The types of drinkable water are mineral water, tap water, purified water, distilled water, bottled water, alkaline water, flavored water, well water, hydrogen water, and spring water and they all possess different characteristics in terms of their origin, extraction, treatment, bottling, drinkability, benefits, and possible risks involved.
Mineral water is the type of water that is extracted directly from underground reservoirs without being chemically processed, although some mineral water does undergo processes such as the addition or removal of carbon dioxide gas and the elimination of harmful substances like arsenic.
Mineral water is healthy due to the fact that it contains minerals such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, bicarbonate, iron, zinc, and calcium. This rich mineral content helps with medical issues like high blood pressure, irregular blood circulation, bone weakness, and digestion problems. The benefits of mineral water also include healthier skin, replenished body fluids, and improved kidney health. However, mineral water has also been related to issues such as plastic toxicity, as the plastic bottles used to store mineral water contain bisphenol A, which is a chemical known to interfere with the body’s normal hormonal functions, as well as dental damage due to its lower pH level and acidic content.
Currently, 972 international and local companies offer more than 4,000 different types and brands of mineral water, utilizing the available 8,400,000 km3 of freshwater on Earth, with the top five countries that possess the largest quantities of freshwater being Brazil, Russia, the United States, Canada, and China with 8,233, 4,508, 3,069, 2,902, 2,840 km3 of reservoirs respectively. (mineralwaters.org, 2013) (USGS, 2010) (Wikipedia Contributors, 2019) (Global Industry Analysts Inc, 2021)
Tap water, or municipal water, is the water that is obtained from lakes, rivers, and groundwater sources and treated with processes of coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection before being supplied and distributed to the public through indoor plumbing networks. Tap water can be accessed through a tap and a water dispenser valve and is generally used for drinking, cleaning, flushing, and cooking.
Although tap water cannot be labeled as completely unsafe, contaminants such as aluminum, arsenic, copper, lead, iron, uranium, as well as pesticides and herbicides have been detected in it previously. The contaminants in tap water may have substantial side effects like liver damage, kidney disease, anemia, slowed physical and mental growth, premature birth, and cardiovascular complications.
Various pharmaceuticals have also been detected in tap water that can enter the reservoirs through sewage systems due to human excrement or flushing of medication down the toilet, with the added chlorine removing only half of the mentioned chemicals. The byproducts of the chlorination process, commonly referred to as DPS, have also been identified as causes for bladder cancer, reproductive, and developmental effects. This makes the regulation of the supply, distribution, and consumption of tap water an extremely important issue. Most people drink tap water because it is easily accessible and cheaper than other types of water but the mentioned risks and issues have to be taken into consideration as otherwise, consuming too much tap water might lead to significant health problems.
According to World Health Organization statistics, as of 2017, 71% of the global population, equating to roughly 5.3 billion people, had access to a safely managed drinking water service in their vicinity that could be accessed when needed, without constraints, and free from contamination. 90% of the global population, equating to approximately 6.8 billion people could access a basic drinking water service within 30 km of their location, while 785 million people lacked even the most basic drinking water service. (World Health Organization, 2019)
Purified water is groundwater or tap water that underwent filtration and processing to eliminate contaminants and impurities such as bacteria, algae, parasites, fungi, various types of metals, such as copper and lead, as well as numerous types of chemical pollutants. Water purification is carried out both by companies for commercial purposes and by individuals at their homes for residential purposes to make tap water or groundwater safe to consume, while both government regulation and international standards are applied to the process.
The treatment methods to form purified water include coagulation and flocculation, which refers to the addition of positively charged chemicals to filter out negatively charged particles known as floc, sedimentation, which is the removal of floc using its higher density than water, filtration, referring to the removal of contaminants by passing water through sand, charcoal, and gravel based filtration systems, and disinfection, which is the process of adding disinfectants such as chlorine to the water to eliminate bacteria and viruses.
