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What Are the Best Sources of Drinking Water?

Here’s what to know about good drinking water.

Filtered Water

“There are many places where you don’t need to filter what comes out of the tap; it’s just fine. If you look at some of the reasons people drink filtered water or bottled water, often it’s because they don’t like the chlorine taste that is in city water, which has to be put in as a residual disinfectant to keep water safe after it travels through all the pipes to get to your house,” says Craig Mains, an engineering scientist at the National Environmental Services Center at West Virginia University.

If your tap water is safe but you don’t like the taste, you can get around that in several ways:

  • Fill a pitcher and refrigerate for about half an hour. “The chlorine will dissipate quickly,” Mains says.
  • Purchase a filtration system that attaches to your tap (and/or refrigerator water dispenser) or a filtered-water pitcher, from companies like Brita or PUR Water.
  • Install a carbon filter under the sink. These filters generally cost less than $50 and, Mains says, can be more economical because they don’t have to be replaced as frequently (between every three months and annually, depending on how much water you use). “They’ll also remove some other contaminants you have, like in an area where there might be some volatile organic chemicals.”
  • Purchase a whole-house filtering system, such as Culligan’s popular reverse-osmosis systems. These cost approximately $1,000 to install, along with service fees starting at $20 a month (which includes annual filter changes).

If you do choose to filter your water, look for filters certified by NSF International. And don’t forget to change the filter on the recommended schedule.

“Many people are more consistent about changing the oil they put in their cars than the filters on the water they put in their bodies,” says Eric Rosenthal, senior vice president of marketing for Culligan. “They think ‘I’ll just give it another month.’ But after they’ve been in there too long, filters not only don’t work, they start to be worse for the consumer.”

Bottled Water

Bottled water has exploded in popularity over the last 10 years. In 1997, Americans drank 13.5 gallons of bottled water per capita annually; by 2007, that number spiked to 29 gallons per capita. In 2007 alone, we spent about $11.5 billion on brands like Dasani, Evian, and Poland Spring.

But bottled water’s popularity may have reached its peak -- in 2008, there was a 3.8% decline in bottled water revenues, the first in a decade.

In fact, about 25% of bottled water is simply purified tap water, including two of the most popular brands, Aquafina and Dasani.

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