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The song and tap dance of bottled waters
September 10, 2007 5:54 AM   Subscribe


 
Back in high school, a fellow student was doing a taste test on several brands of water. When I did it, I told her all of them tasted the same. She got frustrated and told me to "just pick one."

I still think the main difference in taste of water comes from temperature.
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:08 AM on September 10, 2007


Um, you're not drinking it for the taste. You're drinking it to show people you can blow $55 on a bottle of water and not blink.
posted by smackfu at 6:12 AM on September 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Proving yet again that first-world populations are driven by self-indulgence, convenience and mass-market advertising instead of thrift, economy and considered consumption. We are so ripe for overthrow.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:17 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's to separating fools from their money.
posted by The White Hat at 6:21 AM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ahahahahahahaha. "... I need a 9.0 pH..."

Serious professional, there.
posted by blacklite at 6:23 AM on September 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thats nothing, my body constantly maintains a pH of 0.

Of course, I am a gray alien, so YMMV.
posted by Avenger at 6:32 AM on September 10, 2007


That's why I only drink rain water and pure grain alcohol.
posted by Poolio at 6:34 AM on September 10, 2007 [7 favorites]


scoff all you want but I use it to fill my car's radiator and the car runs much better now.
posted by Postroad at 6:36 AM on September 10, 2007




Heh, no. There are some truly bad-tasting tap waters out there. The most recent one I drank was in Mechanicsburg, PA.

I usually drink store-brand "spring" water, but even there, the stuff from one source leaves an aftertaste, while that from another doesn't. And sometimes I drink hot water, at other times cold. Bad water tastes bad either way.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:38 AM on September 10, 2007


That was in response to this comment:
I still think the main difference in taste of water comes from temperature.

Oddly enough, that quote doesn't show up when you click link instead of I.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:40 AM on September 10, 2007


Some water tastes better than other water but no water is worth $55 a pop. Unless you're lost in a desert, and have lots of cash, and some dude set up a stand to sell water to lost souls like you. Then, well, that's the free market, baby!
posted by m0nm0n at 6:45 AM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


and only a small % of those bottles are recycled. Soo much unnecessary waste. Filter your tap water if you must, just please, you could probably use one bottle for the rest of your life. Plastic isn't biodegradable, remember?
posted by Gregamell at 6:56 AM on September 10, 2007


Aquafina is the same damn stuff I drink out of the tap daily.
posted by notsnot at 7:00 AM on September 10, 2007


STOP MAKING WATER A COMMODITY! Get a filter if your water tastes bad out of the tap. Carry a bottle of water filled from your tap on your daily travels. Nestle, Coca Cola and Pepsi are making obscene profits selling you something you can get for free. This gives them and other corporations more financial incentive to buy up public water systems and turn it into profit. WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT!!! Every bottle of water you buy is another step toward privatizing the water supply.
posted by any major dude at 7:05 AM on September 10, 2007 [22 favorites]


Aquafina is the same damn stuff I drink out of the tap daily.

Oh, but it goes through sextuple forward osmosis and then shot with radiating light that would be otherwise wasted in the nuclear holocaust. Hence, buy not drinking bottles, you are the terrorist.
posted by jmd82 at 7:13 AM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Way before the Aquafina disclosures recently, my Organic Chemistry teacher taught us that all "Spring" water is "other people's tap water".
posted by kalessin at 7:35 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT!!!

Calm down man, you make it sound like the stuff grows on trees or something.
posted by Peter H at 7:37 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


STOP MAKING WATER A COMMODITY! Get a filter if your water tastes bad out of the tap....

Are you yelling at the internets again?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:38 AM on September 10, 2007


Aquafina is the same damn stuff I drink out of the tap daily.

