It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it happened, but sometime over the past decade or so, the general population of this country formed a belief that bottled water is better than tap water—safer and healthier, too.

It’s possible that the trend started in 1976 when the chic French sparkling water, Perrier, was introduced to the world. There it was elegantly bottled in its emerald green glass in an era of glitz and excess. Who could resist? What could be more blatant than to package, sell and consume what most of us in the western world consider a basic human right easily supplied through the convenience of a home faucet?

It is pretty ingenious how the bottled water industry has convinced millions of people to pay between 240 and 10,000 times more to purchase water in a bottle than to get it from the supply we’re already paying for that comes out of the taps in our homes!

TAP WATER IS CHEAPER

These days a 16-ounce bottle of “spring” water goes for about a dollar, which works out to about $8.00 a gallon—twice the cost of milk, and about par with bottled soft drinks. Home delivery of water in those great big, heavy bottles is less per gallon but still around $40 a month, according to online averages.

The average household cost for town water in the U.S. is $ .66 per cubic meter, which is 265 gallons or 4,240 eight-ounce glasses of water—enough to last the average person 530 days (consuming eight 8-ounce glasses per day). Another way to price it: Sixty-two eight-ounce glasses of water cost about 1 cent.

It appears people really love their bottled water, today there are dozens of brands and that merits big advertising! In 2013 alone, Americans drank 58 gallons of bottled water per capita.

With the help of advertisements, bottled water has gone from reservoir to faddish luxury item to mass commodity.

Bottled water is being directly or indirectly sold as: healthy, smart, pure, sexy, clean and simple, it is “the stuff of life.” Ad slogans go like Dasani by Coca-Cola: “Treat yourself well. Everyday.” Volvic: “Fills you with volcanicity.” Aquafina by Pepsi-Cola: “So pure, we promise nothing.” Arrowhead by Mountain Spring Water, USA: “Arrowhead. It’s Better Up Here!” Evian: “Approved by your body as a source of youth.” Pure Life by Nestle: “Drink better, live better.”

TAP WATER IS SAFER

This may startle you, but it is absolutely true: Tap water is safer than bottled water. How could that be? The reason is simple:

The water supply in the U.S. is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under very strict guidelines and rules that are heavily enforced.

Bottled water is subject to FDA rules, which are far less stringent. For example, tap water by law requires disinfection. Testing for bacteria must be conducted hundreds of times per month.

Bottled water, on the other hand, is not required to be disinfected; the frequency of bacteria testing is fewer than five times each month.

There have been controversies about chemicals leaching into the water from the soft plastic material of bottles, but the FDA determined the containers “do not pose a health risk to consumers.”

TAP WATER IS HEALTHIER

Tooth decay in children is making a big comeback. The culprit? Bottled water. It’s not the water that’s causing the decay, according to the World Dental Congress. It’s the lack of fluoride.

Parents believe they are giving their children a superior product in bottled water, but in fact they are depriving kids of the fluoride and minerals they need to build healthy teeth and bodies.

Despite all of the controversy, fluoridation, present in most public water supplies, has become recognized as a key intervention in tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association.

So, the next time you feel thirsty, don’t reach for a bottle. Instead turn on the tap. You’ll be drinking water that is just as safe—or safer—than bottled water and saving money, too. Get the kids to switch and you just might head off big dental bills down the road as well.

Don’t like the taste of your tap water? Invest in a filter pitcher or dispenser; install an inexpensive faucet filter or a reverse osmosis system. Taste comes from negligible amounts of minerals. Filtered tap water removes minerals and chemicals rendering it with no hint of aftertaste, even at room temperature.

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