The Simple Truth About Bottled Water and Why You Should Feel Real Guilty About Drinking It


waterbottlesThe primary reason I refuse to buy bottled water is because I can get it for free. Sure there are costs associated with all drinking water, whether it be digging a well or city water fees. By purchasing it bottled however, we are encouraging a system that believes water is a commodity which should be sold to us at a profit.

In fact, former CEO of Nestle Peter Brabeck said that water is not a human right and should be privatized, in an interview for the documentary We Feed the World. Though after backlash, he dedicated a page on the Nestle site declaring water a human right, with links and videos of him saying just that.

Buying a bottle of water when parched may seem like an innocent act, but doing so fosters the idea that this is how drinking water should be obtained.

Some may purchase bottled water out of fear that there might be something wrong with tap water. The truth however is that tap water is more regulated and tested than bottled water.

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 requires that all public drinking water sources be safe for drinking. The Environment Protection Agency regulates all drinking water, testing it for compliance to certain standards. Public water systems must also provide reports, noting its source, evidence of contaminants and compliance with regulations.

The Food and Drug Administration monitors bottled water and does not require lab testing or violation reporting. The FDA also does not require bottled water to be labeled with where the water came from, whether it was tested or how it was treated.

If common sense is not convincing enough, consider the environmental impact. The production, labeling, and shipping of one water bottle requires the equivalent of one quarter of that bottle in oil, according to Peter Gleick, of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship for his work on water resources.

water fountain

This is the same precious oil we are in danger of running out of and that takes millions of years to make, we are using to bottle water.

But wait! There’s always recycling, right? The cleaner of consciences across the globe? The International Association for Bottled Water estimates that less than 39 percent of every single serve water bottles get recycled.

Now I realize there are ways to rationalize your use of bottled water. You buy one in the morning and refill it throughout the day. It’s a healthier alternative to soda. You run around all day and don’t carry a bag. But I urge you, do not be a passive citizen.

I promise it’s really simple. I like to leave my house with coffee in a mason jar then refill it with water throughout the day. Not only do I get random smirks but sometimes people even tell me it’s cute.

Carrying a water bottle will encourage you to drink more water, which experts say we don’t drink nearly enough of, anyway. Once it becomes habit, you won’t think twice, pinky promise. Just do it.

Smaranda Dumitru

3 thoughts on “The Simple Truth About Bottled Water and Why You Should Feel Real Guilty About Drinking It

  1. Hi Smaranda,

    I read your article with interest and wanted to bring a few facts to your attention. Your comments about FDA regulation, labeling, and testing are not correct.

    Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a packaged food product and it provides a consistently safe and reliable source of drinking water. By federal law, the FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be at least as stringent as the EPA standards for tap water. And, in some very important cases like lead, coliform bacteria, and E. coli, bottled water regulations are substantially more stringent.

    Below is a link to FDA Bottled Water Regulations:

    Here, you can see a direct comparison from the Drinking Water Research Foundation (DWRF) of FDA bottled water regulations and EPA tap water regulations:


    All packaged foods and beverages, including bottled water, are subject to extensive FDA labeling requirements that provide consumers with a great deal of product quality information. In addition, virtually all bottled water products include a telephone number or website on the label that consumers can use to contact the company to obtain information about the product.

    Disclosures, such as those required by the EPA in Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs) for public water systems, are not required of any packaged food or beverage product. Those products must meet all applicable safety standards and must be manufactured according to FDA regulations. However, bottled water companies voluntarily provide consumers with access to information about their products.

    Bottled Water Safety & Quality

    Regarding the quality and safety of tap water, as noted in the 2013 DWRF report, “Microbial Health Risks of Regulated Drinking Waters in the United States,” ( researchers estimate that more than 500 boil alerts occurred in the United States in 2010. In addition, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that waterborne diseases, such as Cryptosporidiosis and Giardiasis, cost the U.S. healthcare system as much as $539 million a year in hospital expenses.

    In 2006, EPA researchers reported an estimated 16.4 million cases of acute gastrointestinal illness per year are caused by tap water. Subsequent research has estimated that number of illnesses to be closer to 19.5 million cases per year.

    In contrast, a survey of FDA and state bottled water regulatory authorities, dated June, 2009 and conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found there were zero outbreaks of foodborne illness from bottled water over a 5-year period. Moreover, in testimony before a July 9, 2009 Congressional hearing, an FDA official stated that the agency was aware of no major outbreaks of illness or serious safety concerns associated with bottled water in the past decade.


    On a gallon-for-gallon basis, bottled water is tested up to 30 times more frequently than tap water for nearly all of the same contaminants.

    With regard to daily testing, there are subtle differences between testing at a bottled water plant and a public water system (PWS) treatment plant. It should be noted that both bottled water and PWS plants test more frequently than the minimum number of samples required each month by respective FDA and EPA regulations, often on an hourly basis.

    Daily testing at a bottled water facility which draws water protected underground sources such as springs or artesian aquifers as well as from public water systems, may include coliforms, heterotrophic plate count, and in some cases, yeast and mold, and Pseudomonas sp. Other testing may include pH, total dissolved solids, conductivity, turbidity, and ozone residual.

    PWS treatment facilities draw water from surface waters (such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs) and/or ground water aquifers. Like bottled water facilities, PWS treatment facilities test for coliforms and heterotrophic plate count/standard plate count. Other testing may include pH, total/suspended/dissolved solids, turbidity, and chlorine or chloramine residual.

    To learn more about the facts behind bottled water, please visit

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