That school could go tuition-free by having the girls bottle and sell their tap water in recyclable bottles. Run ads mentioning "Catholic high school girls" and silly stuff like "Bottled up." and "Good enough for Sister." and "Wholly water." and the like. And label it with a picture of a Catholic high school girl just fitting into her uniform, of course. And maybe "Not bubbly." or "Measures up." with a picture of a stern-looking ruler-wielding nun.
posted by pracowity at 7:40 AM on September 10, 2007 [5 favorites]


First of all, I believe NYC has exceptionally high quality tap water, so this might not be a really fair test.

Secondly, even though the city I live in has supposedly good water, I can taste the difference very easily between tap and purified water. I can't tell the difference between purified water and tap water.

A while back, my mom started getting pure water and adding minerals to it, that are supposedly dissolved in regular water and are good for the body (drinking pure water flushes them out of your system if you're not getting them elsewhere.) Anyway, I noticed that adding the minerals made the water taste exactly like tap water, at least to me.

So in my case I think the taste difference is related to the presence of those minerals.

But yeah, I definitely can't tell the difference between various brands and types of pure water.

STOP MAKING WATER A COMMODITY!

Dude, tap water is practically the definition of a commodity. Actually what you're asking is that people treat water as a commodity, rather then as a consumer or luxury product.
posted by delmoi at 7:40 AM on September 10, 2007


20 comments and not one mention of buying a Nalgene bottle and filling it with tap water. You guys are slipping.
posted by MikeMc at 7:58 AM on September 10, 2007


Previously.
posted by inoculatedcities at 8:07 AM on September 10, 2007


I fully support the efforts of business people to exploit the stupidly status conscious by charging ridiculous prices for ordinary goods. It's worked successfully for deBeers, Rolex and Harley-Davidson for decades.
posted by psmealey at 8:12 AM on September 10, 2007


The situation in this feature at somethingawful is looking really imminent now.
posted by tehloki at 8:18 AM on September 10, 2007


Pocket UV-powered water purifier. This is the coolest water purifier I have seen.
posted by stbalbach at 8:23 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


First of all, I believe NYC has exceptionally high quality tap water, so this might not be a really fair test.

The roaches and rats seem to like it.
posted by jonmc at 8:35 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Don't they add salt to Aquafina? Fucking genius.
posted by NationalKato at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2007


Years ago, my sister was in charge of the non-sales operations of a major department store in New York City, which had bubblers available here and there with those five gallon jugs on them, for the convenience of both employees and customers. They were buying that water at so much a jug, which added up to a big bill.

At some point, she canceled the water contract, but kept the machines and a good supply of empty jugs. She instructed the night janitors henceforth to fill up the jugs every night with that good New York City tap water and put them on the bubblers. Nobody ever noticed the difference.
posted by beagle at 8:44 AM on September 10, 2007


I've finally figured out what's going to make me a millionaire.

I'm going to create a bottled water brand called "Fucking Tap Water." The label will have a picture of a kitchen sink. I will fill it with tap water from regular old sinks. Not even a brita filter. It will cost 1 dollar precisely, AFTER tax.
posted by shmegegge at 8:56 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can taste the difference very easily between tap and purified water. I can't tell the difference between purified water and tap water.

Uh?
posted by jtron at 9:14 AM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Fucking Tap Water"

You'll make even more money if you market it as a water-based lubricant.
posted by Peter H at 9:15 AM on September 10, 2007


Peter H writes "WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT!!!"

NO, water is a compound of H and 0. Making it so that every individual very easily obtains and use enough potable water for their own daily survival and sanitation is more like a right.

Problem is that some powers-that-be would like to ask you for more money for the "privilege" of having enough water so that they can make huge profit , or fake having huge costs to deliver it (so they can make huge profit disguised as costs). After all what can you do, live without drinking ? It's literally making you an offer you just can't refuse !
posted by elpapacito at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2007


I can taste the difference very easily between tap and purified water. I can't tell the difference between purified water and tap water.

