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Jesse Magee
English 301, Dr. Bruce
T/TH 11:30-12:45
Tap Vs Bottled
To drink or not to drink, that is the question. Whether it is better to drink from a clear,
clean bottle or drinking from your faucet water is still water. Since the beginning of time
humans, by anatomy, have had the unfortunate need to consume water to go about their daily
lives. Running away from predators required water, hunting woolly mammoths, cooling off after
a long day of work, and even in todays society walking around at school requires some water
type liquid to stay hydrated. In todays world though, people want convenience and a quick
solution to make life easier. What could be better for this lifestyle than grabbing a cold water
bottle from the fridge and going about your day? Realizing that the bottled water you just
grabbed from the fridge has nothing but the most crisp and most pure water from your fridge to
the nearest water source, mountain/spring/river. Just thinking about this makes me want to go
buy a 24 pack of our local water brand(s) and chug one down. With all these options why would
anyone even want to drink from a faucet, hose, or tap source? In this paper we will go into
discussing the myths/truths about each source to help open the eyes of the consumer so they can
make a good decision when it comes to water.
The first issue that comes to mind when comparing these two forms of precious water is
the myth that bottled water is far cleaner/regulated than tap water. In 1974, the EPA and
Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) with the sole purpose to help keep the
public safe with clean drinkable water sources. This act paved the way for the Environment
Protection Agency (EPA) to help set limitations for certain levels of containments allowed in
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public water sources. It is hard to say that there are any health risks from bottled water because
of our perception of how clean and monitored bottle water companies are. Water bottle
companies are not
regulated by the EPA like
tap water; in fact the
National Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) are
the ones responsible for
bottled water cleanliness.
Although we rely on the FDA to regulate many things in our society today, they dont regulate
bottled water as effectively as other things under their watchful eyes. The Food and Drug
Administrations only real job in regulating bottle water is to make sure that the nutrition facts
are made clear for the consumer. These labels do not require the process used to purify water and
they dont list the chemicals used to clean the bottled water. The FDAs regulations need to be
stricter like those set on public sources of tap water. Referring to the chart above it is clear to see
that bottled water has no real required aspects unlike those set forth for public tap water. When it
comes to certified laboratory testing bottled water doesnt participate and they dont have any
over site from any federal agency. The FDA doesnt have to notify the public about
contaminations nor do they have to save test records for at least the last 5 years. It seems because
bottled water companies havent had many negative controversies with the public, they are not
properly inspected by the FDA. This in itself can be problematic because by only using these
companies past evaluations they could potentially be getting away with bloody murder today.
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The next issue that tends to raise an eyebrow or two is the idea that tap water is far more
expensive to own than bottled water. Think about it, how much does it cost to use your facet at
home? According to the EPA the average cost for 1,000 gallons of tap water is merely a little
more than $2 to acquire (EPA, 2009). When thinking about these numbers and the money Ive
spent for bottles of water it makes sense to me that bottled water companies are gold mines. With
the price of a 24 pack of water at about $3.25 for a case and the additional $1.25 for CRV you
can see how one is wasting away their money for convenience. Look at these numbers; for 2,000
gallons of tap water its essentially about $5 dollars, compared to $5 for a case of bottled water
or 3.16875 gallons (2009). These numbers make me a concerned consumer because it appears
that Im wasting my money due to a small plastic bottle and its cleanliness.
Maybe its the taste the bottled water possesses that makes it so desirable to us? Well for
some, the taste between these two could be harder to judge than a NASCAR race. The
Birmingham Water Works in Alabama administered such a taste test over a five day period
(2004). Their results showed that majority of the participants favored the tap waters taste
compared to bottled water. While this is just one area of the country that has administered such a
taste test experiment it could be plausible that not all tap water tastes as great as Birminghams.
For most people they complain about the weird taste of tap water, but that taste is really
necessary because thats the disinfectant that makes sure your tap water is free of
microorganisms. In a study by Michael Sullivan he went to his local grocery store and bought 6
different natural spring bottled water brands and found something interesting in each. Of all the
brands in the test there were 14 of 17 known metals in the water, the only three metals not found
present were beryllium,
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mercury, and thallium (Sullivan, 2011). Even though taste doesnt show significant
much difference between these two forms, our society cannot get away from the bottle. With
such convenience of these bottles there has to be little to no consequences, right?