Purified water is healthier than tap water because toxic materials such as heavy metals can still be found in tap water due to differences in the regulation that allows certain states to have lower standards than others, leading to issues like stomach distress and brain damage if tap water is consumed for long periods. Additionally, disinfectants such as chlorine that is found in abundance in tap water, are also prime causes of some types of cancer, like colorectal cancer. Numerous people prefer purified water over simple tap water or groundwater because it lacks the unfavorable tastes that result from chemical processing, the existence of organic matter in water, or transportation through metal plumbing parts.
Distilled water is boiled water that cools down to return to its original state, losing mineral residue during the condensation process as well as any bacteria, pesticide, or contaminant in it. Although distilled water is safe to drink, the mentioned process leads distilled water to lose important minerals such as calcium, sodium, and magnesium, and therefore distilled water is not necessarily healthy or tasty, as the lack of the mentioned mineral gives distilled water a bland taste.
When stored for a long term in plastic containers, distilled water can also absorb harmful chemicals from the plastic, which might have harmful effects on the human body and metabolism, necessitating the use of glass or stainless steel for such a purpose. It is generally not recommended to use distilled water as daily drinking water because it lacks crucial minerals that the human body obtains from drinking water.
Bottled water is generic drinking water, namely natural mineral water, spring water, or bottled drinking water, that has been packaged in plastic or glass bottles on site, coming from specific protected underground sources. Bottled water is generally considered to be microbiologically safe without being processed. State and international regulations are applied to the given process to ensure that a previously agreed upon and consistent chemical and physical composition is retained, the mineral composition is visible on the label, and no additional processing other than sand filtration is applied.
Bottled water can be in the form of still water or sparkling water as certain types of bottled water are either naturally or artificially carbonated, with the carbon dioxide gas giving such types of bottled water a certain type of fizz. Bottled water is safe to drink in most cases as long as the necessary regulations imposed by the national health ministry and food and drinks inspection agencies have been applied and the final product has been conclusively labeled as safe for human consumption following the national drinking water regulations.
As of 2018, roughly 100 billion gallons or 391 billion liters of bottled water were sold globally, with the United States consumers buying 15 billion liters of bottled water in 2020 alone, while Asian markets consumed approximately 40% of all bottled water. (Gelski, 2016) (Research and Markets Ltd, 2021) (Conway, 2021)
Alkaline water is water that has a higher pH value than regular water that forms either naturally as it passes over rocks in springs to pick up minerals that increase its pH level and make it alkaline, or is created through the chemical process referred to as ‘electrolysis’. The electrolysis process involves the use of an ionizer to raise the pH level of regular water to separate the molecules in water that create acidity and thus remove acidic water out of the solution. In certain cases, the reverse-osmosis process is applied to water before purification using an alkaline ionizer to raise its pH level and add certain minerals and the resultant alkaline water is thought to fight off health issues related to acidity in the human body.
Alkaline water is commercially available at numerous grocery stores, health food stores, and online retailers, while water ionizers can also be purchased at various venues legally. Some people make alkaline water at their homes as well, using lemon and lime juice that create alkaline byproducts when digested, or use pH drops as well as baking soda to make their water more alkaline. Although alkaline water is considered to be safe to drink by humans, most of alkaline water’s supposed health benefits are still debated. Alkaline water’s health benefits are the deactivation of pepsin and the resultant prevention of acid reflux, assistance with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, and the supposed capability to increase blood viscosity. Other claimed benefits of alkaline water include anti-aging properties, thanks to its high liquid antioxidant content that allows for easier absorption in the body, colon-cleansing functions, improved immune system activity, better hydration, skin health, and detoxification, resistance against cancer, and weight loss, but no scientific proof exists for the validity of such claims.
Consuming too much alkaline water has observable side effects on the human body as lowered stomach acidity loses its capability to kill bacteria and keep undesirable pathogens away from one’s bloodstream, while high alkalinity is also linked with gastrointestinal issues and skin problems. Consumption of highly alkaline water also creates a medical condition known as metabolic alkalosis that is responsible for a variety of different symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bodily tremors, and muscle twitching, and mental problems. Alkalosis is also linked with decreased free calcium in the human body that is crucial for bone health, leading individuals to experience long-term damage to their bones.
