Articles from April 2015



Big Water

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“All water is holy water.” Rajiv Joseph, Animals Out of Paper

Our water filter purification system at work went on the fritz recently, and I was shocked — shocked, I tell you — by the number of my co-workers who refused, even temporarily, to drink the tap water directly from the faucet citing either (a) its bad taste or (b) its questionable safety. This prompted a tirade from me about how if no one was going to use our tap water for drinking, we should let Mexico have it, because they would be thrilled, and that it was pointless to keep it up to FDA standards if we were going to use it solely to flush down the toilets of this great city. This tirade, like most tirades, convinced no one. Even so, I can’t quite let it go.

Bottled water companies have hoodwinked the public, solving a problem that doesn’t exist. For one thing, tap water is more heavily regulated than bottled water. According to the Environmental Working Group, which has studied millions of records from 45 U.S. states, about 44% of bottled water comes directly from the tap, anyway, some of it with no additional filtering. Even if it is filtered, it’s almost always difficult to find out exactly which “contaminants” are being filtered, and why. The upshot of which is: you could be spending 1900 times as much money on your water simply because it comes in a bottle. You can see this list to see how your local municipality compares to others, and what potential contaminants there might be.

What about taste? I concede that I, too, drank the water from the purification system (provided by ChungHo, a company I find dubious based on their Facebook feed citing a Vanilla Ice song alone) because it tastes more refreshing than the straight tap, though I suspect some of its good taste comes from its chilly temperature alone. Variation in local plumbing may account for this. However, study after study shows that people often can’t taste the difference, such as one by Good Morning America showing New York tap was far tastier than any of the bottled water options.

You don’t live in New York? A 2011 study at Boston University which recruited 67 students to drink both tap and bottled water showed that only a third of them could identify which was bottled, a third thought the tap was the bottled water, and the remaining third had no opinion. Correct me if I’m wrong, statisticians, but those results would be the same as random guessing. And what about health considerations? The Earth Sciences department tested both the Vermont Pure and the tap water and found they both met FDA guidelines, though the bottled water contained higher levels of magnesium and calcium, which can potentially affect flavor.

In fairness, I live in L.A., which does have some of our nation’s worst tasting water, and I ran across this BuzzFeed video in which a small but convincing sample size of participants could tell immediately the difference between L.A. tap and the other bottled water. So if you live here and don’t like the taste, you can always get a filter for your faucet or refill those multi-gallon jugs at the supermarket. Surely you can find some option that doesn’t mean buying bottle after bottle of an overpriced, life-giving beverage you can get for almost nothing, lining the pockets of Big Water.