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Why I Drink Tap Water? Tap Water versus Bottled Water

Years ago, I was told by a natural health practitioner that it is advisable to drink tap water over “manufactured” bottled water.

Over the years, I have floundered between phases of lugging liters upon liters of water up to my top floor apartment only to eventually give up after having to deal with the endless cycle of lining up to unload my empty bottles that needed to be recycled and their deposit collected. I drink A LOT of water, so as you can imagine this was pretty much an every other day occurrence. I’m talking six packs of 1.5 liter bottles!

My favorite Schwabe did the exact opposite during his time living in Vienna. The rational…in Vienna, the water was funneled through multiple pipelines from the Alps directly into the inner-city districts. Imagine. It’s almost as if you are drinking out of a mountain stream.

Recently in Germany, the Stiftung Warentest (a German consumer organisation and foundation involved in the unbiased investigation and comparison of goods and services) tested a number of different bottled water brands and the result was astonishing to say the least. 10 from 30 mineral waters were contaminated by some degree by pesticides and drug residues. The “Öko-Test* 2013” had noted residues accounting for one fifth of the actual water content. Undeniably, we may also find pesticides, bacteria or drug residue in tap water, but there are a number of other reasons to forgo expensive bottled water. Especially when there is no difference in quality to be found. So why choose tap water versus bottled water? Despite a multitude of mineral water brands competing on Germany’s market, here’s what I’ve learned:

1 Tap water is the most rigorous and frequently controlled consumable good in Germany.

2 Bottled water is often not from the region, but rather transported by trucks over long distances. The environmental impact of long transport routes is incredible. Think carbon footprint. This is true both for plastic bottles and glass bottles, where the CO2 burden is even higher, because of the extra weight.

3 The plastic of PET bottles (bottles made of Polyethylene terephthalate) is not only an environmental killer in manufacturing, but also in its disposal. Non-recycled PET bottles remain the environment for centuries. And in the process, they pass on their chemical content. Not to mention, the effect as a result of the number of bottles that land in the ocean, thus becoming a threat for marine life.

4 The costs are substantial. You’ll pay at least 15 cents for 1 liter bottle of water versus a mere 0.2 cents for tap water. And for someone who lives on the 4th floor as I do, you can only smile when seeing the neighbors carrying those heavy bottles up the stairs!

5 The big corporations such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola or PepsiCo purchase water sources in developing countries and the process of filling the water into bottles results in a lowering of groundwater. Not good for the surrounding population.

6 Lastly, the tap water in Hamburg just tastes better – to me. The worst, in my opinion, is Bon Aqua by Coca Cola. It tastes terrible and unfortunately is often the only bottled water brand available at many underground and train stations. I’d much rather bring along a bottle filled with tap water from home than drink that. It is also much cheaper. And for those of us who love to drink “bubbly” water, a home soda carbonation system easily and instantly turns ordinary tap water into sparkling water. Brilliant!

So does this mean I only drink tap water? No. Of course, I enjoy a sparking San Pellegrino or Gerolsteiner with my glass of red wine when I am enjoying a dinner out.

*Öko-Test” is a magazine that evaluates and ranks various consumer products for its effect on health & environment. It is similar to Consumer Reports in the US, but with a much stronger emphasis on consumer safety and health.

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