottled water can store for a long time.
If you have an unopened bottle of water, then you can usually store it indefinitely. The only requirement to meet when trying to use this advantage is that you keep it in the correct environment. Even if you decide to follow the shelf life requirements of the manufacturer for this product, you’re still going to get 1-2 years of storage from the product.
Because bottled water is a food product, you should keep it in a similar environment to gain this advantage. You’ll want to store it in a refrigerator instead of leaving it out in the open, like placing it in a shed or a garage. It must be kept away from chemicals, solvents, and fumes to maintain its profile. If you open a bottle of water that has algae, smells funny, or may look to be a different color, then either dispose of it or boil it before using it as an emergency supply.
4. Bottled water has a better flavor to it.
One of the primary reasons why many consumers purchase bottled water over using what they have at the tap is because of the flavor profile they receive. Some tap water can receive high levels of chlorination to ensure that it is safe to use, which can leave a funny taste and a smell when pouring yourself a glass to drink. Most commercial products do not have this concern.
Although you could purchase a filter at home to create your own bottled water from the tap (which is basically what some companies do to sell branded water), the convenience of picking up a bottle when you feel thirsty is what helps to drive the industry forward.
5. Bottled water is guaranteed to be of a specific quality.
When you purchased bottled water products, then you are buying an item that receives full monitoring during the manufacturing cycle. It is strictly regulated to ensure that it is completely free of contaminants that could make you sick. When households don’t have access to tap water that is clean and safe to drink, purchasing bottled items can make sure that any adverse effects from contamination don’t have a chance to settle in to become problematic.
The EPA in the United States sets standards and regulations for the presence or the amount of over 90 potential contaminants in the drinking water, including salmonella, E. coli, and cryptosporidium. You can check with your local utility to see what the latest testing results are for your community. If you are on well water, then you’ll want to have independent testers check on the quality of your water.
6. Bottled water is a highly regulated product.
Most countries in the world regulate their bottled water supplies. In the United States, the EPA considers this product to be a food item, so it falls under the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration. There are specific guidelines in place that require producers to follow Good Manufacturing Practices during the creation of a sellable product, including licensing and monitoring requirements that ensure the quality of the water.
“Tap water can pick up pesticides which have been washed into streams and rivers,” writes Toby Amidor for Food Network. “Chlorin e is added to tap water to help disinfect it, but it can react with fallen leaves to form a toxic byproduct. Even your own pipes can contaminate tap water with lead.”
7. Bottled water offers several different options from which to choose.
If you rely on tap water to quench your thirst, then you have one basic choice for your drinking needs. When you choose to purchase a bottled water product, then there are several more options from which to select. Mineral water is a popular choice, as it comes from an underground source and contains a specific nutrient profile that might not be available with what comes from the faucet. Spring water is another option that producers can collect from the surface.
You can also purchase purified tap water in bottles as a way to take advantage of the convenience of this item without needing to do the extra work at home.
8. Bottled water does not use up a significant amount of freshwater resources.
The annual production of bottled water represents less than 0.02% of the total ground water withdrawals that occur in the United States each year. Even when a drought occurs in a region water supplies are part of the production chain, it is easy for producers to change their manufacturing processes to lessen their impact on the local supply chain. This product is one small part of the puzzle instead of being the primary driving force behind what we have, so it is essential not to mischaracterize the amount of waste that occurs in the system.
9. Bottled water waste does not make up a significant portion of our trash.
Although the statistics on bottled water waste and recycling can feel shocking, the reality is that the convenient-sized bottles that most people use each day account for less than 0.03% of all waste produced in the United States in the average year. Having better compliance with recycling programs can help to reduce this number even further. There might not be as much compliance in Asia with their developing economies, but there is a better understanding of the issues involved so that the impact we leave on the world is minimal.
List of the Disadvantages of Bottled Water
1. Bottled water will always cost more than tap water.
If you are using tap water to take care of your thirst, then you have one of the most inexpensive resources that is available on our planet today. You can meet your drinking needs for just pennies per day. When you move to bottled water as an alternative, then you’ll be paying up to 100 times more for the convenience and availability of this product. Even if you filter your water at home, you’ll pay about 10 times less than you would for the bottling, transportation, marketing, and retail costs of purchasing a grab-and-go item.
Even if you opt for the most inexpensive brands that are available in stores today, you’ll still be paying a lot more for this product than with tap water. That’s why many families are purchasing reusable bottles that they can take with them to meet their thirst needs.
