Bottled vs Filtered Water

The battle between commercial bottled water and water that has been filtered at home continues to rage on, as the consumer demand for cleaner water continues to grow. Before you make your next purchase, you need to know some details between bottled and filtered water.

Types of Bottled Water

Bottled Water
Before you can really make any comparison between bottled and filtered water, you need to address the many different kinds of bottled water that is on the market today. They are not all the same and will compare differently with filtered water.

One of the more popular varieties is spring water, which means the water was taken directly from a natural source that flows to the surface under its’ own pressure. It may or may not be further purified after that. On the other hand, cheaper brands of bottled water are often just labelled as “purified” water. These products can have water from any source, including your local municipal water system (i.e. tap water) but they have undergone additional purification processing such as reverse osmosis or distillation to remove contaminants. Some brands of bottled water don’t even do any additional processing. It’s straight tap water. The last common type of bottled water is mineral water, and that label refers to the amount of dissolved minerals rather than anything about the water source.

Cost Comparison
This is where most people start when comparing bottled and filtered water. Even the really cheap brands of bottled water will cost you more than the same amount of home-filtered water.

Baby with Filtered Water Glass
To make a simple comparison, take a look at a typical jug filter. These types of filters will usually last for about 45 gallons of filtered water. With a new filter costing around $7, that makes your own filtered water cost 16c per gallon. On average, you can buy bottled water for $3/gallon when purchased in larger bottles. The cost comparison is very clear and very much leaning in favor of filtered water.

Quality Comparison
So you need to remember that bottled water isn’t some magically pure water product. As just described, in many cases the water is just cleaned-up tap water which puts in precisely on the same level as home-filtered water. So which one is cleaner? Of course, there is no clear-cut answer to this crucial question. Instead, you have to find out more about the overall state of the bottled water industry and make some decisions for yourself.

Tests performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that most brands of bottled water contained some levels of chemical contamination. Two major bargain chain store brands were virtually identical in composition to standard tap water and their overall sample of 10 different brands contained 38 pollutants in total (around 8 in each sample).

Filtered water can also potentially have the same range of contaminants, depending on how clean your original source of water is. When you consider that some bottled waters are the same as tap water, then any level of home-filtering is going to be an improvement. Most good quality filter units will remove many of the typical contaminants and can easily leave you with water that is cleaner than bottled water.

Environmental Consequences
A single filter can purify gallons and gallons of water before needing to be replaced (the exact amount will vary widely depending on the type of filter system). That same amount of bottled water would create a huge pile of plastic bottles, even if you were to buy larger volumes instead of the little single-serve ones. Even though the plastic is recyclable, many bottles still end up as garbage in the landfills.

According to the Clean Air Council, there were approximately 1 million tons of plastic bottles produced in 2006 and their production required 50 million barrels of oil. In the end, nearly 77% of them all ended up in landfills rather than being recycled. That is a lot of trash being created just for a little handy water.

Really, the only thing that bottled water has going for it is the easy of use and portability. Carrying a bottle of water has become a common practice, and single-serve bottles of water do work very well for drinking on the go. These days, it is easy enough to get a nice looking stainless steel water bottle that will let you carry your own filtered water around with you, so that benefit is not really as applicable any more.