Bottled Water vs. Tap

Bottled Water vs. Tap
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For most people, which is healthier?

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If you are more of a water person, which is healthier—bottled or tap? In terms of both chemical and microbiological purity? It depends where you live, but for most Americans, which is better—bottled or tap? And the answer is tap, based primarily on bacterial contamination recently found in several brands of bottled water.

The only population that should consider really sticking to bottled or filtered water is pregnant women, during the summer, in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Maryland, where the chlorination spike may be a little too high for comfort.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

If you are more of a water person, which is healthier—bottled or tap? In terms of both chemical and microbiological purity? It depends where you live, but for most Americans, which is better—bottled or tap? And the answer is tap, based primarily on bacterial contamination recently found in several brands of bottled water.

The only population that should consider really sticking to bottled or filtered water is pregnant women, during the summer, in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Maryland, where the chlorination spike may be a little too high for comfort.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

More on children and hydration:
Does a Drink Of Water Make Children Smarter?

And check out my other videos on beverages

For more context, check out my associated blog post: Schoolchildren Should Drink More Water.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

53 responses to “Bottled Water vs. Tap

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    1. Hi Trinda,

      Distilled water is water that has been turned into steam, leaving the impurities such as chlorine, lead, fluoride, washed up pharmaceuticals, and essentially everything else behind. The steam is then condensed to make pure water. This process also kills and removes bacteria, viruses – basically anything that is organic or inorganic. This water is a pure as it gets. While some people claim that the removal of minerals during this process is harmful, we actually get most of our minerals from the food we consume, and not water.
      Therefore, I believe that distilled water, by removing all impurities, is the safest water you can drink.

      1. I’m sorry but this is completely wrong. While distilling water does remove all inorganic impurities, and kills organic pathogens (e.g., bacteria, viruses, etc), it does not remove all organic impurities. More specifically Volatile Organic Compounds (also known as VOCs) will vaporize just as the water does when it is boiled and come along for the ride when the steam is condensed back out into liquid water again. So unfortunately even distilled water can have lots of VOC contamination.

  1. I have heard and read that the “only water that our bodies can actually use to clean their cells, is the water contained in vegetables” and that “bottled mineral water only serves to pollute the body, as the minerals have a low bio-availability and the body needs to work to remove them”.

    Then I am told in conferences that actually there are “studies that prove that bottled mineral water is good for you and that there are scientific studies proving this”, although nobody could actually produce any of these studies.

    I also hear that “tap water is polluted” and that with the “high amounts of pollutants, oestrogen, etc. it is best to avoid it”.

    I am then told that the “only water to drink is reverse osmosis”, as the “vegetables we eat will provide the water that the body needs for bodily functions” and the “extra water that is drunk – the reverse osmosis – will be pure and therefore not pollute the body, but will serve to lubricate the digestive system”.

    Then I read that reverse osmosis, being “empty and containing no minerals, will leach the minerals from the body creating deficiencies”.

    Another claim that I am now hearing is that we should drink “Kangen Water”, which apparently “alkalises your tap water” (although nobody says what it adds to do this or what is actually filtered from the water, i.e. pollutants, pesticides, etc.). It’s a filter system that you connect ot your tap water. The claim here is that “your body absorbs this alkaline water with miraculous effects”, even going as far to claim that it “can help cure some forms of cancer”. Nobody explains however how this water can pass through the acidity of the stomach and still end up alkalising the body when absorbed!

    There are probably other claims that I have heard and forgotten, but wondered if you have any information or have done any research here?

    Many thanks… Mark

    1. Water naturally contains dissolved minerals. This is why well water and surface water taste so different (well water will generally have more minerals due to a longer time in the ground in order to dissolve them). These minerals are what makes water conductive. Pure water has a very high electrical resistance and is rather corrosive and has a very unpleasant taste to it.

      There are no published, reputable studies saying anything about negative effects from mineral water. This makes sense, as humans have been getting water from sources that have high mineral content (hard water, most people call it) since forever, seeing as how freshwater springs happen everywhere on Earth with few exceptions. The mineral content is re-added for the sake of taste, nothing else.

