The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource: Part 3-Quantity Vs. Quality

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter
and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column
Published on 6/01/16, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Source: With hundreds of bottled water brands out there, and a large spectrum of prices, how does one choose a brand of bottled water? We provide insight to what makes a quality bottled water worth its price and how to evaluate a good deal on bottled water when you see one advertised.

Who would have thought we would be paying upwards of two and three dollars in some cases for a bottle of water when thirty years ago a person would just put a glass under their faucet and drink what came out of the pipe. It seems our society took clean fresh water for drinking for granted, and now because so many of local fresh water sources have been polluted, many of us have resorted to purchasing water from the supermarket.

So how good is that water that is on sale for $2.99 for a case of (24)-16 ounce bottles, and why is it that some waters are priced above that for just one bottle? How do we make buying decisions on the quality of water we choose to put in our bodies, or it is purely economics that dictate our buying decisions. With so many brands and selections, how does a consumer choose the right bottled water?

The bottled water industry is a $9 billion dollar industry, with Pepsi’s Aquafina being the largest in the business, followed by Coke’s Dasani; and then Nestlé’s Poland Spring are the top three brands; however are you getting what you think you are getting when you purchase product from the large brands? Is a good deal or a good price really the value that is perceived?

First you have to consider the very source of the water, in where it comes from.  Most of the cost effective, or in some consumers’ minds, “cheap” water, is nothing more than filtered and refined municipal water; meaning water that comes from public sources and companies pay for access to these water sources.

There is much brand confusion which tricks consumers to think that these waters come from other sources; for instance some of these waters may be labeled with packaging that shows ice caps or mountain springs or rivers, when in fact when you read the fine print, the truth is revealed that the water comes from municipal sources. Other wording such as “natural” and “purified” create the illusion that these waters are as of high quality as some of their competitors. So to know exactly what you are getting, a consumer must know the difference in the types of waters that are available and the quality of their sources.

Some of the best water comes from Artesian well. This is water that comes from a contained isolated source from deep beneath layers of rock and sand. The water is above the actual water aquafer, and is not influenced by any man made water sources such as municipal water wells. Waters that fall into this category include H2O Energy Flow and Fiji water. This water is viewed as some of the best water a consumer can buy. Usually these sources are well protected and are miles away from any industrial, commercial, and/or residential zones.

Purified water is water that has passed through extensive filtration process. Other names for water in this category might also be seen as distilled water, deionized water, or purified drinking water. Most of these waters come from municipal water sources, which are processed through large commercial filtration systems. These systems usually comprise of both mechanical and chemical filtering processes. This is the lowest quality of bottled water a consumer can purchase.

Mineral water is water that contains minerals and trace elements from its natural source. No minerals and or chemicals can be added to this water. All minerals must be disclosed and this water must be monitored on a regular basis. No more than 250 parts per million may be detected in this water before it must be purified.

Drinking water is just another marketing practice of saying bottled water. This water must pass the sniff test for humans to be able to consume this water, outside of using it for other purposes such as cooking, bathing, or laundry. Sweeteners and chemicals are highly prohibited from being added to these waters. Sometimes you will see flavors added to these waters, however the trace amounts of flavoring is so minimal so it can remain bottled water and not as a soda or juice.

Some waters have a balanced pH. PH in science is a measurement and formula for calculating acidity and alkaline conditions.  The most ideal balanced condition is a pH of 7.8. Other trace minerals to keep in mind that are important for the body are calcium and magnesium. Waters that contain these trace minerals are usually considered higher end water.

Other indicators that a water source is pure and of higher quality is that the label of the product will provide additional information including whether or not the water is arsenic free, chlorine free, BPA free, MTBE free, chromium 6 free, and trace pharmaceuticals free. These are items you typically could expect to be in water that comes from municipal sources.

Now that you have the low down on the types and qualities of bottled water, now you have to decide whether water is a cost or an investment. If price is the most important factor in your buying habits, then you most certainly will not be getting the top shelf best quality water available. When you look at such a valuable commodity such as water as a cost, you are automaticity shutting out any product information available about which water is actually better for you. If you see your buying habits as investments, it demonstrates that you are willing to pay a little more for quality. As the consumer, ultimately, the choice is yours, just know the value you are getting when you chose price over quality.

Other alternative water supplies that an individual can consider which have grown in popularity over the past few years in include the collection of rain water; where rain barrels have been set up to collect runoff water for garden irrigation, washing cars, and property maintenance. Cisterns and cistern systems have also made a comeback. These types of systems consist of large tanks or sealed reservoir systems that collect water from rain water, snow melts, runoff, and/or fountains; where water is redirected into these storage tanks. These systems can be simple where the water is for non-human consumption (irrigation, washing of cars, clothing, etc.), and is either not filtered or filtered minimally. Some systems are significant in nature and are outfitted in partnership with commercial filtration units so that the water can be used for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

Many homes in America have their own well water; where a well is either dug and/or drilled until the drilling rig hits an aquifer or water source. A pump is placed in the well, usually powered by electric, which pumps the water to the top of the well for distribution of the water to faucet. Homes located in rural areas usually have some sort of well for water source. The only cost in this source is the maintenance and powering of the actual well equipment, unless the water is considered “hard water,” meaning the water contains hard heavy metals such as iron. In this situation, a filtration system is added to purify the water to be more palatable.

But what price can you put on the most important natural resource known to man? What is the price one is willing to pay to sacrifice clean fresh drinking water sources?  No matter the situation, we all have a responsibility to keep our lakes and rivers free of pollution and garbage; we all have a responsibility to be mindful not to damage or pollute ground water sources. Our very next glass of water counts on it.