Water is key to keeping hydrated and healthy, but you have to make sure that the water you drink is pure. When choosing to drink filtered vs. bottled water, how do you know which is better?
Depending on where you live, bottled water and filtered water might not be any better than your tap water. Even though the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water to ensure it’s drinkable, do you know where yours comes from?
In this article, you will learn about the differences between bottled and filtered water—and whether one is better.
Table of Contents
What Is Bottled Water?
In short, bottled water is any water bought at a store. Since it’s considered a food product, it’s regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA guarantees that the labels are truthful and ensure they disclose information like:
- Standard of identity, which defines the type of bottled water (spring, artesian, purified, etc.)
- Standard of quality, which ensures the water has very few if any contaminants
- Good manufacturing practice, which means they bottled the water in sanitary condition
Regulated bottled water is pure, and there are no additional ingredients. You’ll know if some manufacturers add ingredients like fluoride. They have to disclose it on the label and keep it under FDA-set limits.
Types of Bottled Water
There are numerous types of bottled water that you can find at any grocery store. Whether you want artesian or mineral water, you can find something that pleases your taste buds.
Artesian well water comes from an aquifer in the ground, which is a natural formation of earth, sand, and porous rock. Surrounding layers of rock put pressure on the aquifer and push the water through a tap. The manufacturer of the bottled water then treats the water before passing it along to consumers.
Artesian water is typically a more expensive type of bottled water. Brands like Fiji and Voss source their water from natural aquifers.
Spring and mineral water come from a subsurface region and flow naturally to the surface. Mineral water comes packed with healthy nutrients found in the springs. When you buy spring and mineral water from the store, you’re getting pure, natural H2O. Manufacturers don’t do anything to purify or change the molecular composition of the water.
The last type of bottled water you’ll find at the store is purified water. In essence, purified water is tap or groundwater filtered to remove impurities, including bacteria and chemicals.
Sparkling water, soda water, tonic water, and seltzer water are additional types of bottled water, but the FDA doesn’t regulate them as it does with spring, mineral, purified, and artesian water. Instead, the food and beverage sphere categorizes these waters as soft drinks, mainly because of their fizzy carbonation.
Bottled Water Treatments
Bottled water manufacturers have several methods of purifying the refreshing water you buy in the store:
- Distillation: Manufacturers make distilled water by boiling it, which removes all minerals and impurities. The boiling process keeps the contaminants in their liquid form while the water rises as steam. They then condense the water back into a liquid form, but without the impurities from before.
- Reverse osmosis uses pressure to force water through a cleansing membrane. The membrane is so fine that all minerals, chemicals, and microbes get left behind as the water passes through it. You may already use a reverse osmosis system at home if well water is your primary drinking source.
- Micron filtration uses screens with microscopic holes to filter out contaminants. Filters with a smaller micron rating are more effective at catching impurities.
- Ozonation is a method of water filtration that uses ozone to disinfect water. This process kills most microbes and bacteria.
- Chlorination involves treating the water with a specified amount of chlorine, which kills contaminants.
- Ultraviolet light purifies water by killing the bacteria in a method similar to ozonation. This method doesn’t eliminate chemicals, so it’s usually used in conjunction with another treatment method.
Though manufacturers purify water before they bottle it, it’s not always effective at preventing illness once you consume it. It’s rare to get sick from drinking bottled water, but it has happened.
People who are pregnant, elderly, or have weakened immune systems should be cautious before drinking bottled water. Stay updated on current events to ensure there isn’t a significant water treatment issue for manufacturers.
- Purified and contains no contaminants
- Follows strict regulations to ensure top quality
- Available at grocery stores, gas stations, vending machines, etc.
- A convenient way to store water on the go
- Good to have on hand in case of emergency
- Expensive to buy repeatedly
- Produces a lot of plastic waste that harms the environment
- Water can absorb harmful chemicals from the plastic bottle
- Plastic can release chemicals back into the land when discarded
- It doesn’t guarantee the prevention of contamination and illness
What Is Filtered Water?
Filtered water is tap water from a home or store that runs through filters to eliminate impurities. It tastes similar to bottled water, but it’s a lot cheaper (free!). If you’re concerned about contaminants, you can further filter the water that comes through your home.
The water you use in your home either comes from your municipality or a private well. Municipality-collected water comes from a river, reservoir, or aquifer. The water treatment plant filters it before it comes through your pipes, so you have clean and crisp drinking water.
Water treatment plants don’t always ensure that water is pure to drink, just that it’s not harmful. Many municipalities add chemicals to the water in their water treatment plants, including chlorine and fluoride. Chlorine kills bacteria in the water, and fluoride is a mineral crucial for dental health. Both chemicals are helpful to you and your water in small amounts.
At municipality treatment plants, the water passes through a screen to remove large particles and mixes with chemicals to keep remaining particles from clumping together. This makes them easier to remove in the subsequent sediment filtration process.
