Getting to the bottom of bottled waters

Bottled water is big business in the U.S. But you have to be careful about how you spend your hard-earned money. I’ll tell you about the only kinds of bottled water you should ever buy in a moment. But first, let’s look at the history of this enormous industry…

When I was a child living in Europe, we commonly drank bottled waters. They were brought to the table in restaurants and in homes.

Partly, it was a matter of taste. And partly, it was about safety. In fact, through the middle of the 20th century, not all water supplies were “potable”(safe to drink). Europe was a crowded place for centuries. And many populated areas did not have access to unpolluted waters. Also, the destruction from two world wars disrupted safe water supplies.

Nevertheless, Europeans knew early on about the strong connection between water and health. Indeed, by the 18th century, they had a strong tradition of “taking the waters,” both externally and internally, to improve health. Physicians even used to analyze and certify natural water sources for their health benefits. Some still do.

Of course, water was not always safe to drink in the early America either. In fact, as I explained in a Daily Dispatch last January, the water in early American cities was so polluted the horses wouldn’t even drink it.

This problem led to the practice of adding hard cider to drinking water (which, of course, made use of the apple varieties grown in the U.S.). Sometimes, they also added beer or rum to drinking water. In each case, the alcohol killed the bacteria.

Today, bacteria is no longer a major problem in America. But public water still isn’t all that safe to drink. And neither is much of the well water or natural spring water, for that matter.

Government officials now add chlorine and extra fluoride to public water. These chemicals are known as “halogens.” And they can react with chemical contaminants to form toxins, carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and other poisons. But you’re not even safe drinking well water. Organic contaminants as well agricultural-chemical runoff pollute much of our natural water supply.

But choosing bottled water poses its own set of challenges. And that’s partly because big beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi–who already monopolize the shelf space in grocery stores—now “make” much, or most, of the bottled water too.

You see, there are four types of commercial bottled water–and they don’t always come from a natural source.

The first kind, called “purified water” or “demineralized water” is just plain, old tap water. Companies do distill it, deionize it, filter it, and/or subject it to a reverse osmosis process. But these processes don’t do much of anything except use up energy.

Purified water does typically remove chlorine, particulate matter, and trace elements. Of course, you want some trace elements removed. But you want certain natural elements–such as electrolytes and minerals–left in your water. Without any trace elements, you are drinking what I call “dead water.”

Unfortunately, many of the commonly sold brands of bottled water are “dead.” So when you’re choosing a bottled water, it’s important to look for one of the other kinds.

The second type of bottled water is called “natural water.” It may be bottled from artesian wells that pump water from deep, underground aquifers, which bear water between layers of rock and/or sand. This water is naturally filtered or purified. But it also retains natural mineral content.

The third type of bottled water is called “spring water.” It comes from natural, underground sources that flow directly to the surface and are bottled at the “source.”

The fourth type of bottled water is called “mineral water.” It also comes from a natural spring or from a well that draws artesian water. Plus, it retains dissolved minerals and trace elements at a level of at least 250 parts per million.

Tomorrow I will explain why it’s so important to skip the “dead water” and choose water that contains natural minerals and trace elements. And I’ll also give you some additional tips for choosing the best bottled water. Stay tuned!