Bottled Water vs Filtered Water: Which is better for your health and wallet?

Bottled Water vs Filtered Water: Which is better for your health and wallet?

In the quest for the highest-quality and best-value water, choosing between bottled water and filtered water can be challenging. While bottled water may seem to have the upper hand due to its convenience and perception as a pure and healthy source of hydration, filtered water offers many advantages that deserve to be highlighted. So, which is better for your health and wallet: bottled water or filtered tap water? Let’s end the debate here with a fact-based comparison between the two.

Why is bottled water so popular?

Let’s start with a simple question: why do people actually prefer bottled water? First, public scandals and scares, such as the Flint Water crisis in Michigan, US (2014) and Walkerton in Ontario (2000), along with studies revealing the presence of harmful contaminants, have made consumers wary of tap water. This concern has been further amplified by aggressive marketing from the bottled water industry, promoting the perception of purity and safety by depicting wild sources in pristine mountains and refreshing waterfalls.

Subsequently, bottled water is perceived as safer and of higher quality than tap water. Furthermore, the growing emphasis on health is causing shifts in people’s drinking habits, with a decrease in the popularity of sodas and other sweetened drinks, driving even greater demand for bottled water.

As a result, the bottled water industry has experienced a 73% sales growth since 2010, and in Canada, the market has reached $843.4 million over the past five years, with an expected 3.4% increase in 2024.

Now, the real question is: is bottled water actually safer and healthier than water you can have through your tap, or is it only a matter of misconception, marketing, and money-making industry? To answer this question, let’s compare informed statements about bottled and filtered water regarding health.

The Battle for Health

How is Water Regulated?

To properly evaluate the health benefits of bottled water versus filtered tap water, it is essential to understand water regulation.

In Canada, public water is regulated by Health Canada, according to the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality​, which spell out the maximum levels of potentially harmful substances allowed in drinking water.

On the other hand, bottled water is classified as a food product and therefore falls under the Food and Drugs Act. Aside from arsenic, lead, and coliform bacteria, this act doesn’t establish specific limits on contaminants but simply states that bottled water cannot contain “poisonous or harmful substances”. Although bottlers claim to conduct similar water testing as municipal water suppliers, there is little accountability. This lack of oversight means there is no guarantee that manufacturers adhere to stringent testing standards. In summary, bottled water is a self-policing industry, where monitoring of water quality is essentially voluntary and internally regulated.

That said, it is important to recognize that water bottlers have taken steps to enhance safety regulations and transparency in the past decade. Still, municipal water suppliers have much stricter rules enforced by federal, provincial, and city authorities. Tap water must, by law, be disinfected, filtered to remove pathogens, and is typically tested much more frequently. The City of Toronto, for example, tests water samples every six hours, checking for more than 300 potential contaminants.

Finally, despite the perceived safety benefits, there is no guarantee that bottled water is any safer than tap water. Contaminated public water is a major concern for public safety with dramatic consequences, but there have also been cases of contaminated bottled water recalls. Additionally, studies have indicated that after just one week in storage, the total bacteria count in mineral water can increase by 1000-fold or more.

Microplastics and PFAS

Another major health concern is the water packaging. Most bottled water is packaged in plastic bottles that contain plasticizers such as phthalates, which can be harmful to health. These substances can leach into the water over time, breaking into microplastics that can be ingested by consumers. These particles contain endocrine disruptors, which can have negative effects on the endocrine system and lead to hormonal issues and cancer.

A study commissioned by OrbMedia in 2018 tested 259 bottles from 11 brands and found microplastics in 93% of the bottles. 90% of these particles were small enough to cross the gut and be assimilated by our cells. Tap water also contains microplastics, but the study has reported that bottled water samples contained nearly twice as many particles per litre compared to tap water.

Finally, both tap and bottled waters harbor a concerning group of chemicals called PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances). Also known as “forever chemicals”, they are linked to various health issues such as cancer, liver damage, and reduced fertility.

Water Filters: The Ultimate Solution to Bottled and Tap Water for Your Health

Although bottled water isn’t safer than public water, the latter may still contain residual chemicals and pollutants such as viruses, bacteria, arsenic, lead, copper, mercury, chlorine, and PFAS. These pollutants can enter the water through corroded water lines or other sources along the distribution process to our faucets.

This is where water filters come in: they offer a great alternative to both bottled and tap water by providing filtered tap water. These systems are designed to remove all the remaining contaminants in your water.

It’s important to note that not all water filters are the same. For instance, water pitchers can only remove certain contaminants like chlorine or zinc, but not bacteria or nitrates. There are more complete solutions available to meet different needs and provide extensive water filtration, the most comprehensive system being reverse osmosis.

In conclusion, filtered water is a healthier option compared to bottled water, as filtration systems can effectively remove contaminants that may remain in tap water even after strict treatment.

 Therefore, the first point of this match goes to filtered water. But who will win the round for cost?

The Battle for Cost: Bottled or Filtered Water, Who Wins?

Let’s dive into the cost considerations and see how each choice affects your wallet.

The Price to Pay for Drinking Bottled Water

Consider this: one litre of tap water in Toronto costs less than one-tenth of a cent, while bottled water ranges from 240 to 10,000 times more, or from $0.30 to $2.50.

Now, let’s illustrate this in terms of quantities.

Health recommendations suggest that you should drink eight glasses (64 ounces) of water per day. In a family of four, this totals around 7.5 litres daily. If you purchase the least expensive 7.5-litre water jug for $18 each day, this amounts to an annual cost of $6,570!

Another point of comparison, a 35-pack of 500ml Eska bottles at Costco may seem like a bargain at $9.99, equating to $0.28 per bottle. However, if your household consumes 4 litres of bottled water daily, you’d end up spending $730 per year by only purchasing the cheapest pack cases. Even pricier options, like a 12-pack of 1.5-litre bottles of Evian at $37 would cost $2,997 yearly.

Furthermore, the environmental cost of plastic bottled water cannot be ignored. Its production, transportation, and disposal contribute to plastic pollution and resource depletion. Small bonus, at least 45% of bottled water actually comes from public tap water sources. That’s right, you’re likely paying for tap water in a bottle. If you want to know about it, read our article here.

What About Filtered Water?

To get an idea of the cost of filtered tap water, let’s first review household water bills and consumption. Toronto families of three consume an average of 230 cubic metres of water annually, costing $1040 at current rates. That said, given that cooking and drinking combined is typically 10% of this total, the cost for drinking tap water alone is a mere $104 per year.

That means that you could save $6,466 compared to bottled water in the first example or anywhere from $626 to $2,893 compared to the second.

Now that we established tap water was much cheaper than bottled water, consider adding a water filtration system for the highest-quality water. A water filtration system may seem pricey upfront, but it’s a one-time investment that pays off in the long run. For example, the most advanced reverse osmosis system, priced at $990 including installation, would result in approximately $1,900 in savings compared to bottled water rates in just one year.

In conclusion, when assessing both financial and environmental factors, filtered water emerges as the most cost-effective choice. Another point for water filters!

To set the score in the Bottled Water vs Filtered Water match, transitioning from one to the other is one of the most beneficial and impactful steps you can take, leading to improved health, cost-effectiveness, and environmental impact.

Kent Water Purification Systems offers a wide range of water filtration systems to suit all your needs, from whole-house to under-sink solutions and for various purposes. Feel free to visit our website, contact us, or book a free water test – we’re here to help!

Schedule your FREE water consultation today!