Friday, January 8, 2010

Filtered Tap Water Quality vs. Bottled Water

I've been drinking filtered tap water for about two years now, and beyond the initial research on finding a good tap water filter, I haven't thought much about the quality of the water coming out of the tap. I also haven't heard much news in the bottled water world, so I thought I'd provide some statistics to what's going on in that front. With the economy, bottled water must have taken a hit.

* In 2009, approximately 86% of water bottles were thrown away, leaving 14% recycled.

* More than 17 million barrels of oil -- enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year-- are needed to produce the plastic water bottles sold in the United States annually.

* Nestle's food and beverage group to post a decline in global sales during the first half of the year, down 2.9 percent because of weakness in the United States and Western Europe.

(Source: Washington Post.)

This is great news for environmentalists who have been lobbying for change in the bottled water market for years, and it's finally happening. Whether it's that people are making changes because tap water is essentially free (and we're in an economic downturn) or because they feel bad about throwing away plastic... well, it's probably more because of the free factor. Nevertheless, it's a great stride towards less plastic ending up in landfills.

While in most towns the tap water quality is just fine for drinking, there are some places that haven't fared so well. The New York Times recently published an article on the bogus water quality in towns near Los Angeles, as well as other major cities. From what the article states, "...the rate at which companies and other workplaces have dumped pollutants into lakes and rivers has significantly accelerated, according to an earlier analysis by The Times of the Clean Water Act." While some headway was made by the EPA to get stronger regulations on clean tap water, the movement has slowed, while pollutants have risen. In particular, arsenic and perchlorate, two very dangerous chemicals scientists have linked to cancer, are present in many water supplies. While the EPA has been fighting for change to have these chemicals regulated, the government has fought back because of high costs.

The real question is, who is to blame, the people putting the contaminants there in the first place, or the people who are supposed to be filtering our water? In any case, water quality isn't changing overnight, and bottled water simply isn't held to the standards that tap water is for disinfection and bacteria testing.

The next logical thing to do is to start filtering your own tap water. Some of the most recent water filters to receive good reviews from Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, and The Green Guide are the PUR CR-6000 Pitcher, PUR FM 9400 Faucet Filter, and the Culligan US EZ 4 Under Sink Filter. Installing any of these water filters will remove 99.9% of microbial cysts in the case of PUR, reduce lead, mercury, chlorine, and overall just taste better than water straight from the tap. You'll also still be saving loads of money compared with bottled water. One of the things I like about using filtered water now is that I don't have to lug around huge jugs of water in the grocery cart (you can go through bottled water amazingly fast in the heat of summer!).

I use the PUR DS-1800Z 2-Stage Water Dispenser, which fits in the fridge nicely, and doesn't take up too much room. We also don't have to fill it up as often as the pitcher. If you have a really thirsty family, two of these will fit in your fridge on each side. I've been really happy with this filter, and it seems to filter the water better than BRITA. We order replacement filters on Amazon every six months or so, which is very convenient. One tip: be sure to soak the filters in some water before use to rinse off some of the filtration matter. All in all, I'm happy with these and I'm not going back to bottled water anytime soon.

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