Between 2013 and 2018, the global alkaline water sales increased from 357 million liters to 635 million liters, with 96.6% of such sales taking place in Japan, and the rest taking place mainly in the United States. (Michail, 2020)
Flavored water, or infused water, is basic spring or purified water that has been enhanced with natural fruit flavorings and/or essences, offering hydration with a sweet and natural taste to the consumer. The process of flavoring water is carried out either by using sugar types such as high fructose corn syrup, cane syrup, and agave syrup that add calories to the water or with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame, which add no calories to the water. Either way, flavored water lacks substantial nutritious value and certain brands also add other materials such as artificial coloring, caffeine, vitamins, and herbal ingredients to their flavored water that can increase the vitamin B6 levels in the water, which is dangerous to human health.
Flavored water’s sodium content should be kept below 30 mg, as excessive sodium intake might contribute to high blood pressure, which in turn increases the chances of heart disease and stroke. Also, added sugar found in flavored water has also been linked with dental problems, such as tooth erosion. As for flavored water’s benefits, flavored water made from natural fruit extracts and essences has fewer calories than soda, which helps with weight loss, while flavored water made with artificial sweeteners has an equal amount of calories as a diet soda. Similarly, flavored water is recommended for children who are trying to switch from drinking high sugar drinks such as fruit punch, juice, or soda to plain water, acting as a stepping stone due to its calorie-free nature and desirable flavors and tastes that might replace the original flavor or taste of the mentioned high sugar content drinks.
According to a Zenith International Research Report, in 2015, 7.5 billion liters of flavored water were sold globally, with the predicted number reaching 9.5 billion liters in 2021. (Gelski, 2016)
Well water is groundwater that is extracted from underground aquifers using a pump or bucket through vertical shafts known as wells either through digging, driving, or drilling. Being one of the oldest types of drinking water, well water can be used for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and personal hygiene as long as the right precautions are taken. Most well water is not treated or tested by any regulatory institution and therefore those who use well water are expected to assess the quality and safety of their water supply by regularly testing and treating their water source.
Some of the most common problems associated with well water are water hardness, and high iron and hydrogen sulfide levels, while toxic chemicals such as nitrates, arsenic, and lead, organic chemicals and heavy metals, namely chromium, lead, and copper, as well as organic material such as germs and bacteria have also been found in well water. In some cases, excessive mineral content has been known to reduce water quality and functionality, with a prime example being iron that creates rust stains on dishes and clothes, while also adding a metallic taste to the water, as well as hydrogen sulfide which has been known to add an unpleasant odor to the water. Nitrate contamination in well water has been linked with methemoglobinemia, especially in babies who are bottle-fed, lower thyroid gland functionality, and certain types of cancer. Similarly, arsenic exposure from well water is also associated with certain types of cancer, irregularity in heart rhythms, blood vessel damage, nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, and problems with physical movement. The presence of coliform in well water bacteria has been identified as a prime cause of gastrointestinal problems and cases of acute and chronic toxicity, as well as liver, intestinal, and kidney damage, along with cases of anemia and cancer have been identified with drinking water with high-level heavy metal content.
The safety of drinking well water depends on how regularly and properly it is tested and whether the necessary precautions are taken to ensure that the above-mentioned issues are not experienced. Well, owners are strongly encouraged to pay attention to issues such as flooding and land disturbances, operations of nearby waste disposal facilities, and any updates that need to be made to their well systems.
Well water is located at random spots on Earth and it is a part of the previously mentioned and available 8,400,000 km3 of freshwater reservoirs on Earth.
Hydrogen water is regular water that has been enriched with extra hydrogen either by direct injection or through electrolysis to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen gases so that oxygen can be removed and extra hydrogen can be infused into the solution. Hydrogen is an element that has no odor or taste, making hydrogen water taste exactly like regular water but the manufacturers of hydrogen water claim that the extra hydrogen molecules in hydrogen water have benefits such as providing more energy to the drinker, reduction of inflammation, and slowing down of the aging process. To retain such benefits, hydrogen water is supposed to be consumed within 15 to 30 minutes of its bottle or can opening as hydrogen also quickly dissipates out of the solution.