      We are also fine drinking rain water, which is for all intents and purposes, distilled water.

      Finally, the human body only operates within a very fine are of the pH scale. There is no evidence supporting alkalinizing or acidifying your body, and any action that would ACTUALLY be successful in doing so would cause severe illness and soon after, death.

  2. Mark Tucker: Tap water is highly regulated and tested for safety, whereas other sources are not. You can find water quality reports online from the Environmental Protection Agency if you’re in the US. From these reports (which can be found online), you can find what contaminants your tap water may contain, then simply look for a filter that works best for you in your area. From this, you can determine an in-home filtration device that will work best for you. The type of filtration is completely dependent on the quality of the water, so that should be the first step you take.

    As far as mineral content, whole foods are the best place to obtain minerals, vitamins, and all things necessary in your diet. There may be one supplement worth taking, however. See this video for more information: http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/vitamin-supplements-worth-taking/

  3. What shower filter(s) do you recommend (I am based in NYC and, like other US cities, the water supply has excessive chlorine, bromine, and fluorine).

  4. I heard recently that tap water is bad for health as the chlorine kills off the body’s beneficial bacteria.

    What about home filtered tap water or boiled mineral water?

    1. In municipal drinking water supplies, the concentration is not high enough for any ill-effects.

      Chloride ions (which the chlorine dissociates into after entering solution with water) are necessary throughout the body. In nerve conduction they are what permits sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other ion channels to function, by pumping the ions across a barrier and releasing them when an electrical signal is needed. In the stomach, hydrogen chloride is the acid which performs the first primary step of food digestion. Again, in solution, that is just protons (H+ ions) and Chloride ions. The chlorine really has no ill-effects at normal tap-water levels.

  5. Chlorine, like fluoride, is an industrial toxin, and should be avoided. Tap water in some areas is full of it. All so-called natural spring, well, tap or mineral water, irrespective of whether filtered or boiled, will still contain anything, from (hopefully) lifeless bacteria and virus husks to inorganic metals, salts, minerals, trace elements etc. – pollutants all – turning every glass of water into a potentially life threatening cocktail. The powerful water lobby denies it, of course, and produces (or claims to possess) studies that offer scientific proof. I remain unconvinced – mainly because of scientific proof to the contrary (bone density comparisons between consumers in areas with very high and very low mineral content water, for example, where severe osteoporosis incidence was found to be almost double in the high mineral content water area). Not a paradox – the “enriched” water blocks absorption of organic (food) calcium, resulting in deficiency.
    In answer to your question, papayoyo, think H2O. That’s what your body cells want, nay, need. H2O, no toxic cocktails. Distilled water is almost 100% H2O. So is RO water. The latter has a waste factor, though, as it is said to take between 10 to 20 liters of tap water to produce a liter of RO water (depending on the device used, I guess).

    1. @ChrisH: You forgot the hyperconcentrated dihydrogen-monoxide (DHMO) in water… 55.6 mol/L! And to think mothers & fathers actually give it to their children when it’s been medically and scientifically shown to cause children to die every year

  6. Thanks ChrisH for your informed reply. I’m inclined in the same direction of thought. Though what would you say to the argument that distilled and RO water leech minerals and nutrients from the body? Isn’t all life on the planet sustained by water that is infused with elements from the environment? Isn’t perfectly pure water an artificial and unnatural thing? I guess rain water is pretty pure but on it’s way down it must absorb “stuff” from the atmosphere.

