Bottled or tap? Still or sparkling? Mineral or spring? We all know we should be drinking more water, but it can be hard to know what type is right. Hannah Ebelthite mops up any confusion.
Tap vs bottled – which is safer?
“Both are completely safe to drink, it’s just that they each go through very different processes,” says Kinvara Carey, General Manager at the Natural Hydration Council.
“Tap water is chemically treated, spring and mineral waters are not but are very strictly tested. Tap water is neutralised and then disinfected with chlorine, which you may be able to smell or taste, but it’s at very low, completely safe levels,” says Pigott.
“Some tap water contains fluoride, either naturally or added, and there’s evidence this helps prevent dental caries. Again, it’s at safe levels.”
The taste of tap water varies from one region to the next and you may want to use a water filter if yours is very hard (high in minerals) and scales up your kettle, or you don’t like the taste (filters remove small metals and minerals). “But there’s no health need to do so,” she adds.
Know your waters
The UK buys more than two billion litres of bottled water a year, all of which are regulated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and DEFRA. A quick glance at the label will tell you what you’re quaffing.
It might just be ‘bottled drinking water’ or ‘table water’, which will either list its source as municipal (from the tap) or natural. This water will have been treated so there’s no harm in it.
Next up is spring water, which must be from an underground, natural source, be bottled at source and be microbiologically safe without treatment.
“Natural mineral water is spring water that must come from an identified and protected source and cannot be treated,” she continues.
“This status is only given to water proven to be free from pollution and consistent in its composition of minerals (mainly calcium and magnesium), picked up from the rocks it passes through. Mineral water cannot have ingredients removed or added.”
“Spring and mineral waters aren’t sterile and may contain sodium, therefore they’re not suitable for making up infant formula,” warns Pigott.
The healthiest H2O
Whether you prefer it fizzy, filtered or from the tap; with a slice of lemon or a bag of herbal tea, it’s all H2O and it all counts. The healthiest water?
“It’s simply the one you’re most likely to drink,” says Pigott.
Words by Hannah Ebelthite