Tap water beats bottled water in numerous tests

Aaron Loudenslager

Students on college campuses across the country are pushing to ban the sale of bottled water in vending machines and eating establishments on their respective campuses, with the University of Vermont already succeeding in doing so.

In response, the International Bottled Water Association created a YouTube video to “help counter anti-bottled water activism on college campuses” and sent out a press release.

I watched the video to see why bottled water was so great. Afterward, I only found myself supporting the ban on the sale of bottled water on college campuses to an even greater extent.

The IBWA would like consumers like me to think we’re getting the best quality and price available for the bottled water we purchase. This is a farce.

In simple economic terms, buying bottled water is a rip- off. Consumers are charged 560 times more for bottled water than tap water. These bottled water corporations persuade us to believe their water is of a pure and high quality. Because of this, they think they can charge us more for bottled water than tap water.

What’s wrong with this? For starters, 47 percent of all bottled water comes from tap water resources. So, consumers are paying hundreds more for the same product, all so that it can come in a prepackaged bottle instead of an ordinary cup. This is economic exploitation.

The biggest lie IBWA put out in a Feb. 7 press release was that “bottled water is stringently regulated by the FDA to a safety standard higher than tap water.” According to Dr. Sarah Janssen, science fellow with the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Bottled water isn’t any safer or purer than what comes out of the tap. In fact, it’s less well-regulated and you’re more likely to know what’s in tap water.”

Dr. Janssen is entirely correct; tap water is regulated more strictly by the EPA than bottled water is regulated by the FDA. The EPA tests many large public water facilities for contaminants up to several times a day and requires tap water suppliers to publish a yearly Consumer Confidence Report, which describes their sources of water and any contaminants found.

On the other hand, the FDA only requires bottled water facilities to test for contaminants once a week, once a year or once every four years depending on the specific contaminant being tested for. Also, bottled water corporations are not required by law or any federal agency to tell their consumers if there has been a contaminant problem or issue in the past.

Even with these weak FDA regulations, we should feel good that all bottled water is at least regulated in some form. Right? Not exactly. FDA regulations exempt almost 60 percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. because the FDA claims its regulations do not apply to water packaged and sold within the same state.

By now, it’s clear that bottled water is less regulated than its tap water counterpart. But is bottled water less safe than tap water when it actually reaches your mouth?

The NRDC did a study of more than 100 brands of bottled water to see how safe they were to drink in comparison to tap water.

They found that nearly one-third of the bottled water brands they tested “violated an enforceable state standard or exceeded microbiological-purity guidelines.”

Although most bottled water brands were of good quality, this high amount of bottled water failing safety standards makes me worry for the health of my fellow citizens.

Besides the fact that bottled water is less regulated and far more expensive than plain tap water, the process of bottling water also harms the environment.

Only 23 percent of bottles will be recycled in the United States, including beverages besides water.

Not only does the low recycling rate of plastic bottles hurt the environment, the very production of these plastic bottles hurts the environment. According to the Pacific Institute, it takes an estimated 17 million barrels of oil equivalent to produce all the plastic water bottles in the United States. This is enough energy to fuel one million cars for an entire year.

Students want to ban the sale of bottled water on campuses for many reasons, such as enhancing safety and health, achieving social justice or helping the environment.

If the IBWA wants students to stop these anti-bottled water campaigns across the country, they must create videos and press releases with the truth about bottled water instead of spreading and sharing self-created propagated lies.