    1. Thank you for that question, papayoyo.
      The bizarre notion of water maliciously leaching valuables from our organism (in the process leaving the infinitely more available – as no longer organically fused – waste materials, toxins, “ash”, etc., in the body cells) is persistently being bandied about by – I suspect – the water lobby (and maybe pension funds?).
      It has no scientific basis. The opposite is in fact true. Pure H2O enhances the efficiency of the metabolism, as H2O will readily transport nutrients through cell walls, and cleanse waste products from the cells in direct exchange.
      Rain is nature’s distilled water. The (mostly man-made) pollution it picks up in the atmosphere is in fact the “artificial and unnatural” thing. Being an efficient solvent, water begins breaking down whatever it encounters as soon as it hits the ground. For many simple organisms, amphibians, fish and practically all plants this fortified water is imperative to sustain life. Higher organisms generally can’t fully utilize the large molecular structure of inorganic minerals etc. and need to obtain the necessary from organic sources (food). Drinking the inorganically enriched (mineral, tap, well, spring) water will inevitably put strain on the organism, causing mineral deposits in joints, arteries, kidneys etc., contributing to arthritis, stroke, renal failure, arteriosclerosis etc., thus effectively reducing human life expectancy…

      1. Your statements in the last paragraph are interesting. Can you please provide research and studies showing what you claim: 

          “Drinking the inorganically enriched (mineral, tap, well, spring) water will inevitably put strain on the organism, causing mineral deposits in joints, arteries, kidneys etc., contributing to arthritis, stroke, renal failure, arteriosclerosis etc., thus effectively reducing human life expectancy…”Thank you. This is very interesting but I do think it warrants documentation  to back it up.

      2. thank you but please show who did this research. What study, and who were the authors of it?  Otherwise I am to assume that you are just making a theory based on what seems obvious to you. Surely you researched this and can provide the information on the study.

  7. I can’t find a single study that claims that the minerals in mineral water are unhealthy for the human body. Can anyone provide some evidence of this?  I like natural mineral water but some people raise concerns so I am curious.

    1.  I couldn’t find a study for you and doubt if one will be done. The makers of mineral water would have nothing to gain. Water is what we need. All other substances come from plants with the exception of Vit B12… see excellent series of video’s by Dr. Greger this past February. The best diet is plant based but we need to be careful of some other nutrtients such as Ca and Iodine….  see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/omnivore-vs-vegan-nutrient-deficiencies-2/. Looking at iodine… see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/avoiding-iodine-deficiency-2/, of course the details are important see… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/avoiding-iodine-deficiency-2/ and especially pregnant women see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/pregnant-vegans-at-risk-for-iodine-deficiency-2/ but as for all substances you can consume too much see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/too-much-iodine-can-be-as-bad-as-too-little/ and even with water as a woman died of water intoxication during a radio station contest in Sacramento CA.

  8. Dear Dr. Greger, we are thinking of buying a water filtration system made with coconut shells that they say makes the water cleaner than any other system with no chemicals, if possible I would like your comments if you are familiar with this system, it’s the one with Ed Bagley advertising for it.Thank you for all you do !

  9. In my experience tap water drank regularly causes digestive problems. The overload of minerals overtaxes the system and lowers appetite, nutrients in food are not used adequately; when i drink tap water or any other brand of natural mineral water i could just keep eating and eating with no satisfaction (sugars probably get stuck in the bloodstream, maybe because of the overload) when i switch to purified water satiation comes way quicker and energy returns. I see this same effects on my dog. Also mineral waters take time to completely get out of the system, so it takes some time for the appetite and the adequate use of nutrients to return.

    The overload of minerals overtaxes the organs and sends me to a deep sleep in the afternoon.

    But mineral water also makes me feel happier and active during the day, so i think there should be a middle point, mineral water is very powerful so i just use it sparingly.

    I have no studies about this information this is just what i’ve observed.

    1. Well water, here, very “hard”. No problems besides washing my hair (much worse at lathering the shampoo). Most surface-water supplies I’ve drunk from actually give me heartburn.

      If mineral water takes a while to get out of your system, where does it go? Do you actually have any understanding of kidney function and how it relates to rather quick elimination of excess minerals?

