Is tap water as safe as bottled water?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Tap water and bottled water are generally comparable in terms of safety. So the choice of tap or bottled is mostly a matter of personal preference.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees bottled water, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water. However, they use similar standards for ensuring safety.

The EPA mandates that water utilities provide annual quality reports to customers. These customer confidence reports provide information, such as source (river, lake, aquifer or other source), contaminant levels and potential health effects. However, the EPA doesn't regulate private wells. So if your tap water comes from a private well, you should test your water every year for contaminants, more frequently if needed.

The FDA has good manufacturing practices specifically for bottled water. They require bottled water producers to:

  • Process, bottle, hold and transport bottled water under sanitary conditions
  • Protect water sources from bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants
  • Use quality control processes to ensure the bacteriological and chemical safety of the water
  • Sample and test both source water and the final product for contaminants

It's important to note that some people are more vulnerable to getting sick from contaminants in drinking water. You may be in this group if you are undergoing chemotherapy, living with HIV/AIDS or have received a transplant. Pregnant women, older adults and children also may be at greater risk. Talk with your doctor about whether you should take additional precautions, such as boiling tap water or drinking bottled water.

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March 19, 2020 See more Expert Answers

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