2. Bottled water can still create health problems.
Although it is true that bottled water carries with it fewer health risks than the average tap water serving, you can still encounter problems with this product. Older bottles of water may have bisphenol A, or BPA, in them, and this chemical is known to seep into the water. There can be other contaminants present in the bottle materials as well. Depending on how you store the product, you can encounter issues with algae or mold growth that could be an issue too. You can even have the fumes from chemicals or cleaners seep into the fluid over time to create a higher risk of an adverse outcome.
3. Bottled water might still have contaminants in it.
Bottled water may be healthier than tap water in a direct comparison of averages, but that doesn’t mean this product is 100% free of items that you don’t want to put in your body. The primary requirement for this item is that it cannot contain an amount that exceeds the recommended guidelines that are put in place by the overseeing government entity or regulator. You’ll have a local or federal maximum allowable concentration of components like arsenic or lead.
4. Bottled water creates a recycling problem for most communities.
When you pay for a bottle of water, then 90% of the expense goes to the plastic in the container instead of the fluid that you want to drink. Since 80% of these items never make it to a recycling facility, there is a lot of plastic waste that goes into landfills or exists as environmental litter around the world. Over 38 million plastic bottles that held water make it to landfills in the United States each year.
For the average American, 167 bottles of water are consumed annually that require some sort of disposal method. Since bottling and shipping it creates transportation costs to consider as well, this use of our resources is the least-efficient way to stay hydrated in the history of human cultures.
5. Bottled water can just be tap water in some circumstances.
The bottled water industry generates over $18 billion in revenues for the economy each year. What many people may not realize is that the Beverage Marketing Association admits that almost 50% of all of the products in this category in the United States is just purified tap water. The regulation standards for both products are very different. The only real difference between the two is that manufacturers use the bottled item as a product that is specific for human consumption.
That means you could purchase purifying agents for your tap or well water at home to receive a similar result. If you want information about what is in your water, then you can check your local government’s website to see what type of filter would work best for your needs.
6. Bottled water doesn’t contain fluoride.
Depending on your perspective, this could be an advantage or a disadvantage of consuming bottled water. Most municipalities add fluoride to their tap water as a way to encourage stronger teeth in children. In an Australian study on the comparison of drinking tap water vs. bottled water with children, those who primarily drank a bottled product had a higher risk of cavities, even with proper tooth care, compared to those who usually drank tap water instead.
There are some risks to consider with fluoride which are scientifically documented. Children under the age of six should not use a mouthwash with fluoride to avoid problems with fluorosis. Excessive exposure can lead to bone, thyroid, and neurological problems as well.
7. Bottled water creates a significant danger to animals and the environment.
The caps on the bottled water containers are often loose from the product on disposal. They make their way into the environment, including the ocean, where animals can accidentally ingest the product. Mammals, birds, and sea turtles tend to consume them the most, which creates injuries and a higher risk of a fatality because of the litter.
The amount of plastic litter in the ocean is enormous, with over 150 million metric tons currently circulating in our marine environments. An additional eight million metric tons gets added to that amount each year. That is why we must have recycling programs that take care of these bottles.
8. Bottled water leaves a significant carbon footprint.
It takes between 17-24 million barrels of oil each year to produce the plastics which are used to create bottled water products. That means you’re contributing to the release of greenhouse gas emissions that could play a role in the overall warming trend of our planet. Even though the water may be healthy to consume, the processes used to create the item in the first place may actually use more freshwater than what you would have from the tap.
9. Bottled water labeling can lead to consumer confusion.
There are several different labels that you will find on bottled water products today. Drinking water is in a sealed container with no added ingredients except for fluoride, which is optional. Purified water can either come from a municipality or a spring, and then goes through an improvement process. Spring and mineral water come from natural resources, with the latter containing not less than 250 ppm of total dissolved solids. Sparkling bottled water contains extra carbon dioxide.
Verdict on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Bottled Water
Bottled water is an effective way to stay hydrated throughout the day. The overall availability of this product makes it easy to get something that should be healthy to drink whenever and wherever you happen to be. The only problem is that you’re paying, hundreds, if not thousands, of extra dollars each year to take advantage of this convenience. When you purchase this item, most of your cost goes to the plastics manufacturing instead of the liquid you want to consume.
Testing from the NRDC found that over 30% of bottled water samples showed signs of contamination. That means it may not be safer than some tap water options that are available in the United States and around the world.
The best solution is to purchase a filtering product, or even a reverse osmosis system, that you can use at home with your current water supply. Then you can invest in resusable water bottles that will help you to stay hydrated at a fraction of the cost of the individual bottles you might be purchasing.
Crystal Lombardo has been a staff writer for Future of Working for five years. She is a proud veteran and mother. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our editor-in-chief a message here.