  10. Good Morning Dr. Greger….I found this article which sounds like it was onboard for water consumption, but a few items in it…especially # 3 have me concerned…http://www.curejoy.com/content/busted15-myths-drinking-water/
    I follow http://www.watercure.com and Dr. B and since switching to a WFPB diet in Sept 2014 the only thing I drink is water….well the occasional glass of red wine…but 99% water :)
    Can you please comment specifically on #1 where they say that all liquids count…I don’t believe drinking coffee and milk should count as water intake and # 3 about water and fiber creating blockages in the intestines… My belief is that if you don’t have an underlying health issue and drink water when you are thirsty and get a minimum of amount…(what is that?) you should be good to go.
    Thanks again for your videos…I believe them to be life saving!

    1. You only need sufficient water to replace the water lost during the day in digestion, sweat, respiration, and urinary output. Drink enough to satisfy that and you are fine.

      Most folks have a proper feedback response for needing water and then feeling thirsty. Some do not for various reasons. 8 glasses a day is a suggestion for consuming more than adequate water to fulfill your needs. Your kidneys will see to eliminating the excess.

      Note: Dehydration is a risk factor of labor intensive work, hot climates, and GI illness. If one applies, you need to actively worry about dehydration, as well as sufficient electrolyte intake.

  11. I recently found information that has reversed my original position on the best water to drink and wanted to share.

    I found the following paper which in part states:

    “not only does completely demineralised water (distillate) have unsatisfactory organoleptic properities, but it also has a definite adverse influence on the animal and human organism”. After evaluating the available health, organoleptic, and other information, the team recommended that demineralised water contain 1.) a minimum level for dissolved salts (100 mg/L), bicarbonate ion (30 mg/L), and calcium (30 mg/L); 2.) an optimum level for total dissolved salts (250-500 mg/L for chloride-sulfate water and 250-500 mg/L for bicarbonate water); 3.) a maximum level for alkalinity (6.5 meq/l), sodium (200 mg/L), boron (0.5 mg/L), and bromine (0.01 mg/L).

    The lowest morbidity was associated with water having calcium levels of 30-90 mg/L, magnesium levels of 17-35 mg/L, and TDS of about 400 mg/L (for bicarbonate containing waters). The author concluded that such water could be considered as physiologically optimum.

    http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutrientschap12.pdf

    After finding the above information I set about searching for a water source that matches the WHO recommendation. Turns out there is a natural spring water source near me that is within the suggested parameters, bottled locally, and which the company performs and provides regular water analysis results. They ozonate, bottle (glass or polycarbonate) and have the water delivered to me within 72hours of collection.

    I am capable of modifying/making my water parameters match the recommendation, however, in my opinion it’s not practical to expect that an under the sink unit and a home kitchen based lab can do a better job at water handling than mother nature and a multimillion dollar water distribution company, the latter of which are subject to random testing and inspections by the Canadian government and the various certifying bodies to which they subscribe.

    I hope this helps someone. The .pdf provided is a good read!

  12. I am pregnant and live in MD, one of the states you listed as having a high chlorine water content. Does boiling the water help to eliminate any chlorine? I’m concerned about the BPA in plastic water bottles. I’ve also heard that bottled water is basically tap water. What do you recommend? Thanks!

  13. We have reverse osmosis water and lately I’ve been reading how RO water is not healthy. All minerals are stripped from the water and can actually harm you by not really hydrating your body and taking the minerals from your bones. Is there any truth to this and if so do I need to replenish my water and what should I use? Thank you

  14. Hello! Ok, tap water is better, and you can alcalinise it for a cheap prize, but it depends on where you live (I live in Madrid and the tap water is full of chlorine): what are the studies about water purifiers (like for example eSpring)??? That’s something what really interests me because we drink a lot of water and it’s sonfundamental in our diet…
    Thanks in advance,
    Léa Klein

  15. What about softened water. We have a water softener and I don’t like how the water tastes. Are there any health problems related to softened water?

    1. Hello Julie,
      Good question. Here is a link from Wikipedia that explains water softening, and “hard” vs. “soft” water: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_softening.

