Bottled water is clean, mostly filtered water that is distributed or sold for consumption whilst packed and sealed in plastic bottles under sanitary conditions. The filtration process removes harmful constituents like trace contaminants so it is much safer than other sources of drinking water like tap water. Filtered water is generally tap water that has undergone treatment at the municipal level and has additionally been filtered to remove contaminants like trace elements to make it safer for drinking than tap water.
Although it is commonly believed that the common sources of bottled water are natural spring water, pristine mountain water, or groundwater, it is often not true because some suppliers of bottled water simply use tap water and undertake further filtration before being bottled. This phenomenon is sometimes a marketing gimmick to attract customers under the guise of buying pristine water. In many countries, it is mandatory to label the water bottles stating the source of the water and the concentrations of the different constituents in the water. In the United States, for instance, the water bottle industry is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that among other duties enforces that the water is safe to drink and the bottle is honestly labeled. Filtered water is basically the same as bottled water as they both undergo filtration as a last water treatment step before either being bottled and later consumed (bottled water) or consumed without packaging (filtered water).
The similarities between bottled water and filtered water are that they both undergo filtration before consumption. Another similarity is that the source can both be from municipally treated tap water before final filtration. From a health perspective, the taste, smell, and chemical characteristics of both filtered and bottled water are the same as they would have come out of the same final purification process.
On the other hand, bottled water and filtered water can have some differences. Scientific studies have unearthed that over time, plastic bottles can leach harmful chemicals into the contents of the sealed bottles with purified water thus altering the chemical composition of the bottled water. This phenomenon is not felt with filtered water since it does not get stored for long. Furthermore, the price of bottled water per unit is more expensive than filtered water because of the extra cost of packaging (plastic bottles). In contrast, filtered water is just collected using a water glass or reusable water bottle before consumption.
What is Bottled Water?
Bottled water is pretreated water originating from groundwater, springs, or tap water that is further filtered to levels that are very safe for human consumption and later packed and sealed under hygienic conditions in plastic bottles for consumption later on. The water gets filtered through one of several mechanisms like carbon filters, reverse osmosis, activated alumina filters, water distillation, or ion exchange to remove various impurities such that the water becomes safer for consumption.
The main sources of bottled water can be spring water, groundwater, or tap water whereas the main source of filtered water is tap water. Furthermore, bottled water is often regulated through labeling and the declaration of the water quality whereas filtered water is not subjected to such regulations. Due to the fact that bottled water can stay for months before use, some plastic bottles can leach harmful chemicals like plasticizers and endocrine disruptors into the water thus adversely altering the chemistry of the water which is not the case with filtered water.
What is Filtered Water?
Filtered water is tap water that is further purified to make it safer for drinking purposes. Basically, the quality of filtered water and bottled water is the same, especially where the source of the water is the same.
The fate of the final water product defines one of the differences between filtered and bottled water. Filtered water is often consumed at the site without repackaging (but perhaps with just refrigeration) whereas bottled water is first industrially packaged in plastic bottles before consumption offsite. Filtered water is often consumed perhaps within days after undergoing filtration as it is purified on demand whereas bottled water is not produced based on the need for urgent use and can be consumed a long while (weeks or even months) after packaging. Filtered water is cheaper than bottled water for the same volume of water because with bottled water, the price of the bottle is also included in the final price that the customers pay whereas with filtered water one just fills water in a glass or if it is a water outlet, the consumer brings a refill container such that he/she only pays for the water.
What are the differences between Bottled and Filtered Water?
There are a number of fundamental differences between bottled and filtered water as stated below:
- Source of water: Whilst tap water is the common source of water between bottled and filtered water, groundwater, spring, and mountain water are some of the other common sources of water used for bottled water.
- Cost: Bottled water is more expensive than filtered water because the consumer does not only buy water but also the plastic bottle such that the price of the plastic bottle is also factored in the final price that the consumer pays. In contrast, for filtered water, the water is cheaper because one does not pay for the container
- Packaging of purified water: The final purified water is either packed in plastic bottles (bottled water) or not packed at all for filtered water where one just collects the water that he/she intends to use from the faucet of the filtration system or pours the water from the pitcher filter.
- Time of use after filtration: With bottled water, the purified water is packaged and sealed under sanitary conditions such that the water can be used weeks or months after packaging. In contrast with filtered water, the water is collected or poured on demand, that is when it is needed for use such that the water cannot be used months after purification without being stored and packaged under sanitary conditions.
- Regulation: The packaging of bottled water is regulated such that the company or individual is supposed to test the water quality before packaging and label the water bottles whilst indicating the water quality for the sake of consumers. However, for filtered water, there is no requirement for labeling as the water is mostly for use at home, company premises, or for selling at water outlets where consumers bring their containers for refilling.
Which one is healthier, Bottled Water vs Filtered Water?
Although both bottled water and filtered have different health risks, filtered water is a healthier option among the two.
Scientific studies have unearthed that plastic bottles pose health risks to water users. Plastic bottles have been found to release plasticizers (additives used in plastics manufacturing), endocrine disruptors (like chemicals with estrogen-like activities in bottled water), and microplastics which pose serious health risks if consumed in water over time.
