Bottled drinking water is packaged in plastic or glass containers for one-time use. When it comes time to dispose of empty bottles, only about 25% are recycled, and the rest end up in our landfills. While consumers may believe that bottled water is "safer" than tap water, this is a misconception: the quality of municipal tap water is regulated more tightly than bottled water in many ways. Tap water is roughly 750 — 2,700 times less expensive than bottled water on a per-gallon basis, for what is often an equivalent or better product. Some brands of bottled water even use municipal tap water as their source and subject it to minor treatment before bottling.
Impacts of Bottled Water
The environmental and social impacts associated with bottled water include:
Solid waste management burden caused by discarding bottles in landfills
Energy consumption during the manufacture, transport and refrigeration of bottles (the energy cost of producing bottled water is more than 1,000 times the energy cost of producing tap water)
Local impacts on the communities and environment surrounding groundwater extraction sites
What to Avoid
Here's what to avoid when buying bottled water:
Disposable, single-serving bottles meant for one-time use
Water that comes from a faraway source
Heavy glass bottles
Instead of bottled water, try these alternatives:
Reusable water bottles made of BPA-free plastic, aluminum or stainless steel, filled with tap water
If your municipal tap water has contamination problems, look for appropriate filters for your kitchen's faucets or filtering containers such as Brita or PUR systems
We recommend carrying a reusable water bottle and refilling it using tap water unless your municipal system has notified you it is having contamination problems. You can also find reports of water quality online at the Environmental Protection Agency website. If you would like extra assurance that your water contains few impurities, use a filter in your kitchen. If you must buy bottled water, make sure that it comes from a nearby source and is stored in lightweight containers outside of refrigerators. As always, be sure to recycle the container after use.