Water has become big business. HUGE business. Going back 20 years, unless you had something really wrong with your water supply, pretty much everyone drank tap water. Now, it seems as though most people opt for bottled water. New brands of water are popping up left and right with each supposedly offering something better than the next. Various sources, different processes, varying ph characteristics; some even boast adding different things to their water to improve it. But you have to admit, there’s a lot of stuff out there and you just can’t help but get the feeling that water shouldn’t be that complicated. In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be. As for this world, I’m going to do my best to tell you everything I know and everything I’ve learned so far; this shouldn’t take long at all!
Okay first things first. Let’s talk about tap water. After all, it’s free and we would all like to take advantage of the convenience and value coming from our faucets. Tap water is either going to be well water or water which is provided by a municipality from a common source. Well water is nothing more than ground water that is driven by a pump to your faucet. Assuming you live in an area where the soil is not contaminated and the water is of high quality, you’re good to go! For many of us, myself included, whose water comes a municipal supply it’s a lot more complicated. When it comes to the public water supply and the treatment of our drinking water, questions begin to arise as to what has been added as well as what has been removed.
Chlorine, chloramine and fluoride are found in the majority of tap waters. Fertilizers, pharmaceuticals and a whole host of chemicals may also be present in small quantities. Essentially, despite water quality reports being made available to consumers, there’s no way to test for everything and in some instances, levels may be too low for detection. Knowing this, many people opt for bottled water. Worldwide, bottled water is a 100 billion dollar per year industry! On average, compared to the cost of tap water, bottled water is over 500 times the price. Is it worth it? In my opinion, that depends on how much better a particular bottled water is compared to your tap water! I sometimes consume bottled water. Ironically, compared to many of the places I’ve been throughout the United States, the tap water where I live isn’t all that bad. But, for me, the deal breaker is the fact that there is still a hefty amount of chlorine and fluoride in my tap water and I prefer to avoid both of those chemicals.
Considering that there are endless brands of water to choose from, which is the ideal choice? There are many factors that we can use to determine which is best; taste, source, analysis, packaging and cost all come into play.
Taste: Obviously, we want a water that tastes good. Water with a level of dissolved solids, such as minerals, are referred to as hard water. This is ironic because, to me, water with lots of minerals actually has a softer mouth feel compared to water with low levels of minerals. Water with very low levels of dissolved solids is termed soft water.
Source: Is the source important? Considering that as many as half of the bottled water out there comes from the tap, I’d say that it does matter! Bottled water can come from the tap or from a natural source. As far as I understand it, most of the natural drinking water is derived from springs and wells. Different sources make for waters with unique compositions. As with anything else, there are good and bad. A bad source would be detrimental or at the very least, offer nothing positive. I would say that a good source provides water that is not only safe but has health promoting characteristics.
Analysis: For me, the analysis of the water is very important and very telling in regard to the quality of the water. Based on my personal experience, water from natural sources allows for the most ideal composition. Water SHOULD contain electrolytes, minerals and bicarbonates. For example, water that has been filtered using reverse osmosis is devoid of those things unless added back by the manufacturer. Most of the time, even if waters claim to be enhanced with mineral and or electrolytes, the amounts are negligible. Water that has been treated using various forms of filtration and or distillation are often very low in minerals and bicarbonates. Minerals found in drinking water fall under the term dissolved solids because they are, well….dissolved…and that makes them easily assimilated. Bicarbonates have many positive health effects and water should be a significant source. A high quality water will have an excellent balance of minerals, electrolytes and bicarbonates. As for ph, water with a sufficient amount of minerals and bicarbonates will usually be alkaline. PH becomes an issue when water is stripped of everything during processes like distillation and or reverse osmosis. Water in nature is not found completely pure and devoid of all minerals etc. Many argue that it is unnatural and unhealthy to consume water that has had all minerals and bicarbonates removed and I definitely agree. I consider it a given that any decent drinking water should be free of harmful contaminants and heavy metals. Simply being clean and wet isn’t my criteria for good water! I’m after a water with a significant amount of minerals and electrolytes that has a ph over 7 and is high in bicarbonates.
