The Cost of Bottled Water
Let’s assume that bottled water costs $1 per bottle. Maybe less if you buy it in bulk. That’s not that much, right? And water is good for you, an essential component of life itself, so it’s totally justified, right?
Once you see the math (and some other interesting facts), you might find it a bit harder to justify.
Unless you live or are traveling in a country that does not yet have potable drinking water (and there are surprisingly still plenty of them out there), you really have no reason to drink bottled water. Most of us know that the cost of drinking bottled water vs. tap water will never work out in your favor. However, the exact extent of the price disparity isn’t so clear. When you see the math, it will likely shock you.
The Cost of Tap Water
I recently got curious as to how much tap water I was actually consuming, which led me to doing this cost comparison. I discovered that my city provides an online water usage rundown. My city water bills measure water usage in CCF’s. What is CCF? It’s a unit measurement of water that is equivalent to 100 cubic feet of water. Distilling that down to units we can all relate to:
- 1 CCF = 748 gallons of water
- 748 gallons of water = 95,744 ounces of water
- 95,744 ounces = 4,787 bottles of water
- Basically, 1 CCF = 4,787 bottles of water
- What does 1 CCF cost? $2.10!
That’s right – 4,787 bottled waters could be filled with tap water for $2.10! So every time you buy a bottle of water for $1, you are paying 2,279 times what you would if you filled that same bottle with tap water.
If most of what you drink is bottled water, assuming you drink 64 oz. of water per day, you’d consume a little under three 20 oz. bottles of water per day. Those 3 bottles per day would cost you $3/day or $1,095 per year. That same 1,095 bottles filled with tap water would cost you $0.48 PER YEAR. Another way to look at it is that as soon as you buy your first bottle of water, you’ve already spent double what you would for an ENTIRE YEAR of tap water. Wow.
Bottled Water Vs. Tap Water Purity
OK, so we’ve made the cost argument. But how about the purity argument? I hate to burst your Utopian fantasies of crisp icy glaciers, polar bears, and trickling mountain streams, but it’s mostly just the same stuff. According to ABC News, most bottled water is just reprocessed tap water:
Big-selling Dasani and Aquafina are just reprocessed tap water from cities around the country. One of Aquafina’s sources is the Detroit River!
(source: Is Bottled Water Better than Tap)
And as a matter of fact, tap water is actually held to higher purity standards than bottled water is, in the United States. Tap water is regulated under the EPA’s Safe Water Drinking Act (SWDA), while bottled water is regulated under less stringent standards by the U.S. FDA’s Federal Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act.
Can the differing standards really result in a less pure bottled water? According to one bottled water purity comparison study of 25 different bottled waters, most of the samples resulted exceeding the contaminant level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for mercury, thallium, and thorium. None of those bottles would have passed the tap water SWDA standards. And don’t forget about all of the BPA that comes from the bottle itself.
Bottle Water Versus Tap Water Taste
Surely, surely, you can’t tell me that tap water tastes better than bottled water? Can you? I can.
In a blind water taste test by Good Morning America, New York City tap water came out the clear favorite among testers:
- New York City Tap: received 45% of the vote
- Poland Spring: received 24% of the vote
- O-2, Oxygenated Water: received 19% of the vote
- Evian: received 12% of the vote
And this test was no fluke. Time after time, tap water is rated as good or better tasting than bottled water blind taste tests.
Bottled Water Vs. Tap Water Conclusion
Tap water tastes as good, it’s as pure, it’s better for the environment, and it costs under 1/2,000th as much. You’d be justifiably crazy to pay for and drink bottled water, unless you had no other choice.