/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Why do we gladly swallow the bottled water rip off?

Bottles of water

I very rarely drink bottled water; I’m happy to get it from the tap. On the few occasions I’m forced to buy one after forgetting my refillable bottle, I do it begrudgingly. Do you buy bottled still water?

At a conference last week I was charged £1.60 for a 500ml bottle. What nonsense, especially as I can get it for free out of the tap. Plus in this case, the tea, coffee and soft drinks all cost less.

The British Soft Drinks Association worked out that we drank 33 litres of bottled water per person in 2010. That might not sound like a lot, but it extrapolates to us spending £1,440 million on the stuff in just one year! Although it’s justifiable to buy sparkling bottled water, 72% of that was on still water.

Bottled or tap water?

I just don’t get it, why are we paying for something we can get perfectly safe from a tap? And I’m not even considering the environmental aspects of producing so many plastic bottles.

A few weeks ago, the Telegraph reported that ‘bottled water contains more bacteria than tap water’. Scientists in Canada found that 70% of bottled water widely available in shops contained high levels of bacteria, often one hundred times more than the permitted level.

Many people might assume that because they’re paying through the nose for it, bottled water is a purer product. Yet, as the above research suggests, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, it appears drinking tap water may not only be kinder to your wallet and the environment, it could potentially be better for your health.

Do you buy bottled still water?

No (69%, 491 Votes)

Yes (31%, 224 Votes)

Total Voters: 714

Loading ... Loading ...

It is difficult to believe that people complain about shortage of money yet regularly buy bottled water.

In this country, tap water is safe and most people find it palatable. Some people do not like the taste of tap water, particularly because of the chorine added to kill harmful bacteria. These can be removed by by boiling the water or using one of the various filter systems on the market.

We have to get over the message that buying bottled wastes resources and it is a huge waste of money. Perhaps it would be useful to publicise the fact that still bottled water contains more bacteria than tap water, as the report cited in the article points out.

Where I live in St Albans the water is very chalky and so we have to filter it. I personally don’t have an issue with it but the missus does.

At work I will buy a 1l bottle of water and then keep refilling it from the machine. If I buy bottled water, I always buy Buxton. Kinda defeats the object if you pay for water to be shipped over in a truck from France. Not exactly environmentally friendly 😉

It’s not exactly environmentally friendly to buy Buxton bottled water – even if you live in Buxton.

I completely agree that we should avoid buying bottled water if possible. I have bottles at home which I refill and take with me wherever I can. But I still end up buying loads of still, bottled water. When I’m out and about, and thirsty, I’d rather buy a bottle of water than something less refreshing and less healthy such as Coke, Fanta, orange juice, etc. Bottled water is pointless if you’re sitting at home or work where there are perfectly good taps, but if you’re out walking on a sunny day and you don’t have a bottle with you, bottled water is the best option.

Bring back public drinking fountains, I say! Firstly restore Victorian drinking fountains in every town and village, and then invest in striking new modern types, such as this one in Hyde Park And build in water filters to appease anyone who doesn’t like the taste of tap water.

Then carry a bottle with you, and simply refill it on the street.

I drink a lot of water, so I always carry a bottle around and don’t normally have problems finding somewhere to fill it up. I try to keep each bottle for as long as possible, and like Shefalee always begrudge having to buy a new one. My friends give me some stick for this occasionally, but buying bottled water just feels wasteful! And like Dean I try to buy British water . Buxton and Highland Spring are both good, and fortunately most supermarket-branded water seems to come from somewhere in Britain now.

Does anyone know how long you should keep a bottle for, in hygiene terms? Is there a limit, provided you keep washing it out?

Michael Green says:
5 July 2011

Hi Matt

I am always surprised that the general public buy plastic bottled water. When we carried out a survey in London people said they purchased bottled water because it was chilled. I then pointed out that after 30 minutes the temperature of the water inside a plastic bottles is 20 degrees and therefore no longer chilled. Why not use a vacuum bottle that keeps water chilled for hours?


Matt: There should be no problem with reusing water bottles as long as they are rinsed before they are refilled. If you want to disinfect them you can use Milton or thin bleach (both contain sodium hypochlorite but bleach is cheaper).

Michelle says:
12 July 2011

In terms of hygien I’m not sure, but you should also check you are using a kind of plastic that doesn’t leach chemicals into your water.

This might matter if you are keeping water for months but not if you are going to use it within a day or two.

Simon Chan says:
5 July 2011

It is somewhat uncanny, but some bottles even hold the answer to this topic (read Evian backwards!)

Never bought bottled water in my life – in England.

Now Saudi Arabia, that was different, it cost more than petrol.

The UK has clean tap water; be thankful.

Someone asked me what I drank in other foreign countries instead of bottled water.

Like the Monks – BEER.

Funnily enough, I have just seen someone today with a t-shirt saying ‘Save Water, Drink Beer’.

I only ever buy bottled water if there’s no alternative – e.g. I’m out without water, thirsty, and there’s nowhere I can get a drink of tap water.

Why waste your money?