Packaging: A bottle is a bottle right? C’mon. That’s like saying water is water! The majority of bottled water comes in plastic while some companies still use glass. Because I opt for bottled water in an attempt to consume healthier, better quality water it would make sense that I would want to avoid chemicals like BPA and other plasticides that leech into the water from plastic containers. Glass, no doubt, is ideal. Unfortunately, it’s tough to find high quality water delivered in glass at a feasible price.
Price: Let’s face it; price matters. We all want the best but not if it’s going to cost us an arm and a leg. Ideally, we’re after a water that we can consume often enough to reap its positive benefits! Price is an especially important part of the equation for me because I DRINK A LOT OF WATER! 5-6 liters per day is average for me. I’m looking for a high quality water that won’t send me to the poor house.
For this showdown, I went to Whole Foods and purchased every bottled, non-carbonated water they had on the shelf. I also grabbed a couple more from a random gas station. I wanted to be sure to have a decent variety of waters and made sure that I included ones that you see everywhere as well as some of the lesser seen, higher priced ones that are supposed to be something special. I lined them all up and considered the above mentioned factors; source, taste, composition, packaging and price.
1st & 2nd Place Tie: Whole Foods Italian Still Mineral Water- Tremendous value. This water is bottled under the name Galvanina in Italy. LOADED with calcium and an impressive magnesium content. I wish I knew the bicarbonate content. This water is my go-to when I need to kick heartburn without breaking the bank. At around $1.30 for a 1 liter bottle, it’s tough to find a better value. This water is definitely worth my money.
1st & 2nd Place Tie: Vitell- POWERHOUSE. I remember first having this water while passing through Charles De Gaulle airport back in 2003. Although I knew nothing about water and had little in the way of preferences at the time, I remember taking note of how good this water tasted. Having been on several trips to Europe since then, this is still one of the best tasting European mineral waters I have had. Looking further into the composition of the water I was amazed how much good stuff this water packs per liter. Loaded with calcium and bicarbonates, in my personal opinion, this water is excellent! The only drawback is the price which, for many, will make it impractical to drink this water in any significant quantity on a daily basis.
3rd and 4th Place Tie: Mountain Valley Spring- This water really impressed me. I’ve had it numerous times in the past and have always liked the taste, appreciated the glass bottle and liked the fact that it comes from a domestic source and supplier. The composition is pretty impressive with a significant level of calcium, lots of bicarbonates and a naturally alkaline ph. Looking further into the brand, one of the most appealing things about this water is the fact that it is a great value and they offer home delivery. Further, they offer home delivery in 5 gallon GLASS jugs. To me, that’s pretty awesome. Who wants to screw up great water by letting it sit in plastic? At a delivered price of $1.20 per liter/$.04 per ounce, I’m thoroughly impressed. Don’t get me wrong, there are other brands of water that can be delivered and are significantly less expensive. But in the category of what I would consider premium quality water, Mountain Valley is the only one that can be delivered in a five gallon glass bottle. For the sake of this showdown, I had to compare each water in the quantities purchased. Truthfully, of all the premium waters with great compositions, if I were to choose one to consume daily this would undoubtedly be the one. In a five gallon quantity, this water clearly becomes the showdown champion.
3rd & 4th Place Tie: Evian- A longtime favorite of mine. Excellent taste. A nice dose of minerals and it’s got lots of bicarbonate. Definitely a water worth paying for. As with Vitell, it can become cost prohibitive.
5th Place: Fiji- I don’t love it the way others love it; for some people, it’s the only water they would drink if they had the option. However, it’s still one of the best.
6th: Acqua Panna- Great tasting water. Decent composition but not as good as other European counterparts. Still, the quality is high and the taste is very good.
7th: Whole Foods Spring Water- I was really curious about this one because it happens to be one that I buy frequently. The taste is good and I can buy a gallon of it for around a dollar. It’s disappointing that the label doesn’t give information about the composition of the water. And because Whole Foods produces a wide variety of products, a water quality report is not provided on their site. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t be bothered but I actually emailed their customer service asking for water quality reports for this water as well as their Italian Still Mineral Water. I was impressed that they sent an email back with both reports within an hour. The composition reveals that the water isn’t loaded with minerals and no figure is given for bicarbonates. Still, compared to many other waters far more expensive, the composition and taste of this water is pretty damn good. Decent composition at a great price.
