By Jon M. Stout
As the overall safety of the public water supply is under scrutiny thanks to a recent Associated Press study that uncovered some disturbing contaminants, many consumers are likely finding themselves wondering if bottled water is better. For many, the facts about bottled water will make this the clear choice. The problem lies in deciding what kind of bottled water to select. Understanding the differences between purified water and spring water can guide consumers in the right direction.
While there are some distinct differences between purified and spring water, many find the overall benefits of bottled water in general make this option a smart one. The extra processing that most bottled waters are subjected to can help remove impurities that slip through the public water supply’s treatment and testing programs.
Basic Bottled Water Facts Consumers Should Know
Bottled water undergoes a great deal more regulation and scrutiny than many consumers realize. While it is not regulated by the same agency that oversees the public water supply – the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – it does receive government oversight. In the case of bottled water, the agency that insures strict standards are adhered to is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Many states also add their own layers of protection in regard to regulation.
The FDA itself puts rather high standards on bottled water produced within and/or sold within the United States. This agency demands that suppliers of bottled water, purified, spring or otherwise do the following things:
- Meet FDA standards – Bottled water companies must meet the FDA’s requirements for safety, quality and inspection. These are required in exchange for being able to sell products on the US consumer market. These standards, by law, are as strict as or stricter than those set by the EPA for public water systems.
- Properly label their products – The FDA demands, for example, that bottled water companies that use tap water without further processing clearly state so on their labels.
Beyond FDA regulations, many of America’s bottled water suppliers are members of the International Bottled Water Association. This voluntary, industry association holds its members to stricter standards than the federal government and even state governments. The IBWA demands that its members:
- Adhere to safety and quality standards – The IBWA goes above and beyond FDA and EPA standards in this regard.
- Subject themselves to annual, unannounced inspections – These are performed to make sure that IBWA members are meeting the strict regulations the association places on its membership.
Bottled water sometimes comes from the same sources as public water. In fact, many suppliers of bottled water start out with the tap and then further process to create their own distinct brand. Some, however, do not.
Understanding Spring Water
While spring water and purified water can come from exactly the same underground sources, the treatment processes that are involved in the two varieties can vary rather greatly. In general, spring water must come from protected, pure underground sources to carry this moniker.
According to the IBWA, spring water that is bottled must come from an underground source that has natural water flow to the earth’s surface. The water itself must be gathered from the spring or from a borehole that taps into an underground formation. To earn the title of spring water, the collected water itself must carry all the same properties prior to treatment that the spring contains.
Spring water is subjected to the same FDA and IBWA standards that other forms of bottled water must adhere to. This means that it must be tested for quality and that some form of treatment is generally called for to insure safety and purity.
The Purified Water Difference
Depending on the supplier in question, purified bottled water might actually come from the exact same source as spring water. This, however, is where the two varieties differ.
To earn the name “purified,” water must undergo one or more specialized treatment processes, according to the IBWA. The options include distillation, reverse osmosis, deionization and so on. Purified water, in essence, is highly treated drinking water that does not contain the chemical compounds found in the public water supply. Chlorine aftertastes, for example, will not be found within purified water.
Distilled Oxygenated Water Is Purified At Its Best
Distilled oxygenated water is one form of purified water that is gaining a lot of attention. To create this particular product, the source water is distilled for purification purposes. This step in the process removes impurities and insures that FDA and IBWA standards are met or exceeded. The oxygenation process itself requires the infusion of oxygen molecules into the end product. The final result is a water product that is clean, crisp tasting and adherent to FDA and IBWA standards. Many find purified bottled water is the superior choice when safety and flavor both matter.
Making the decision to purchase spring water versus purified water often comes down to personal choice. Many people prefer the taste and the added security that purified bottled water can deliver. The reality is many forms of distilled and spring water come from the exact same source. In the case of purified water, however, the extra treatment measures can deliver peace of mind and an excellent flavor both.
Jon M. Stout is Chairman of the Board of Element H2O an Ultra Pure bottled water company located in Chantilly, Virginia. For more information about bottled water, private label bottled water [http://www.elementh2o.com/Store] and bottled water delivery [http://www.elementh2o.com/local] go to the Element H2O website.
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