Any excess minerals and contaminants that might be in tap water like chlorine by-products, chlorine, the lead should get removed during purification when processing filtered water. As such, one needs to select the appropriate water filter that will address the local water problems.
In a nutshell, filtered water is a much healthier option because it avoids the health problems associated with plastics like plasticizers, endocrine disruptors, and microplastics. Additionally, the various filters like the water filter pitcher, faucet filter or countertop under sink filter, and so forth are able to remove any additional or residual contaminants that might have accumulated in tap water, thus making filtered water a much healthier and cheaper option compared to bottled water.
Can Refrigerator Filtered Water be better than Bottled Water?
Yes, refrigerated filtered water is overall better than bottled water because bottled water exposes water consumers to plasticizers, endocrine disruptors, and microplastics that are used in the manufacturing of some of the plastic bottles. These plastic bottle by-products can have health effects on people who drink water from such bottles.
Additionally, most refrigerator water filters are able to remove more contaminants like lead, chlorine, herbicides, mercury, and pesticides containing arsenic compared to what the purification systems used for bottled water are able to remove.
The use of bottled water is more expensive than the use of refrigerated filtered water. This is because, on top of the cost of water, the seller has to pass on the cost of the plastic bottle to the consumer. In contrast, one just gets refrigerator filtered water using a water glass or container from the dispensing unit thus eliminating the cost of the container.
The use of bottled water also adds to the pollution of the environment because the water bottles are intended for single use. Some consumers throw them away on the streets or in bins adding to the cost of waste removal and recycling. This does not happen with refrigerator filtered water.
Overall, the use of refrigerator filtered water is better than bottled water. To ensure that clean, safer, and pristine refrigerator filtered water is used, one just needs to replace the refrigerator water filters on time, that is, when the filter indicator shows that the filter needs to be replaced or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Can Home Filtered Water be better than Bottled Water?
Yes, home filtered water is better than bottled water. The main disadvantages of bottled water compared to home filtered water revolves around the presence of microplastics, endocrine disruptors, and plasticizers in some plastic bottles. These different constituents end up affecting the quality of bottled water in various ways which will eventually affect human health in different ways. Plasticizers are linked with carcinogenicity and reproductive system problems in humans. Endocrine disruptors increase or decrease normal hormone levels in humans or may mimic or interfere with the hormonal system of humans. Endocrine disruptors are responsible for alterations in infertility, abnormalities in sex organs, early puberty, and endometriosis among other hormonal effects in human beings. Although research on microplastics is still largely emerging, microplastics are linked with carcinogenicity, fetal brain development, and compromised brain development in children, neurotoxicity among other effects. In contrast, because home filtered water does not result in storing water in plastic bottles for long periods of time it means it’s a better option compared to bottled water from a health perspective.
The use of bottled water also contributes towards global warming and therefore has a higher carbon footprint compared to using home-filtered water. This is because carbon dioxide and methane are released in the various processes of production and transportation of the plastic bottles so they are not environment friendly compared to the water glasses or mugs that are reused many times when home filtered water is used.
Can Bottled Water Quality Change from country to country?
Yes, the quality of bottled water can vary from one country to the other depending on the source of the water used for bottling purposes and the water purification method used in the purification of the water before bottling.
If natural pristine spring water is used for bottling purposes without further purification, it is considered that it originated from groundwater or from the mountains where it traveled to the earth’s surface at the spring. As it moves through the different rock formations like limestone, it gets purified thus removing some contaminants whilst retaining some beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium. Different rocks have different compositions of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Likewise, the same type of rocks in different geographical locations can have different compositions of the minerals found in water. As such spring water originating in different geographical locations (countries) and moving through rocks (of the same type or not) but with different compositions of the same minerals will result in different water qualities. Therefore, spring water originating from or traveling through the same or different rocks will have different water quality.
Where spring water or tap water is further purified before bottling, the water quality of the bottled water depends on the purification method used and the drinking water quality guidelines (DWQG) used in the respective countries. Some countries have stricter DWQG than others such that the final water quality will be different.
Overall, the quality of bottled water is expected to be different from one country to the other because of the factors discussed above.
Can bottled spring water be healthier than home water?
In order to factually compare whether spring water is healthier than home water, there needs to be a determination of whether the spring water has been further purified or not before bottling.
Where the spring water is just bottled without further purification, the bottled water might not be healthier than home water. This is because it might have higher concentrations of minerals and contaminants than are necessary for human health such that bottled water might not be healthier than home water.
In cases where the natural spring water is further treated before bottling to comply with the DWQG, the treatment process will have removed the harmful contaminants and reduced the excess minerals so that they are within the limits allowable for DWQG. Under those circumstances, the bottled spring water might be healthier than the home water which often picks up constituents like lead in the transmission pipes and has residual chlorine which are elements that adversely affect the health status of the water.
Do Water Filter Brands affect the quality of filtered water?
Yes, water quality filters have a bearing on the quality of filtered water. The same type of water filter like carbon filter made by different manufacturers purifies water to different levels. A water filter of a certain brand might be capable of totally removing certain contaminants yet a water filter of a different brand might only be able to reduce the concentration of the contaminant in question without totally removing it. Therefore, yes, the ability to totally remove or reduce the concentrations of certain contaminants in filtered water affects the quality of the final filtered water differently.