8th: Poland Spring- Not the greatest water out there but if you look at the composition of Poland Spring you’ll see that it isn’t far below or exceeds many higher priced waters. Taste is alright too. For the price, it isn’t bad at all and I’d hand over my money for Poland Spring before doing so for a bunch of others.
9th & 10th Tie: Volvic- It’s French. But not nearly as good as Evian or Vittel. Why bother? I wouldn’t.
9th & 10th Tie: Evamor- Evamor claims that the highly alkaline ph of their water makes it superior to other waters. Evamor attributes a high level of bicarbonates in the water to the alkaline ph. On their website it says Evamor water is “chock full of electrolytes and alive with minerals that neutralize acidity.” What annoys the hell out of me is that I couldn’t, for the life of me, find any information regarding the actual amount of bicarbonates or minerals in the water! Two, downloadable water quality reports are available and both show that the water is very clean but neither give any information about the minerals, bicarbonates and electrolytes that supposedly make Evamor so great. The site also contains a downloadable study where the purpose is to study the effect of naturally alkaline water and low acid foods on subjects with acid reflux. Definitely interesting. The study concludes that water with a ph of 8.8 (not 8.7 or 8.9) “instantaneously and permanently denatures (inactivates) human pepsin 3b and it also appears to effectively buffer acid (HCL).” Truthfully, I think there is something to this. If I ever have heartburn, I drink some Evian or any other mineral water with a high level of bicarbonate and the heartburn is gone. I just wish that Evamor provided more information about the very constituents that they believe make their water superior. Taste is decent.
11th: Voss- Used to come in a cool looking glass bottle. Now it comes in a cool looking plastic bottle. From Norway. Why is the ph so low? 5.5 is kind of rough. The composition is so so. It does have a decent taste. The ph puzzles me though.
12th: Iceland Spring- A story similar to that of Fiji; water coming from a source that is both pristine and untouched by man. That’s cool and I’m sure the water is very clean. The taste was decent. But, going by the analysis, this water is nothing special. At first glance, with a ph at high as 8.8, my guess is that this water might contain a decent amount of bicarbonates…and although analysis does show that each liter contains 25mg of calcium bicarbonate, I have no clue how much bicarbonate that yields! But with the total dissolved solids being only 48mg/L, it can’t be whole lot.
13th: NY2O- “NY2O is America’s premium water from the mountains of the Catskills Natural Preserve- the same source that has supplied New York City for decades.” That’s cool. I mean NYC has always been known to have really great quality tap water because of this source. And if these guys are bottling the water prior to the standard municipal water treatment program of chlorine, fluoride etc., then that’s even better. However, the makers claim that it “…provides a water experience no import can touch.” I guess it depends on how you define “experience”. For me, there are better tasting waters out there with countless amounts of them having analysis profiles better than NY2O. With almost no naturally occurring minerals or bicarbonates, I don’t see what makes this water so great. It tastes fine but not significantly better than the rest. Good on them for showing some American spirit but I think the claims are too cocky and the water is marginal at best. Lots of sizzle but not much steak.
14th: Nestle Pure Life- Sourced from municipal supplies and then treated, similar to Aquafina and Dasani. However, for some reason, based on my personal experience, Nestle Pure Life is a better water. The aforementioned two cause heartburn for me if I drink them consistently whereas this one does not. I don’t consider this water to be as good as those containing significant levels of minerals and bicarbonates but of all the waters that are sourced from municipal supplies, I like this one best. This water is available in 5 gallon jugs for home delivery and going this route makes it extremely economical.
15th: Essentia- Hyped up tap water. This one’s claim to fame? It’s got a ph of 9.5. And why do I need water with a ph of 9.5? How does this tap water have such a high ph? It’s subjected to a process of ionization. Personally, I’d prefer water that is naturally alkaline because of the minerals and bicarbonates it contains. I owned a water ionizer for years and although I wanted to believe in it, I always felt better drinking water that is naturally alkaline and high in minerals and bicarbonates. Essentia claims that its water is very hydrating. You know what else is hydrating? A high quality water with plenty of naturally occurring minerals and electrolytes…and it tastes better too. I’ll pass.
