Is Bottled Water A Scam?

Bottled water is a controversial topic. Some people refuse to touch the stuff, while others drink nothing else. Many have wondered whether bottled water is worth the often significant extra expense or if it's just another food scam.

To be sure, there's no definitive answer, with both supporters and detractors making relevant points. Those opposed argue that bottled water has its roots in an earlier era when municipal or public water sources weren't always sanitary or readily available. This became especially important in the 19th century as large cities around the globe expanded far faster than before. However, advancements in municipal sanitation and filtering technology in the early 1900s, combined with new federal oversight of water quality, brought tap water up to a far better and healthier standard. Today, bottled water could potentially be less safe than tap, as the latter is legally required to undergo extensive regular testing, while the former is not. In some cases, those who've investigated where bottled water comes from have found that municipal water is sometimes the source of "purified water" that's then put through extra filtration and adjusted for taste.

More reasons to doubt bottled water

In other cases, bottled water emerged as a result of scientifically dubious health claims involving drinking from mineral springs or other natural water sources. Bottling allowed enterprising businesses to bring this supposedly healthful water to those in cities or other locations distant from the source itself. Of course, these claims have been largely disproven as marketing gimmicks, striking another blow at the value of bottled water.

Nevertheless, some may be convinced by the arguments in favor of opting for bottled water over tap. This is the case in parts of the world where municipal water treatment isn't as robust or reliable. Taste can also be a factor. Tap water taste can vary dramatically from one water system to another and may not always match everyone's preferences. Others enjoy the convenience of grabbing a bottle when they're on the go that they can toss out or recycle. While this is undoubtedly true, it may not be worth considering the tremendous waste and the extra expense.

While "scam" may be a bit harsh, there's no denying many of the arguments for bottled water are weak from a health and safety standpoint. With all this in mind, if you still choose to hydrate with bottled water for taste or other reasons, be sure to review our list of bottled water brands, ranked worst to best.