The battle of bottled water vs tap water is over, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the supermarket shelves. Despite the $100 billion dollars in global bottled water sales, it turns out that most of us are far better off turning on the faucet and drinking for free.

If you drink bottled water because you think it’s safer, you should know that it’s actually less regulated than tap water, according to Consumer Reports. Public water supplies must be regularly tested for contaminants via certified labs; bottled-water companies don’t need to use certified labs, or even report the results of their safety tests. And when Consumer Reports did their own testing, they found that 80 percent of 5-gallon water jugs left residue of the chemical BPA, a hormone disruptor.

Obviously, not all tap water is perfect; CR also found contaminants like heavy metals in municipal supplies. But ultimately, the research shows that you’re about as safe drinking from the tap as from the bottle — even though bottled water costs much more.

Bottled Water Pollution

In the United States, we go through roughly 50 billion plastic water bottles every year. Most of the empties aren’t recycled, which means they wind up in landfills, natural landscapes, rivers and ponds. So the same bottle that’s supposed to protect us from “impure” water actually makes our natural drinking sources more toxic.

What’s more, producing and filling plastic bottles takes energy, as does getting them to the store. In a recent report, the World Wildlife Foundation said that 1.5 million tons of plastic are used for bottled water every year. And billions of gallons of bottled water are shipped to other countries, causing massive fuel waste.

If, like me, you live in an area with less-than-pristine tap water, the best solution is to use a water filter. I use a pitcher filter to remove any Southern-California sludge from my faucet, and my water tastes fresh and delicious. Many bottled-water manufacturers also simply filter tap water, and then sell it to you for 1,000 times the price. Pshaw.

Instead of fearing our tap water, we Americans should really be afraid of the money-sucking corporations whom we’re paying for a false sense of security. By pushing bottled water on the public, beverage companies are hurting the planet that belongs to all of us — not to mention harming our health with plastic toxins. So the next time you’re thirsty, take a trip to the kitchen sink, and not the corner store.
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