WaterDrive - Is Bottled Water Better Than Tap Water?

Drink tap water

Tap water is cleaned using as many as 20 different types of chemicals and according to world health standards it is safe to drink.  Fresh tap water  contains trace chemicals and infused calcium and chlorine but is deemed safe to drink. Dependent on where you live the water could be hard or soft based upon the rock it originally came through.

However, do current treatment practices and the chemicals involved pose any significant health risks? Our drinking water’s journey from source to tap has come increasingly under scrutiny of late with talk of hormones and contaminates leaving many people confused (including myself!). Is there anything to be worried about? We did some digging around and spoke to the experts to see if they could shed some light on some of the most talked about issues.

Chlorine is used as a disinfectant to rid our drinking water of waterborne microbes and maintain hygienic conditions in the pipes that transport it from treatment works to tap.

However, concerns have been raised over the by-products produced from the process, which some research has linked to certain cancers. However, the DWI (Drinking Water Inspectorate) says that the amount of chlorine used is at such low levels by the time it gets to us that it doesn’t pose any harm (UK tap water has well below the 5mg/l standard set by the World Health Organisation). WHO also makes the point that any risks to health from chlorination by-products are extremely small in comparison with the risks associated with inadequate disinfection.

Freelance dietitian Priya Tew from Dietitian UK opts to filter the chlorine out of her tap water purely to make it nicer to drink. “Personally, I like to drink filtered water due to the taste,” she tells us, and is of the view that filtering does not provide any additional health benefits. For her purposes, she has a filter fitted to her kitchen sink, but also recommends leaving a jug of water covered in the fridge overnight as a good way to remove the chlorine taste. She cautions against leaving it for longer than 24 hours though as without the chlorine, bacteria can start to grow. Carbon filters such as those from Brita can also be beneficial in this regard.

A small amount of chlorine is found naturally in our tap water and some authorities add it in to help avoid tooth decay. The maximum amount that it can contain is 1.5mg/l and it varies from region to region.

However, questions have been raised as to whether it does actually help with tooth decay and also whether its potential health risks (specifically in relation to the thyroid gland) outweigh its benefits. There are many opinions on the subject, but as nutritional therapist Amelia Freer points out in a recent article she wrote on tap water, risks are “unlikely to occur with normal, everyday water consumption,” with a 2014 report from Public Health England stating that “water fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure.”

There are concerns over the presence of oestrogens (from the birth control pill, which makes its way into sewage) and endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs, from environmental waste) in our tap water, and their effect on our hormone levels. Are they in high enough quantities though to cause us harm? While there may well be small amounts in our rivers, the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) emphasises that they tend to only be found in immediate proximity to industrial and wastewater discharges and nearly all of them break down naturally due to their unstable nature.

Studies funded by the European Commission have also demonstrated that current sewage and water treatment practices are highly effective at removing EDCs so with all these factors in mind, it appears that the risk is minimal.

Drink bottled water

In 2017, bottled water sales outstripped Coca-Cola sales for the first time (The Telegraph).

Plain bottled water, with average annual consumption of 54 litres per person, strengthened its market dominance in 2017 to account for 87% of total sales. Flavoured water’s share of the market fell to 11% volume share, with juicy and functional water making up the remaining 2%. In terms of water types, still water drinks accounted for 83% of total volume in 2017, with sparkling water drinks contributing 17%. 67% of all bottled water is just tap water, so why pay extra to drink the same water that comes from the tap, plus you are often using a plastic bottle that takes 400 years to disintegrate, plus there are particles in the water from the bottle.

If you are going to drink bottled water make sure it says mineral or spring water on the label and check for additives and make sure the bottle is recyclable.

Plastic water bottles damage the environment

Water bottles make up half of all plastic waste in the Thames (London.gov.uk).

Also, production and transportation of the world’s demand for bottled water uses the equivalent of 160 million barrels of oil per year (TheNational.ae)

YouDrive thinks....

Overall we think drinking  tap water is a good idea.  In terms of  filters – ask yourself a question – can you guarantee the quality of the water after it’s left the water plant? If the answer is no then filter.

One YouDriver uses tap water with a cheap filter see here – we keep it in the fridge – and also because we prefer fizzy water we also use sodastream (available cheapest on Amazon here) and pour the water into specific bottles..

If you really want bottled water we say drink mineral or spring bottled water if it is in a recyclable bottle – don’t waste your hard earned cash on bottled water if it’s straight from the tap and not worth paying for. 

Save money by buying larger recyclable bottles from the supermarket and then keep them in the fridge and pour your daily amount into a reusable vessel for work or school. This cuts down plastic use whether recyclable or not, the process of making plastic is equally as bad on the environment.

What we think about hydration:
1. When you’re thirsty, drink.
2. When you’re not thirsty anymore, stop.
3. During high heat and exercise, make sure to drink enough to compensate for the lost fluids.

You can either go back to WaterDrive by clicking on the first button below, look for further information by following the links at the bottom of the page, or look at another Drive.

People who looked at WaterDrive also looked at FuelDrive.

You’ve seen more detail on the different points of view, and also what YouDrive’s view is.  You can go back to WaterDrive by clicking the button here, or go to the Home page.

More information

There are apps to help you drink enough water – see the Healthline assessment of the top 5

Healthline also have a lot of information on how much water you should drink each day

Tap water drinkers can also see information at Join the Pipe

You can download the Water For Life White Paper from the Government here

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