Tap Water vs. Bottled Water: Which Is Better?

Bottled water consumption has increased significantly in recent years as it is considered safer and tastier than tap water.

In the United States, each person drinks approximately 114 liters of water per year (1).

Because of environmental concerns and potential health effects, many people wonder whether tap water is better.

This article compares tap water and bottled water to help you decide what to drink.

Tap water, also called communal water, comes from large wells, lakes, rivers or reservoirs. This water is usually passed through a water treatment plant before being sent to homes and businesses (2).

While contaminated drinking water is a problem in some regions, tap water is generally safe, convenient, and environmentally friendly.

Security may vary depending on your location

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world (3).

US public tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is responsible for determining and setting legal limit values ​​for potential contaminants in drinking water in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) (4, 5).

Currently, the EPA has set legal limits for over 90 contaminants, including heavy metals like lead and microbes like E. coli (6).

Nevertheless, drinking water can still be contaminated. For example, certain regions may be more exposed to toxins, e.g. B. industrial pollutants or bacteria from agricultural runoff (7).

In addition, old pipelines can bring in pollutants like lead, and natural disasters like floods can temporarily pollute public water systems (7).

Many public health organizations also claim that the EPA’s current limits for certain toxins are not strict enough.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), US water regulations have not been updated in nearly 20 years. As a result, certain toxins can harm vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women (8).

While the EPA requires water utilities to submit annual quality reports, individuals can also view contamination reports for their local water supply in the EEC’s tap water database.

In addition, water filters at home can improve the safety of your tap water (3).

Note that the EPA only monitors public water sources. If you get your water from a private well, it is your responsibility to have it checked for safety.

Tastes just as good as bottled water

Bottled water is often said to taste better than tap water.

However, when doing blind taste tests, most people cannot tell the difference between tap water and bottled water (9, 10).

Tap water generally tastes the same as bottled water. However, factors such as the mineral content or the type and age of your water pipes can affect the taste.

The environmental impact is much lower than in bottles

Before it reaches your home, water is stored in a treatment facility, where it goes through several processes to remove potential contaminants. Chemicals can be added during disinfection to kill remaining microbes and protect them from germs (3).

After drinking water from a glass, you will likely either hand wash the glass or wash it in the dishwasher.

All of these steps consume chemicals and energy, which has an environmental impact. Nevertheless, the overall environmental impact of tap water is significantly lower than that of bottled water (11).

In addition, tap water does not require plastic or other disposable containers that can land in landfills.

Inexpensive and convenient

Perhaps the greatest advantages of tap water are its low cost and convenience.

It’s easy to fill a reusable bottle with tap water before heading out the door. Tap water is also available in restaurants, bars, and public drinking fountains – and almost always for free.


While quality can vary by region, tap water is generally safe, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly.

Bottled water comes from a variety of sources.

Some products are made from bottled tap water only, while others use fresh spring water or some other source.

Bottled water from underground sources generally has a label that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) such as: B. (12):

While some people believe that bottled water is safer, better tasting, and more convenient than tap water, some concerns involve safety and the environmental impact.

May contain microplastics

Unlike tap water, which is regulated by the EPA, bottled water is monitored by the FDA. The FDA’s safety and quality requirements for manufacturers include (13):

  • the use of hygienic conditions for processing, filling, storage and transport
  • Protecting the water from contaminants such as bacteria and chemicals
  • Implementation of a quality control for further protection against chemical and microbial contaminants
  • Sampling and testing of both the spring water and the end product for contamination

While bottled water is occasionally recalled due to contamination, it is generally considered safe.

However, some products may contain very small pieces of plastic called microplastics (14).

Animal studies and other research suggest that microplastics act as endocrine disrupting chemicals, promote inflammation, have negative health effects, and build up in organs such as the liver, kidneys, and intestines over time (14, 15, 16, 17).

In a 2018 study, 11 widely used mineral water products from 9 countries were tested. It was found that 93% of the 259 bottles examined contained microplastics. This contamination was partly due to the packaging and the filling process itself (18).

Differences in taste

Most people can use blind taste tests to differentiate bottled water from tap water (9, 10).

However, the taste of bottled water varies widely depending on the water source and packaging. For example, mineral water has a different taste depending on the type and content of the minerals present.

Some people also prefer carbonated or flavored water because of their unique taste.

Less environmentally friendly than tap water

One of the main disadvantages of bottled water is its environmental impact.

From treatment and bottling to transportation and cooling, bottled water requires large amounts of energy.

In fact, 1.8 billion kg of plastic was used in bottled water production in the US in 2016 alone. The energy input required to generate this amount corresponds to 64 million barrels of oil (19).

In addition, it is estimated that only 20% of plastic water bottles in the US are recycled. Most end up in landfills or in bodies of water (1).

This is particularly problematic as plastic bottles have been shown to release toxins as they break down (20, 21, 22).

To minimize the environmental footprint of bottled water, some communities around the world have banned the sale of single-use plastic water bottles.

In addition, some companies have investigated making bottles from biodegradable materials, which may have less of an impact on the environment (23).

Expensive but convenient

Studies show that one of the main reasons consumers choose bottled water is because it’s convenient (24).

Whether you are on the go or on the go, mineral water is available in many shops.

However, this convenience comes at a high cost.

A gallon (3.8 liters) of tap water costs approximately $ 0.005 in the U.S., while the same amount of bottled water obtained from combining bottles of water with one serving costs approximately $ 9.47 (18).

Not only does this mean that bottled water is more expensive than milk and gasoline, but it is almost 2,000 times more expensive than tap water (18).

Still, some individuals may find that the cost is well worth the convenience.


Bottled water is convenient and generally safe, but more expensive and less environmentally friendly than tap water. In addition, the microplastics in some products can pose a health risk.

Overall, both tap water and bottled water are considered good means of hydration.

However, tap water is generally a better option because it is just as safe as bottled water but costs significantly less and has a much lower environmental impact.

With a reusable water bottle, tap water can be just as convenient as bottled. You can even add fresh fruit to create your own flavored water.

If safety or water quality is your primary concern, consider purchasing a filtration system or filter jug ​​instead of buying bottled water regularly.

Even so, there are times when bottled water is better, especially if your drinking water supply is contaminated.

In addition, certain population groups, e.g. Such as those with compromised immune systems, may buy certain types of bottled water or boil tap water before drinking it (25).


Tap water is generally better than bottled water because it is cheaper and has a lower environmental impact. However, bottled water may be required in certain circumstances.

Although tap water and bottled water have both advantages and disadvantages, tap water is generally a better option. It is cheaper, more environmentally friendly and contains less microplastic.

In addition, most people cannot taste the difference between the two.

You can use a home filter to improve the water quality or add watermelon or cucumber slices to add flavor.

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