Lastly, the facility adds chlorine to disinfect the water by killing bacteria and viruses. The city will store the water in large tanks until it’s distributed to houses, stores, and factories that use municipal water.
If you use a well, you know where your water is coming from: the ground near your home. Unfortunately, in its natural state, this water is more polluted than municipal water. Animal waste, pesticides, and other chemicals can seep into well water from the surrounding earth, especially if the well walls are cracked or damaged.
Well water homes need to have robust filtration systems to clean water before it goes to use for drinking, laundry washing, or bathing.
The minerals in well water make it hard, potentially causing a build-up in your home appliances. Hard water can damage clothes and your skin. A water softener is expensive to purchase but pays off in the long run since you’ll be saving your appliances from damage.
You can also purchase a reverse osmosis system to remove all the harmful chemicals from your water, making it healthy, smooth, and refreshing.
Types of Water Filters
It might seem cheaper to buy bottled water when you first look at the cost of water filters, but consider your investment in the long run. The cost of water filters is typically a one-time purchase and installation cost, whereas you have to continually buy bottled water.
There are different types of water filters to best suit your needs. They include:
- Whole house
Faucet filters are efficient because they attach to any faucet in your house. When you want purified water, you can fill a glass or pitcher right from the source. The flow is slow with these filters, but that simply means it’s working. There are faucet filters available to fit all types of sinks.
Pitcher filters are incredibly affordable and easy to use. As the name implies, they are pitchers with built-in filters. You can fill the pitcher with tap water and keep it cool in the refrigerator. When you need a glass of water, pour purified water straight from the pitcher. These filters are ideal for someone living temporarily in apartments or college dorms.
Countertop filters are ideal if you don’t want the slow water flow caused by faucet and pitcher filters. They attach to the kitchen faucet and sit next to the sink. When you turn on your main faucet, the water flows through the countertop filter and comes out of a separate faucet. The primary downside is that you have a big filter sitting out on your sink, taking up space.
Under-sink water filters are attached directly to your pipes as an easy, concealable filtration system. They filter out more impurities than the previously mentioned options, but they’re difficult to install and not portable. It is an excellent option if you don’t have much counter space but want a quality filter.
These four types of filters are suitable for purifying smaller amounts of water, but you might need more than that. If so, you can invest in a whole house water filtration system that connects to your water supply.
This system is also called a “point of entry” system because it passes through a set of filters before ever reaching your faucets. If you don’t want the chemicals added by your municipality, a whole-house system eliminates them all before the water hits your pipes.
When you’re buying a water filter, look for the absolute micron and nominal ratings. The micron rating determines the size of the most significant hole, and the nominal rating is the average size of every filter hole. The smaller the absolute micron rating is, the more impurities it will filter out of your water.
Methods of Filtration
Just as there are many types of water filters, there are also different methods of filtration. The technique used will depend on the kind of water filter you buy, though some options are available in various forms.
- Activated alumina filters remove fluoride, arsenic, and other chemicals from water. They are commonly found in water pitchers, so they’re compact and affordable.
- Activated carbon filters remove large contaminants. These blocks of carbon have tiny pores that trap impurities as the water flows through. They’re used on a small scale in water pitchers and on a larger scale in whole-house filtration systems.
- Reverse osmosis is a method that removes the most contaminants by forcing water through a membrane. The purified water flows out for use, and you flush away the contaminated wastewater. They are commonly used in countertop and under-sink systems.
The above three filtration methods are available to anyone looking for an easy way to filter tap water. For the most effective system, go with a reverse osmosis treatment process. It’s a pricey investment but pays off in the long run.
- Cost-effective compared to buying bottled water.
- Better for the environment because you don’t discard any plastic
- Never run out of purified water to drink
- More control over your filtration process
- Conveniently refill your reusable bottles to use on the go
- Expensive to purchase and install initially
- Requires routine maintenance and replacement filters
- Removes fluoride, which many treatment plants add for dental benefits
- Dispose of used filters carefully since they contain pollutants
- Eliminates all minerals, including those that are healthy for consumption
Bottled Water vs. Filtered Water – Which is the Best?
Bottled water is pure, filtered spring or artesian water, so you know you’re getting a quality beverage when you buy it. Unfortunately, that’s one of the major problems—you have to buy it!
Buying bottled water also adds to your carbon footprint. Even if you purchase gallon jugs, that’s still another piece of plastic that takes 450 years to break down if you don’t send it off to recycling.
Filtered water, on the other hand, is much easier to produce. You can attach filters to your faucets or buy water pitchers with built-in filters. This gives you the option of getting fresh water whenever you need it.
You’ll also be helping the environment a little more by using tap water. Reusable bottles are an easy way to carry your water around without the carbon footprint of a plastic bottle.
Filtered water is the clear winner in this face-off. You have the option of buying faucet filters, pitcher filters, or whole-house water conditioning units. Whether you get yours from the city or the well, you’ll save more money, help the environment, and never run out of water.