Americans spent over $10 billion on bottled water in 2009 because they’ve been led to believe that it’s safer and healthier than tap water, but this just isn’t true. Taking a holiday from bottled water this winter will give your wallet a welcome break. And, with a little research and some smart spending, you may find it easy and refreshing to kick the bottled water habit once and for all.
Consumer standards for tap water are actually more stringent than that for bottled water. In 1996, Congress required water utilities to notify the public about any contamination that may be present in drinking water supplies. From this decree, water quality reports were born.
Every year, your local drinking water utility publishes a report to help you make an informed decision about the water you and your family use every day. These reports tell you where your water comes from and if it contains any contaminants that might be linked to potential health problems. These reports are often mailed to consumers or are available online. If you’re having problems finding yours, contact your local water utility and they can help you track one down.
Of course, after you obtain your water report, you may have some questions about what it’s trying to tell you. Food & Water Watch has published a guide for this very purpose. Check out our Take Back the Tap Guide to Safer Tap Water for help decoding your water quality report.
The United States provides some of the cleanest water in the world, and more than 90% of all water systems meet all federal regulations. Nonetheless, some consumers may prefer to filter their tap water.
When it comes to filtration systems, you have many options. Smaller households may opt to purchase a carafe or “pour-through” filter that lives in their fridge and is refilled as needed. Carafes are inexpensive and easy to use, but only filter a small amount of water at a time.
Options also abound for those who require a filter that can handle larger volumes of water. Faucet-mounted and counter-top filters cost a little more than carafes, but are effective for filtering large quantities of water without modifying plumbing. For those who are interested in kicking the bottled water habit altogether and are willing to spend a little more, plumbed-in and whole-house filters can be installed directly into existing plumbing systems.
Each of these systems comes with their own advantages and disadvantages. Our guide to safer tap water can help you choose which one is best for you. You can also ensure that you’re getting the most for your money by consulting an independent organization such as Consumer Reports or the National Water Quality Association.
Of course, anyone concerned about the safety of their drinking water can do their part by not polluting our nation’s excellent supply. Many consumers are increasingly concerned about pharmaceuticals and other hormones in drinking water. Consumers should avoid buying products containing the pesticide triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in many soaps, detergents, dish-washing liquids, deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, anti-microbial creams and various toothpastes; it is also an additive in various plastics and textiles. You can also consult the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines for responsibly disposing of pharmaceuticals.