Tap Water Needs Sex Appeal

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on September 17, 2008 · 0 comments

Somewhere along the way Americans decided that exotic bottled water, shipped from the furthest corners of the globe, was both appealing and healthy—and tap water was not. But in many cases, just the opposite is true. Americans spend nearly $12 billion a year on bottled water without knowing that many of the top selling brands originate from local municipal water supplies, not pristine mountain springs. And, even though they are completely recyclable, 75% of plastic water bottles wind up in landfills.

The Tappening campaign was conceived to make tap water cool again. Tappening.com, launched in November 2007, gives many of the pros and cons about choosing water from the tap versus water sold in a bottle. (There’s also a regularly updated blog.) Fresh, safe tap water is available in 99.9% of American homes. Tap water averages a penny a gallon versus $10 a gallon for bottled. For those that still have doubts about their municipal tap water, a faucet-filter system or pitcher-filter system is still far less costly and more environmentally-friendly than bottled water. If your home water supply comes from a private underground well, the Water Quality Association recommends getting your water tested yearly. Home-improvement stores sell water-testing kits or you can contact your county health department which may provide this service to residents.

Then there is the issue of the 8 X 8 rule – drink eight, 8-ounce servings of water daily. Sound like a good rule but there is no foundation for this recommendation and no scientific evidence to support it. (For humans, at least–this urban myth may have its origins in rodent studies from the mid-1940s.)

In the late 1980’s a recommendation of 1 milliliter of water per calorie was put forth, with an increase to 1.5 milliliters/calorie for more active individuals. So, if you need 1,800 calories a day, you need 1,800 milliliters of water. Let’s translate that into cups:

1 cup = 240 milliliters

1,800 ÷ 240 = 7.5 cups of water per day

These 71⁄2 cups a day don’t have to all be water. Solid food contains a lot of water; you get 3 to 4 cups a day from food. Other liquids, like juice and soup, count too. If you drink caffeinated beverages – tea, coffee, soda, energy drinks – you can count half of your intake toward your daily fluid, but not all, since the caffeine acts as a diuretic, causing you to lose some of the water. In many cases you can meet your fluid requirement without extra water. The exceptions would be during extremely hot weather or heavy exercise when you need more fluids.

From a nutrition standpoint water is water, as long as it is clean. It is calorie free and contains traces of important minerals. Most municipal water supplies are fluoridated, which is important for bone health and preventing cavities.

Bottled water, like municipal water supplies, is regulated for purity. Most bottlers belong to the International Bottled Water Association. There are no regulations, however, for enhancing bottled water and no oversight for some of the claims being made. Do you need vitamin, caffeine, or herbal enhanced water? Should you be paying a premium price for these miniscule additions? Does your water need to travel thousands of miles before you drink it? Do you know the sweeteners many producers put in bottled water are to mask the bitter taste of the added nutrients? Paying for bottled water with add-ons is your choice, but it may not be the best investment you’ll ever make for your wallet—or the environment.

Bottom line: Plain, calorie-free tap water, bottled by you in a reusable wide-mouth water bottle is your best buy and the most eco-friendly choice you can make.

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