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How Well Do You Know Your H20?

2013 August 27

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By John Senn

I drink a lot of tap water – a glass in the morning before I leave for work, three or four throughout the work day and several more from the time I get home until I go to bed. So when I came upon a booth from the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (aka DC Water) featuring a taste test between tap water and bottled water, which I virtually never drink, I thought I would surely be able to tell the difference. But I could not; the two samples I tried tasted virtually identical.

This summer, DC Water is asking Washington residents whether they can taste the difference between tap water and bottled water. Photo credit: Courtesy of DC Water

This summer, DC Water is asking Washington residents whether they can taste the difference between tap water and bottled water. Photo credit: Courtesy of DC Water

I was heartened to learn that I was not alone in flunking the taste test. Last year, only about half of participants who took DC Water’s taste test were able to identify the correct sample as tap water and more than half ranked tap water as better tasting or did not taste a difference between the two.

Despite the fact that tap water is virtually free – a gallon costs consumers about a penny – many people still prefer to drink bottled water. DC Water says that figure is about 50 percent in Washington. Admittedly, tap water, especially in big cities like Washington, gets a bad rap due to incidents where public health has been compromised because of excessive pollution in the water supply. Those incidents, while well-publicized, are relatively rare and in the case of an immediate public health threat, your drinking water provided is required by law to alert its customers. In 2011, 93 percent of Americans that got their water from a public water supply received water that met federal standards for drinking water every day of the year, evidence that the U.S. enjoys one of best drinking water systems in the world.

Tap water is also regulated by EPA and local public water systems are required to provide their customers with a report about the quality of their drinking water each summer. Soon, that report will be available by email. But bottled water, which is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is important to have stockpiled in case of an emergency situations or natural disasters when your tap water may be unavailable or compromised for several days.

And regardless of whether you can tell the difference between tap water and bottled water, you can get more information about your drinking water on our website or by contacting your local provider.

About the author: John Senn is the deputy communications director in EPA’s Office of Water and also serves as a member of the Agency’s emergency response team.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. http://www.y8friv.asia permalink
    August 27, 2013

    it is ok for us to drink tap water if there was no disater or the emergency situation effect to the quality of the tap water. many people still think that tap water is not safe for our health, so they use bottled water to protect their health it is normal.

  2. aboodo sarah permalink
    August 27, 2013

    ill prefer to drink bottled water. DC Water says that figure is about 50 percent in Washington. Admittedly, tap water, especially in big cities like Washington, gets a bad rap due to incidents where public health has been compromised because of excessive pollution in the water supply. Those incidents, while well-publicized, are relatively rare and in the case of an immediate public health threat, your drinking water provided is required by law to alert its custom

  3. Mike permalink
    August 28, 2013

    Bottled water serves as an overpriced, but convenient, means of having safe drinking water at-hand… all the time. At moments like this we cannot help but remember the line from one of George Carlin’s comedy routines where he asked a very simple question after mentioning how everyone now walks around with their own personal bottle of water: “When the did we all become so thirsty?!?!?

    – Water Testing Blog

  4. Al c. permalink
    August 28, 2013

    buy a case of water for emergencies and recycle the bottles when your through. Otherwise drink tap!
    You have already paid for tap ,why not use what you have paid for and avoid paying for disposal of the bottles to.
    Healthiest water in the world is MWRA in Massachusetts

  5. Mike D permalink
    August 30, 2013

    Tap water also has 0.1% of the embedded energy of a 0.5 L / 1 pint bottle of water!

  6. http://www.freywillesoldes.info permalink
    September 4, 2013

    yes,I like it.

  7. DbaiG permalink
    December 2, 2013

    Large amount of water on earth is not available as a ready source of drinking water since 96.5% of the planet’s water is found in seas and oceans. Water is essential for life both as a solvent and as an essential part of many metabolic processes within the body. But approximately one billion people still lack access to clean drinking water and this has poor effect on their health. So, more needs to be done to make water available to these people.

    DbaiG

  8. Richard Scott permalink
    January 2, 2014

    Awesome blog over here! Thanks for sharing very useful information.

  9. Bengitunit permalink
    January 11, 2014

    Many thanks for these valuable information. I think bottled water is the best as a trusted clean and safe water
    Wael A. Mohamed, PhD

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