16th: Dasani- Dasani is owned by the Coca Cola company. How ironic that it’s nearly the same thing as Aquafina which is owned by Pepsi? Highly purified just like Aquafina; carbon filtration, reverse osmosis, UV treatment, “re-mineralization” and ozonation make up the treatment process. The water has been stripped of nearly all minerals and bicarbonates that make water healthy. A water analysis report does reveal that the water is free of contaminants but the same can be said for every other water in this comparison. Dasani says that Magnesium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride and Sodium Chloride are added to the water for taste. I can only assume that the amounts are incredibly small; even sodium is listed at 0% of the RDV. Why bother even adding them if that’s the case? I’d prefer Dasani over contaminated water or if no other water was available but that’s about it.
17th: Smart Water- “Smart”; oh the irony. “Electrolyte Enhanced”…nice gimmick. What I find ridiculous is that calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium bicarbonate are listed as ingredients in the product but no milligram amounts or RDV %s are stated on the label. Either someone at this company is a complete moron and neglected to add this information to the label OR the amounts are so miniscule they aren’t worth divulging. The folks at Glaceau were kind enough to post a water quality report on the website to show all the things the water doesn’t contain. Unfortunately, no info is given regarding the mineral content or the very electrolytes that are “Smart” Water’s claim to fame. The water report does list the total dissolved solids as being 36mg/L and states that there are 9.6 mg/L of chloride. What is odd to me is that many people on the internet claim to have written to or called Glaceau and been told that 15 mg of potassium bicarbonate, 10 mg of calcium chloride and 10 mg of magnesium chloride are added to each liter of Smart Water. With those three minerals adding up to 35 mg/L, I don’t know where the 9.6 mg of chloride fits in when the total dissolved solids is only 36 mg/L. And I’m pretty sure that chloride counts as a dissolved solid and would bring the total to 44.6 mg/L. Soooo….Bottom line? The bottle is neat. The water is a complete waste of money. I’d rather drink tap.
18th: Aquafina- Highly purified tap water. This water doesn’t really contain anything. And although that might sound like a good thing, water isn’t SUPPOSED to be void of everything! All I know is that anytime I drink a lot of this stuff I get indigestion. Personally, I think it’s junk and would rather drink tap water. And shame on Aquafina for slapping a little logo of a mountain on their label. I’d be willing to bet that most of the people buying it think it comes from a natural source and would be disappointed to learn that it’s purified tap water.
Disqualified: Crystal Geyser- It’s cost effective and I’m not mad at the taste. What does the composition look like? Well that depends. The Crystal Geyser website lists seven different sources that the water is taken from and they are in various states across the country; California, New Hampshire, Tennessee, New York, Arkansas and South Carolina. And each of the water quality reports are drastically different when it comes to composition! Fortunately, all of the sources look to be clean and up to par with regulations. Unfortunately, when I’m basing the quality of a water largely on taste and composition, it’s like judging 7 different waters as they are all different. I guess it depends on which Crystal Geyser you get.
Note: First and foremost, I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned nor have I been asked or paid to say any of these things. Second, despite making every effort to compile information, water composition data was not made readily available by all brands. For those who did not supply composition info on their website or on the bottle, an email inquiry was sent out and all that responded that same day were considered. If I had more time to spend on this showdown, I would have waited longer to receive more responses. Some companies responded and some did not. Of all inquiries made, Whole Foods was the only one who responded the same day. Price can vary based on where you buy these items and the quantity in which they are purchased. Finally, although a large amount of data was utilized, some of the judging was my personal opinion and therefore subjective in nature. Taste is clearly a matter of opinion. Naturally sourced water and glass packaging also earned better scores as a result of my personal opinion. It is also my opinion that (assuming water cleanliness and safety) a water high in minerals and bicarbonates with an alkaline pH is advantageous and therefore better than a water with contrary characteristics. This is my showdown and I set the criteria.