Better In A Bottle?
Apr 28, 2003 11:00 pm US/Eastern
PHILADELPHIA (KYW) Drinking a glass of water has become a big decision from where to get it to how much to spend on it. Consumer Reporter Paul Moriarty finds out what type of water is most appealing.
When it comes to price alone, tap water is the clear-cut winner. Moriarty reports four gallons of tap water costs about a penny while the same amount of top-selling bottled water costs about $15.
With such an enormous price difference, Moriarty decided to find out what makes people buy bottled water.
"I feel it's safer," explained Cindy Voluntad.
"I think it's purer, said Debbie Panichelli.
Jerry Johnson summed it up this way: "It just has an overall better taste."
According to Erik Olsen of the National Resource Defense Council, who penned the book "Bottled Water...Pure Drink or Pure Hype," consumers often assume all bottled water comes from pristine natural springs: "Very often, it's not. In fact, a lot of bottled water is just tap water that's been purified much of it is not from a pristine source."
The water in leading brands Aquafina and Dasani, for example, actually comes from municipal water supplies in 43-cities across the country including the Philadelphia water supply.
"You could look with a microscope at a lot of the labels for many of the major brands and not find out that it actually comes from city tap water," explained Olsen, who added that requirements for bottled water testing are much less rigid than those for tap water. "For example, many bottlers are only required to test their water for bacteria once a week, whereas a city like Philadelphia may test literally hundreds of times a month," he stated.
That said, is bottled water really that much better?
To find out, a panel of taste testers was assembled inside a Drexel University lab.
The panel was comprised of two experts - Chemist Tom Cittelman and Bioscientist Stanley Segall - and two amateurs – Julie Hastings her friend Michelle Sheridan.
They had no idea that four samples were top-selling bottled waters - Aquafina, Dasani, Poland Spring, and Deer Park or that the remaining four were tap water samples taken from Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, Wilmington and Allentown.
They drank several glasses of water and then marked their ballots.
Aquafina bottled water tied with Allentown municipal water for first place.
The runner-ups, which ranked about the same, were Poland Spring, Deer Park, Dasani and Wilmington, Delaware, tap water.
The panel also tied in their dislike of Philadelphia and Cherry Hill tap water saying both had a strong chlorine taste. However, officials in those areas say taste is subjective and they get few complaints.
As for the people at Aquafina and Dasani, they acknowledge their water comes from municipal water supplies but maintain their products are treated and filtered for purity. In the case of Dasani, a spokesperson says minerals are also added.