Bottled Water

The Federal Drug Administration oversees bottled water, however it is not subject to the same rigorous monitoring and testing as tap water.

You don’t need to buy bottled water since M.U.D. water surpasses all federal and state Safe Drinking Water standards. However, if you want water that tastes different, you can buy bottled water which costs up to 1,000 times more than M.U.D. Water.

The bottled water market is partly fueled by concerns over the safety of municipal water and by the marketing of many brands that portray them as being drawn from pure sources and as being healthier than tap water.

However this is often not the case. In fact, much like vitamin and herbal supplements, there are more standards regulating tap water in Europe and the U.S. than those applied to the bottled water industry.

According to Co-op America, “as much as 40 percent of bottled water is actually bottled tap water, sometimes with additional treatment, sometimes not.” The number one (Aquafina) and two (Dasani) top-selling brands of bottled water in the U.S. both fall in the category of purified water. Dasani is sold by Coca-Cola, while Aquafina is a Pepsi product. As U.S. News & World Report explains, “Aquafina is municipal water from spots like Wichita, KS.”

Regulatory differences as reported by the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies

Drinking Water — EPA

Tap water can have no confirmed E. coli or fecal coliform bacteria.

Tap water is filtered and/or disinfected or the system must adopt special protection measures.

Violations of drinking water standards are grounds for enforcement.

Public water systems must have their water tested by certified labs.

Tap water results must be reported to state or federal officials.

Public water system operators must be certified.

Public water suppliers must issue consumer confidence reports.

Bottled Water — FDA

A certain amount of any bacteria is allowed in bottled water.

There are no federal filtration or disinfection requirements for bottled water.

Bottled water in violation of standards can still be sold.

Such testing is not required for bottlers.

There are no reporting requirements for bottlers.

Bottled water plant operators do not have to be certified.

There are no public right-to-know requirements for bottlers.

Environmental concern

A considerable number of used water bottles end up as litter, where they can take several hundred years or more to biodegrade. Ninety percent of water bottles end up as either garbage or litter — at a rate of 30 million bottles per day. If plastics are buried in landfills, not only do they take up valuable space but potentially toxic additives such as phthalates may leak into the groundwater. This problem could be avoided simply by recycling used bottles regularly.

Studies show bottled water is not necessarily purer than tap water.

A four-year test of 103 brands of bottled water showed that a third of the tested brands contained bacteria or other chemicals exceeding the industry’s own guidelines or the most stringent state purity standards.

Test results were released March 30, 1999 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The NRDC tested more than 1,000 samples of 103 types of bottled water purchased in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas and the District of Columbia. The study showed:

  1. One-third of the samples exceeded the California standard or the industry’s own purity guidelines, or both, for a chemical or bacterial contaminant.
  2. Nearly one in four samples (22 percent) contained levels of cancer-causing synthetic compounds such as arsenic that exceeded the California limit, which is the most stringent.
  3. Nearly one in five samples (17 percent) contained levels of bacteria higher than the voluntary industry guidelines. There are no federal mandatory standards.
  4. About one in five samples contained industrial chemicals, and some samples contained arsenic, nitrates or other inorganic contaminants. In both cases, the levels generally were below state or federal standards.

Although bottled water quality is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the NRDC study said it is subject to weaker standards than ordinary tap water when it comes to a wide range of contaminants.

The report noted that carbonated water is exempt from bottled water standards. It is regulated under general sanitation rules.