Just a couple years ago, when Hurricane Irene flooded our nearby water purification plant, our tap water was no longer safe for drinking or cooking basically anything besides showering. And I had a newborn baby in the house drinking a bottle of formula every three hours. Needless to say, I got acquainted with the water sold in the grocery store really fast. And the choices were downright overwhelming.
Where were the days of simply picking a few gallons of bottled water off the shelf? Why did I now have to choose whether I wanted drinking water or purified water? And what was the difference, anyway? Wasnt all bottled water the same? Turns out, not so much.
I did what any mother would do in my situation: I bought a half-dozen gallons of each kind and lugged them all home. Something was bound to be good enough for my baby and the rest would have to be good enough for me.
The EPAs website finally answered my questions after a few quick clicks, I was a water connoisseur.
DRINKING WATER is just that: water that is intended for drinking. It is safe for human consumption and comes from a municipal source. There are no added ingredients besides what is considered usual and safe for any tap water, such as fluoride. (Incidentally, my tap water in New Jersey didnt even contain fluoride a necessary mineral for a childs growing teeth. We had to give our kids fluoride supplements.)
DISTILLED WATER is a type of purified water. It has gone through a rigorous filtration process that strips it not only of contaminants, but any natural minerals as well. This water is best for use in small appliances like hot water urns or steam irons because it wont leave behind the mineral buildup you often get with tap water. Though it may seem counterintuitive, this water isnt necessarily the best for human consumption because its often-beneficial minerals are absent.
PURIFIED WATER is water that comes from any source, but has been purified to remove any chemicals or contaminants. Types of purification include distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis and carbon filtration. Like distilled water, it has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that potentially harmful chemicals may be taken out; the disadvantages are that beneficial minerals may be removed as well.
SPRING WATER is what you often find in bottled water. Its from an underground source and may or may not have been treated and purified. Though spring water sounds more appealing (like many others, I imagine my spring water coming from a rushing fresh spring at the base of a tall snow-capped mountain), its not necessarily the best water for drinking if you have other options. Studies done by the Natural Resources Defense Council have found contaminants such as coliform, arsenic and phthalates in bottled water. A lot of bottled water is labeled as spring water, when, in fact, its coming from a municipal source and is nothing more than glorified tap water.
So what did I, the eco-expert, choose when faced with myriad choices? For my family, I chose drinking water, but depending on where you live, you may choose differently. To check the quality of your local tap water, check with the EPA.
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