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Rudi Kiefer: Most bottled water is no purer than tap water
Rudi Kiefer

“No life form on earth can exist without water.” This thought was ringing in my head as I was paying $4.39 for a bottle of water in the boarding area of Los Angeles airport. 

On occasions of this kind, there’s no choice. The TSA doesn’t permit beverages past the security stations. There’s no drinking fountain on the plane while we’re waiting for cabin service to begin. Passengers on flights from Mexico and some other countries are advised to order their drinks without ice because those cubes could have been made with unpurified water.

Luckily, at home we have an excellent alternative. By federal law, tap water in the U.S. is required to be of safe drinking quality. International guests are often reluctant to use it so I always demonstrate the fact to our incoming Chinese students by drinking a glass of water straight from the tap on the Brenau campus.

The notion that store-bought bottled water is somehow more pure is incorrect. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov), in charge of the bottled kind, requires that it must meet the same standards that the Environmental Protection Agency uses for tap water. 

It’s not the bottled product making rules for what comes out of the faucet; it’s the other way around. Unless labeled as “spring water” or “mineral water,” you may very well be paying for regular tap water in a plastic bottle with a pretty label.

If the advertisement promises “finest artesian water,” don’t expect an additional health benefit. Artesian water is from wells which flow naturally due to pressure from a rock mass that forces the liquid up from underground. It has nothing to do with quality or nutrition value.

Some years ago it was a fad to consume the “purest water possible.” Distilled water, or its chemical cousin, deionized water, is unhealthy to drink. In addition, it tastes awful. Distillation removes all minerals, making it an excellent choice to use in old-fashioned car batteries or mix with antifreeze for the radiator.

But the human body needs minerals. Drinking distilled water draws them from the body, opening the door for bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and a slew of others.

Enjoy the bottled spring water. If you want to do help reduce the mountain of plastic trash in landfills, tap water is an even better choice.


Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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