      Water softeners are usually used in areas where there the water is very “hard”, i.e. contains lots of minerals that can clog the plumbing, or leave a green stain in sinks. Soft water contains more sodium than hard water, but not enough to cause any health problems for most people. One beneficial effect of hard water, mentioned in the Wiki article: “hard water conveys some benefits to health by reducing the solubility of potentially toxic metal ions such as lead and copper, which are more soluble in soft water than in hard water.”

      I hope this helps.

  16. Hi Dr Gregor

    Can you tell me if distilled water is safe to drink? My grandson has been drinking his baby formula made from distilled water and the rest of the family have also been drinking it as well.

    Thank you.

  17. What is the suggested daily water consumption for regularly exercising adults? Is there such a thing as drinking too much water?

  18. Roberta, sorry I can’t get you a first-hand answer, but maybe this video will help: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/bottled-water-vs-tap-2/
    The World Wildlife Fund did a study (mentioned here: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/study-bottled-water-safer-tap-water/story?id=87558) that ticked off the bottled water folks, claiming that tap water was just as good as bottled but at 100 times less the price. (I don’t think that WWF sampled the water in ALL cities, though; I’ve been in some where the taste was like algae.)

  19. A new study from nonprofit journalism organization Orb Media and State University of New York at Fredonia researchers discovered that plastic water bottle likely means sipping microplastic particles. More than 250 water bottles from 11 brands were tested. 90% of the samples were contaminated with microplastic.

    https://orbmedia.org/stories/plus-plastic

  20. Hello, Dr. Greger. I enjoyed this video, but I was curious about the pesticides that may wind up in tap water. You mention how pregnant women in Massachusetts (where I’m from) shouldn’t drink the water in the summer due to spikes in certain chemicals, but what about everyone else? Are pesticide residues in Massachusetts low enough where they may have no effects whatsoever? What if they do? What steps can be taken to greatly limit or outright eliminate risk of pesticides in drinking water? Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions when you get the chance.

  21. Hi, Jacob Savoie. As Dr. Greger stated in the video, the recommendation is based largely on bacterial contamination of some bottled water. It is important to note that many bottled water brands take their water from municipal water supplies, so they are not likely to be any safer than tap water, in any sense. It is a good idea to have your water tested, so that you know what is in it, but don’t have it tested by a company that sells expensive water purification systems. There are a number of purification and filtration methods, and the right one for you will depend on what you need to remove from your water. Most contaminants may be removed by distillation, except for mercury, which will evaporate right along with the water. Boiling water will eliminate most microbial contaminants. For lead, it is recommended to use filters that are specifically rated to remove it. There are a lot of water filtration scams out there, so do your homework. Don’t fall for unsupported nonsense. You might find these helpful:
    https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/#.W03uiNhKgWo
    https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/water-filter-guide.php#.W03uzthKgWo
    I hope that helps!

  22. Until recently, I consumed Brita-filtered tap water. Often I would boil it first to further purify (seems to smell fresh and taste fresher after boiling) Then I noticed that the bottom of my kettle was corroded, with a rust-like layer.
    I was able to scour the rust-like layer off with a Brillo pad. I say it is a “rust-like layer” because it looked like rust, but I am not 100% sure. Maybe it was mineral deposits, but it was reddish-brown like rust.
    I started using purchased spring water (in the large multi-gallon bottles – not the small, thin, individual bottles) and have had no issue with my kettle corroding. To what am I to attribute the corrosion? Chlorine levels? Deposits? My municipal water is not particularly hard, and I doubt hardness would cause rusting. While I am not convinced that bottled water is far superior to tap water, I am using it, for now. The mysterious stains on my kettle, plus the residuals from pharmaceuticals that do not get filtered out, and the possibility of old and leeching pipes, in my tap water is a concern. However, bottled water can be contaminated; is not as thoroughly monitored, and plastics are an issue, not to mention price. Having said all of this, I enjoy drinking Perrier, Pellegrino, and other sparkling mineral waters very much, and find them the most refreshing drink for me.
    I will keep paying attention to new reports on tap vs. bottled, and would appreciate any insight into better water supply information from chemists, biologists, environmental scientists, etc.

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