Well the last concern surrounding this debate is the harmful effects these minuet bottles
have on us and our environment. Michael Sullivan reports that in California our tap water is
regulated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) who put tap water through
vigorous test for public safety. While on the other hand water bottle companies are not required
to show test results to the general public unless requested for. One of the most widely discussed
problems with bottled water is the use of polyethylene terephthalate or PET. This chemical is
used in the making of water bottles and over periods of time has been shown to leak into the
water inside. The only real chemicals in tap water include: small amounts of chorine for
decontamination and fluoride, a chemical thats dentist recommended for healthy teeth.
According to Josiane T. M. Queiroz and colleagues (2012), The production of 1 kg of PET
plastic requires 17.5 liters of water and results in atmospheric emissions of 40 grams of
hydrocarbons, 25 grams of sulfur oxides, 18 grams of carbon monoxide, 20 grams of nitrogen
oxide and 2.3 kg of carbon dioxide. Not only are they saying that plastic bottles cost/use more
water to make, but they also state that there are far more harmful emissions left on our
environment. The transportation of these water bottles from creation to shipping all leaves
harmful emissions on our planet. In 2006 alone over 6,000 tons of harmful emissions were
released from transportation of water from Fiji and Europe (Didier, 2006). Then theres the after
math of the consumer who may or may not recycle their bottled water. In the USA in 2002 there
was about 14 billion water bottles sold, but only 1.4 billion of those bottled waters sold were
recycled (Queiroz). So those 12.6 billion water bottles that are accumulating in our landfills will
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take hundreds of years to fully decompose because incinerating them releases more toxins in our
environment (Queiroz).
To put it briefly, at the end of the day water is water, 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen
atom. This wonderful element has had quite the history and is making even more history in this
present day and age. Water bottle companies are trying to make huge profits on a product that
isnt any cleaner because the lacking of regulation by the FDA compared to that of the EPA.
These companies fatten their pockets because the cost of a plastic bottle with water is about 100
times more expensive than that of turning on a facet. When it comes to public opinions about
bottled water companies they seem to enjoy bottled more because of its taste, easy accessibility,
and its inexpensive cost (Lorna A Ward & colleagues 2009). Lastly, these companies could
potentially help aide in the destruction of Earth because of the chemicals that are released in the
production, transportation, and the waste management these little plastic bottles go through. I
understand that we live in a world now where everything is grab and go, but does 45 extra
seconds a day filling up a reusable, aluminum, bottle waste that much of your day? All I know is
if I was in the desert or stranding somewhere I didnt know and needed water I could care less if
it was from the tap or in a bottle.







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References
Amberg, S., Prokopy, L.S., & Saylor, A. (2011). Whats Wrong with the Tap? Examining
Perceptions of Tap Water and Bottled Water at Purdue University. Environmental Management,
48. 588-601.
Baillie, P.D., Cain, O.L., Greenfield, S.M., Holliday, K.S., Mullally, R.A., Ward, L.A., &
Wernham, A.GH. (2009). Health beliefs about bottled water: a qualitative study. BMC Public
Health, 9. 1-9.
Benavides, J., Huerta-Saenz, L., Irigoyen, M., & Mendoza, M. (2012) Tap or Bottled Water:
Drinking Preferences Among Urban Minority Children and Adolescents. J Community Health,
37. 54-58.
Didier, S. (2006). Water Bottle Pollution Facts. San Francisco Gate. Demand Media. Retrieved
from http://homeguides.sfgate.com/water-bottle-pollution-79179.html
Heller, L., Quieroz, J.T., Rosenberg, M.W., Silva, S.R., & Zhouri, A.L., (2012). News about Tap
and Bottled Water: Can This Influence Peoples Choices? Journal of Environment Protection.
324-333.
Leavey, S., & Sullivan, M.J. (2011). Heavy Metals in Bottled Natural Spring Water. Journal of
Environmental Health, 73. 8-13.
Vann, M. (2004). Tap water beats out bottled water in Birmingham taste test. American Water
Works Association Journal, 96, 8. 30.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2004). Retrieved from
http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/sdwa/upload/2009_08_28_sdwa_fs_30ann_dwsrf_web.p
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