Experts say quality in bottled and tap water the same

When you walk down the aisles of your local grocery stores, you’re bombarded with water bottles labeled distilled, purified, natural, drinking, spring water, and much more.

Price tags may run as high as $1.75 a bottle, yet consumers continue to drink bottled water in record numbers.

“I don’t drink bottled water for health reasons; I just like the taste of it,” said Latanya Jones, 26, an allied health graduate student from Callahan.

In 2004, consumers drank more than 6.8 billion gallons of bottled water, according to the International Bottled Water Association. Bottled water sales approached $9.2 billion in the United States alone.

However, as the public perception that bottled water is better than ordinary tap water, especially in Tallahassee and the state of Florida, may be a myth.

Bobby Bickley, an Environmental Administrator of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said bottled is no better than tap water.

“Most bottled water companies use the municipal water to produce their product,” Bickley said. “Because the same standards apply for bottled water companies and municipal companies, the water is just as good.”

The Florida Aquifer is Florida’s main source of water. The aquifer is an underground geological formation that underlines all of Florida, most of the central plain of Georgia and small areas of Alabama and South Carolina.

“What people pay for a bottle of water at most grocery stores, they can purchase 1000 gallons of tap water because it’s exactly what you get at the tap,” said Jamie Shaker, water quality manager for the City Of Tallahassee.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversees tap water quality. While EPA and state governments set and enforce standards, local governments and private water suppliers have direct responsibility for the quality of the water that flows to your tap.  

Recently, the EPA presented the City of Tallahassee Water Utility with an Excellence Award for its 2005 Water Quality Annual Report. The award recognizes water systems that demonstrate a commitment beyond compliance to produce outstanding Consumer Confidence Reports.

It also highlights a strong commitment to drinking water safety, public health, environmental protection and an outstanding commitment to improve the quality of water.

“We have a very good source of water and the main mineral in our water is calcium, which has very good health benefits,” Shaker said.

Shaker also said that the City of Tallahassee Water system adds fluoride to city water to prevent cavities and a small amount of chlorine to eliminate any water bacteria.

Some people perceive bottled water as a safer alternative to tap water, but Shaker says it is just a myth.

“The FDA is not as strict as the EPA concerning the testing requirements of water,” Shaker said.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water products safety and quality, requiring all manufacturers to produce safe, wholesome and truthfully labeled products.

Yet other officials say that tap water can be contaminated at anytime despite excellent city water plant production.

“Tap water contamination can happen because of leaky petroleum tanks at gas stations, chemical disposal at dry cleaners, landfills and large agricultural operations, septic systems and faulty plumbing in housing,” said Ed Bettinger, the Environmental Health Program Director for the Department of Health’s Division of Environmental Health.

These things are always possible but, “pollution in distribution lines is highly unlikely,” Shaker said. “We test our water at the point of use (the tap).”

There are no scientific studies that prove that bottled water is healthier for you than tap water.

“I suggest people just run water from the tap, refrigerate it and refill for future use,” Shaker said.

Contact Radhiya Teagle at