Martin L says:
5 July 2011

I agree with Al Warman – bring back public water fountains! The real problem we have here in Cheltenham is that there are some drinking fountains, but the Council doesn’t maintain them in working order. This is despite the fact that their own website advertises fountains as a feature worthy of your visit (see Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens). I can’t help but feel that councils won’t provide a service unless there’s a legal obligation for them to do so, and it’s easier to let the vandals take over.
Didn’t the Romans provide public water to demonstrate civilization? See how far we’ve progressed!

It would be great to see more water fountains as they definitely are a rare sight. That’s actually is one public service which America is much better than Britain at providing – airports, bus stations, libraries, sports stadiums and so on all tend to have readily available fountains. Strangely though, it’s always seemed to me that people drink a lot more bottled water over there!

pickle says:
5 July 2011

The only time I buy bottled water is when I am flying – you arn’t supposed to take water through security check….

Michael Green says:
5 July 2011

My name is Mike and I am the founder of tapwater.org a not for profit organisation making drinking water available on the high street by using maps and smart phone apps. If you download the app you can now find drinking water at over 1000 refilling points nationwide for free. What is remarkable about our simple scheme is that shops such as Lush and Snow and Rock are now refilling stations meaning the growing band of refilling stations has now moved away from cafes and pubs.
At the end of July we will launch our new site with a revolutionary bottle that keeps water cool for up to 20 hours we will also publish much more information about the damaging effect of plastic on our environment, join the revolution.

Thank you Mike. What a fabulous idea! Have you thought about to reaching out to other organisations like HMSA (just one small exampls). I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and get very dehydrated so carry water with me but it is also hard to get around or carry a spare. To stop somewhere, without embarrassment, and fill up, is huge. Your app is not just for the fit but maybe for the once too fit. Lots of people that have EDS and related conditions were once great athletes.
Even if HMSA won’t link your website or APP then others might. The more links you get the further you climb up google.

An ordinary bottle can be refilled with tap water hundreds of times. Just keep it clean.

Many soft drinks contain spoons and spoons full of sugar and those that don’t, contain artificial sweeteners that can (I know!) cause mild asthma. So, if out, about and drinkless, it’s water I buy or find somewhere for a cuppa. Waste of money? Yes, and resources too, but useful once in a while.

Many people have an outside tap in their front garden and I would be happy for anyone passing to fill up their water bottle from my tap. Perhaps we could set up a national scheme for labeling taps where the householder is happy to help in this way.

Sophy says:
7 July 2011

I watched the film about bottled water on http://www.storyofstuff.com/ and haven’t bought a bottle since! Mostly I carry a reusable flask – a metal one that keeps water cool, or if I’ve forgotten it, I’ve found that most pubs are pretty good about giving you a glass of water if you ask nicely, or buy some crisps or something at the same time. But since I decided to not buy bottled water any more (or other plastic bottled drinks), I’ve realised that being a little bit thirsty isn’t the end of the world, and its usually not too long before you can be somewhere where you can get a drink. So many people in the world live where clean water is in short supply, we should be able to stand being a bit parched for a few hours!

Steve in Essex says:
7 July 2011

I only buy bottled water after getting to air side at an airport, so that I will have it to drink on the plane.

The bottles then get re-used until the next time I have to go through airport security.

The only times I won’t drink tap water is where I think it is not directly from the mains and where it has been softened – most hotels, in other words. And that is only because it tastes terrible. But I usually have my own water with me.

I never go anywhere without a bottle of water, but sometimes I forget it, so I will buy bottled water occasionally (which is then refilled and used again).

It always amazes me the difference in the taste of tap water depending on where you live. The water where we are in London tastes horrible, but whenever I go to the Midlands it tastes much nicer.

I never buy water in restaurants though, I always ask for tap water (although I think it should be offered, rather than me having to ask, but that’s a different matter!), and I was really surprised on Tuesday night when I went to see Take That at Wembley – I asked for some tap water, but was refused. Instead I went without, unlike my friends who had to pay for a bottle of water, which was then emptied into a cup, before being handed over. Madness..! How many plastic bottles must they get through there? What a waste.

Easy Chair says:
8 July 2011

You ought to have a supplementary question to “Do you buy bottled water?”. It should be do you buy 1. only still water
2. only sparlking
3. both

I would have answered 2. only sparkling. For some occasions and drink you need to offer sparkling. But there seems to me no occasion when still bottled is better than tap. We offer Chateau Thames at home

Hi Easy Chair – yes there are a number of ways we could put the poll. The poll at the moment only asks about still water. We could have asked whether you buy bottled water only when you’re out, but we felt we had to keep it simple. The comments are for you to develop upon your thoughts, as you have done here! 🙂

Alan T says:
8 July 2011

I buy cheap sparkling water because I like the taste. I use it to take my pills.
I have a distorted sense of smell which dates back to a nose operation many years ago.
I do not drink water from my kitchen tap because I can smell the chlorine in it. It is OK for coffee because the boiling boils it out.

TheMole says:
8 July 2011

I can’t see the point of buying bottled water when it probably has more/worse chemicals in it than the stuff that comes out of the taps. Sometimes there are taste issues but I don’t have any problems with this – my partner says he can taste tap water but in blind tasting (he didn’t know he was being tested!) he didn’t notice any unpleasant taste from the tap water. I do sometimes buy sparkling water simply because I like it.