Here's a startling fact to fire you up before the long weekend: The entire bottled water industry—like, all of it—is pretty much completely unregulated. As in I could piss in my Nalgene and have a fair shot of selling it to you if I filtered out the zest. So wait . . . when they say my water is from New Zealand, that's not entirely accurate? What about Fiji? “The Alps” was all a lie?
Let's start with some cold, hard facts.
First, it turns out at least 40% of bottled water is really tap water. Seeing as how I prefer tap already (and I'm hardly alone in this), it's not so surprising that this is the case. Essentially, clever marketers are taking something people already like the taste of, adorning it with fancy packaging, and charging a ridiculous amount of money for it. Business 101.
What I definitely did not know was that, while tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (seeing as it’s, you know, water), bottled water is in fact under the Food and Drug Administration’s watch. And conveniently enough, the government has ignored numerous contaminants in bottled water. An investigation by the National Resources Defense Council found that at least one sample of 26 of the 103 bottled water brands it tested (25 percent) contained chemical contaminants at levels above state or industry standards.
It's one thing to rebrand tap water. But having me pay to drink your toxic sludge? These folks think we’ll be down with paying money for a dirtier version of what we already get for free. And you know what? We are.
OK, so what about purified water? Common purification methods include deionization, distillation and carbon filtration (a la PUR and Brita). There's also a process known as "reverse-osmosis"—which I can tell you from experience makes for water that tastes exceptionally good.
But that still doesn't mean it's the best. Because (drumroll, please) . . . spring water is hands-down the best for you. Purifying water does remove harmful chemicals (and as such is usually better than unpurified water), but it also annihilates vital minerals the body needs. Purified water also raises the body’s overall acidity—not a term typically associated with quenched thirst.
What does all of this mean? Personally, I'll be sticking with good old-fashioned spring and tap water. Sorry bottled water industry, but I prefer my water free, sans contaminants and tasting good. Drink up.