Tap Water vs. Bottled—What Should You Drink?

Medically reviewed in June 2021

Glug, glug, glug. That's the sound a ginormous number of us make as we drink bottled water in our cars, at the gym and behind our desks.

The sound you don't hear is the thwack of 60 million bottles a day being tossed into U.S. landfills, where they can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

If that's not enough to turn your conscience a brighter shade of green, add this: Producing those bottles burns through 1.5 million barrels of crude oil annually—enough fuel to keep 100,000 cars running for a year. Recycling helps, but reusing and reducing are even better. So invest in a couple of portable, dishwasher-safe, stainless steel bottles like Klean Kanteens that won't leach nasty chemicals into your water. (Don't get into the habit of refilling the plastic water bottle you just emptied; the polyethylene terephthalate it's made of breaks down with multiple uses.)

4 Reasons to Turn on the Tap

1. Tap water is tested daily. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, local water suppliers are required to test tap water daily and to provide an annual report on the quality of the water. By comparison, the FDA examines bottled water only weekly, and consumers don't have access to the results. 

2. Tap water is a bargain. Bottled water costs about 500 times more than tap. And if you're into really fancy labels—up to 1,000 times more.

3. Tap water is a tooth saver. It has more fluoride than bottled water, and that helps prevent tooth decay. (That's right, you never outgrow your need for fluoride.)

4. Tap water can be tasty. Some places (New York City for one) have delicious water, but if you don't love the flavor of your city's H2O, the solution is simple: Run your tap water through a Brita or Pur filter system to help remove unpleasant tastes and odors. The average home filter goes for $8.99 and produces the equivalent of 300 large (16.9 ounce) bottles of water before it needs to be replaced. That's about $0.03 cents a bottle versus the $1.25 or so you'd pay in a market.

One last thing: Don't just think about making this switch; actually do it. Today. It'll do the world—and you—good.

Are you drinking enough water? Find out here.

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