While the mineral and vitamin content of hydrogen water depends on the origin of the original water that has been infused with hydrogen, certain manufacturers also infuse their product with additional minerals and vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium carbonate, magnesium sulfate, potassium, and sodium sulfate. Hydrogen water’s health benefits include helping to reduce side effects from radiation therapy, such as fatigue, hair loss, soreness, headache, nausea, and skin problems, reduction of recovery times after workouts, as well as reduction of oxidative stress leading to certain types of cancer thanks to its high antioxidant content and reduction of heart disease risk thanks to its inflammatory properties.
The only potential risk associated with consuming hydrogen water is hyponatremia, which occurs when kidneys cannot dispose of excess water, leading to the dilution of sodium content in the bloodstream and creating life-threatening situations. However, it should also be noted that hyponatremia occurs when intense amounts of water are consumed and thus usually it is experienced by athletes who drink large quantities of hydrogen water to stay hydrated and enjoy extra energy.
Several large-scale beverage companies such as Dr. Perricone’s, HTwo, HFactor, and HyVIDA are either selling 3$ per bottle products or tablets to be added to regular water and increase its hydrogen content. (Park, 2017)
Springwater is water that naturally rises to the Earth’s surface from an underground source without any human intervention and that is collected and bottled at the source before being filtered multiple times for particles and other undesirable elements. Springwater is usually appraised for its all-natural content that includes high concentrations of natural minerals that are vital to the human body, however, it is critical that spring water should be bottled at the source and should be living natural spring water, as numerous companies filter and bottle simple tap water to market it as natural spring water. Other benefits of drinking spring water can be listed as the provision of natural and much-demanded oxygen to the human body and brain, ease in digestion, maintenance of healthy weight, and all-natural and great taste.
The origin of spring water is rainfall that has soaked into the ground to become percolated within the rocks that lay underneath the soil, with permeable rocks such as limestone and sandstone housing the water within aquifers. When water becomes structurally trapped between two impermeable layers of rock, namely clay or shale, pressure builds up in the lower part of the aquifer and once such pressure reaches a critical threshold, it pushes the reservoir of water to the surface, acting as a natural pump and creating an artesian well. During the given process, spring water gains critical minerals in an all-natural environment, which makes it highly nutritious and tasty, leading most consumers to prefer spring water as daily drinking water.
Typical spring water contains vital minerals for human health such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, iron, and zinc at an optimal level and in all-natural and ionic form, making them easily absorbable by the human gastrointestinal tract. Springwater rich in magnesium and calcium has also been identified as a remedy for various heart diseases and osteoporosis, while spring water bottlers also seek to keep the sodium levels low in their water to ensure no complication is observed regarding medical conditions such as hypertension.
The global quantity sold for spring water brands and products also falls within the 100 billion gallons or 391 billion liters of bottled water market as of 2018, comprising approximately 20% of all such global bottled water sales. (Research and Markets Ltd, 2021)
Which Water Type is the Healthiest?
Springwater is the healthiest water type to be consumed as drinking water due to its all-natural and highly nutritious content, granted that it is bottled at the source without any processing involved. Due to its natural storage and extraction that requires no human intervention or technical involvement, spring water is an extremely clean type of water that wins over all the other mentioned types of water.
However, as discussed in previous parts of this writing, there are different benefits of consuming different types of water, such as drinking mineral water for mineral buildup, hydrogen water for energy, flavored water for less calorie intake than drinking soda, and drinking alkaline water for dealing with acid reflux, high blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well as diabetes. We also covered What are the Benefits of Drinking Water? in a separate article.
Individuals should prefer spring water as their daily drinking water but might resort to drinking other types of water if they have special conditions that demand the benefits of such water types.
Is It Necessary to Purify These Water Types?
It is generally recommended to purify tap water, which then becomes purified water, alkaline water, flavored water, and well water, due to purposes of hygiene, increased taste or purity, or for technical purposes, but no such recommendation or necessity exists for mineral water, bottled water, distilled water, spring water or hydrogen water.
Springwater is especially left untouched by any process to retain its nutrition and health qualities as during the previously described processes of water purification, namely coagulation and flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection, various new substances are introduced to or removed from the original water, changing the chemistry and composition of spring water which takes a long and natural process to be formed in nature.