Monday, August 03, 2009

Can you taste the difference?

If your place is like ours, you will find that lots of people purchase bottled water rather than using tap water. As someone who used to run the local water system, I can assure you that any municipal tap water delivered in America, and indeed throughout most of Europe, has to meet higher standards for purity and quality than water sold in bottles. Tap water also is delivered through pipes, often by gravity, with very little energy required, whereas bottled water uses petroleum for the bottles and for transport. (Indeed, some brands are transported thousands of miles.) Finally, bottled water is many, many times more expensive than tap water.

Here you see summer interns Joey Bazinet and Kimberly Chun offering taste tests to staff and visitors at BIDMC. Our facilities department is trying to persuade people to make the switch to tap water. Because inside pipes sometimes add their own flavors and particulates to the municipal water, our facilities folks will install and maintain a filter in anybody's lab or office area. Installation cost = $500-$600. Annual cost to maintain = $50 ($25 filter two times per year). Compare to the annual cost of Poland Spring water of over $700.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for a timely post from an "insider". Anyone who hikes near a creek knows the havoc these bottles wreak on the environment, also.
On the upside, my Chesapeake Bay retriever loves to get them out of the creek and crunch them flat. But she can't get them all.....


sam joseph said...

There is an interesting advertising campaign against bottled water that just came out:

RalfLippold said...


Thanks a lot for that useful info. Mentioning Europe, what you say certainly applies to Germany. Wrote a short thesis about water suppy in the Mainz area back in 1983.

The water cming from tab is by far better checker and of higher quality as some of the buyable stuff in supermarkets.



Lachlan Forrow, MD, FACP said...

I have for years been utterly bewildered by why so many people spend so much money paying for something that is free.


Terri said...

Here, here! I love that you are calling attention to and doing something about this problem. Here's hoping using tap water catches on.

Engineer on Medicare said...

Addding filters, especially activated carbon filters, to building distrbution systems must be done with care. I have personal experience on that matter.

The company where I worked added filters to the hallway water coolers that were supplied from a municipal water system. After a few months I was a first user after a 3-day weekend, and saw thousands of green thingies in the clean white container into which I was drawing water. The activated carbon in many such filters removes the chlorine and the interval between Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning was enough to grow a substantial colony of organisims after the filter, which were flushed out with the first flow after the long weekend.

ManxMamma said...

I personally think this is a huge issue. I gave up buying bottled water several years ago because of environmental concerns. And I also felt I was paying for pure water through my taxes.
London has a city-wide innitiative to stop the use of bottled water. It's been very well publicized there in anticipation of the 2012 Olymics. Restaurant are firmly behind it. Wish we could do the same without waiting for a big event.

RalfLippold said...

As for the filters is one choice to think about.

Actually the supporting MIT as I just have learned earlier today;-)

Funny coincidence was sitting besides the name giver during my early study days at Mainz University.

Anonymous said...

For me, it's not about the quality or taste, but about the temperature. I will only drink icy cold water and spring water dispensers and bottled water provide that. Have you ever tried to get a cup of ice from a cafeteria to chill tap water? It's near impossible in most places to get anything but a tiny dixie cup!

Anonymous said...

I never buy bottled water EXCEPT when I am in places such as hospitals. I don't trust the hygiene of whoever used the water fountain before me. And I have seen too many people insert the water cooler spigot into the mouth of their dirty water bottle, thereby transfering germs from the bottle to the spigot. Ugh.

mdspencer said...

Isn't it true that water costs more than gas does?

Ann Guy said...

Hi Paul,

I still remember that fact about the municipal tap water meeting higher quality standards than most bottled water, from the policy class you taught at MIT in 1992. I've passed that fact on to too many people to count... Keep up the good fight!

Ann Guy

SeaSpray said...

I appreciate this post am going to bookmark to link to in the future. I hope that is alright with you.

I agree with you anonymous 1:16. having worked around patients in the ED, I have see little children put their mouths right on the water cooler spigot. Once the maintenance man was flipping the new bottle of water into the cooler and the water splashed all over his hand and then he put the new bottle over it. His hands were filthy. So..I bought bottled water at that point.

At home... I drink our water all the time. Water is my favorite beverage and the only thing that will quench my thirst.

I do wonder about the safety of well water though. ?

Ours tastes so good you could bottle it. But we do have a shallow well and I have wondered about carcinogens because of septics, lawn chemicals and whatever else could seep in. sure does taste good. No sulpher or iron...although very hard water and so we have a softner... but hard (mineral taste)tastes the best. :)