Generally speaking—in the United States, at least—you can drink from the tap without any risk to your health under most circumstances. If you choose to buy water, you should do so because you prefer the taste or because you fall into a small group of people who put themselves at risk by drinking tap water (more on this later). For the most part, the water from your faucet will serve you well.
Differences Between Water Types
To learn more about the differences between water types and their health benefits (or lack thereof), we consulted Dr. Carly Stewart—the medical expert over at Money Crashers. She explains:
There are three different types of drinking water to choose from: tap water, filtered water, and bottled water. However, the differences between each type are less distinct than you might think. For example, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, approximately 25% of bottled water is nothing more than bottled tap water. Also, federal regulations that govern the manufacturers of bottled water are typically much less strict than those regarding tap water.
While most bottled water gets filtered, the water you drink may come from the tap in another location. Before you waste your money on what you already have in your home, check the bottle to learn how the water gets filtered. If it doesn’t say, it might just come from the tap.
Tap Water-Related Health Benefits and Risks
In general, tap water provides some health benefits. While minimal, if you don’t mind tap water you might want to stick with it. Dr. Stewart explains:
In general, there are no major health advantages to drinking bottled water instead of tap. It’s also interesting to note that bottled water may contain less fluoride than tap water, a chemical known to assist in good oral health.
That said, Dr. Stewart also notes that some of the stuff in tap water may prove harmful under very specific circumstances:
The only time it’s generally recommended that you drink bottled water instead of tap water is if you’re in a group at high-risk for infection such as those who are undergoing chemotherapy or HIV-positive or if you are pregnant. You should consult your personal physician to make the best decision.
Under most circumstances, tap water works just fine. Regardless of its origin, make sure you drink enough and you will have fewer health concerns.
What to Do if You Don’t Like the Flavor of Your Tap Water
When you don’t like the way tap water tastes, but do enjoy filtered water in a bottle, you might think to turn to a filtration device. While it’ll cut out many contaminants, Dr. Stewart explains that you can’t get rid of everything:
Using a filtration device for your tap water can help if you don’t like the taste of it, as this removes certain contaminants, such as pesticide and chlorine residues. However, there are some chemicals that a filter cannot remove, such as nitrates and most home filtering systems are not designed to filter out bacteria or viruses.
As a result, if a traditional filter doesn’t do the trick (or you just find them frustratingly slow) you might want to try another solution. I love water, but the tap in my current apartment tastes so terrible I got a filtered water cooler (which costs a lot less than you might think). If you don’t want to spend much money, you might consider buying water flavorings at your grocery store or getting discount water in bulk from stores like Costco.
You may also prefer a non-standard filter. If you like Dasani water, for example, you can filter your water the same way. Reverse osmosis filters tend to produce a taste preferred by more people. They cost a bit more than your average screw-on filter or filter pitcher and require a bit more work, but cost far less than buying bottled water in the long run.
Regardless of how you go about it, most people don’t need to get water from any specific location. Drink what best suits your tastebuds and your budget.