Really, Delmoi - what are you telling us? And by "purified" do you mean distilled, or what?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:30 AM on September 10, 2007


There are some areas of the country where I will not drink the tap water because it tastes damned nasty and there tends to be a lot, A LOT, of argra chems in the water table, but those are the exceptions and yeah bottled water is the ultimate scam (unless it that peach smart water, I like that stuff too much)
posted by edgeways at 9:36 AM on September 10, 2007


elpapacito - I didn't write that. I quoted it from the thread.
posted by Peter H at 9:39 AM on September 10, 2007


Love that sulfurous Florida water. Yum.
posted by smackfu at 9:43 AM on September 10, 2007


Having been spoiled with good water all my life, I stayed for some months in a place with horrible water. I was talking to my roommate as I was moving in, poured myself a glass of water, took a big swig, and did a spit-take into the sink.

Still, I figured I could learn to tolerate that stuff or waste money on bottled/Brita, so that's what I did. I'm living near there now, and I got happily surprised by the water at the new place tasting at least half-decent. However, this new place does have me drinking about a pebble per glass and having to clean a pot after I just boil tap water in it for iced tea.

Look at the name, though. "Bling H2O". To anyone with a brain, that ought to read as "STUPID PEOPLE PLEASE GIVE US YOUR EXCESS MONEY H2O."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:48 AM on September 10, 2007


Water? You mean, like, from a toilet? Why would you want to drink that? DRINK BRAWNDO - IT'S GOT ELECTROLYTES
posted by kid ichorous at 9:50 AM on September 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


i have lived on Great Lakes water my whole life, and the only time i didn't drink from the tap is when i lived in a place with lots of lead pipe.

when i travel, i have to buy bottled after i run out of the stuff i bring with me in gallon jugs, cuz the well water y'alls got sucks, just about everywhere.

and in twenty years, when you people who chose to live in the desert come crying to pipeline (or bottle) lake superior, you'll be getting a big ol' "fuck you" from the folks hereabouts.
posted by RedEmma at 9:57 AM on September 10, 2007


Water is so first two milennia. I prefer Natural Fruit Flavored Water Beverage.
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:59 AM on September 10, 2007


1. Some tap waters taste like crap. Bless you folks for whom this isn't true, but it's not true for all of us.

2. Buying a filter that needs to be replaced periodically works out to costing more than I pay to refill my 5 gallon jugs. So every time some genius suggests just buying a filter, it shows they can't do basic math.

3. Not all plastic bottles are recycled, true. But the ones I use, are. So this is a non-issue for me, since 100% of the plastic I buy water in gets recycled.

4. Buying fancy bottled water for a huge sum of money is outrageous, yes. But not all purchased water is fancy or outrageously priced or appealing to the luxury snob market. Surely the kind I get isn't.

5. I suspect that many of the folks that are sneering at the bottled water buyers pay FAR more for beer or soda than I do for the purified water I buy and drink regularly. Yet the idea of their paying far more money for a beverage that's far less healthy doesn't seem to have been considered as they preach about the ills of bottled water consumption.

Let's see, any other arguments out there against me buying purified water? That seems to take care of the main ones...
posted by darkstar at 10:00 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


After reading so much about bottled water being a waste of money and resources, I went back to tap water for myself and for my kids. Worked out just fine, actually, and in retrospect I feel like I spent several years being an idiot.
posted by davejay at 10:05 AM on September 10, 2007


For an NPR production, the audio levels are awful on this - it's either wayyyyy loud or you're struggling to hear it.
posted by jbickers at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seconding jbickers. "Rough Cuts" is quite the accurate description; it's like LISTENINGTOAMANIC depressive telling you something REALLYFREAKINGIMPORTANT while waterskIING!
posted by tehloki at 10:33 AM on September 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


I can't put tap water in my nalgene bottle because my nalgene bottle's full of Mountain Dew. (which is probably mostly tap water, but at least it's cheaper than Aquafina)
posted by MtDewd at 10:48 AM on September 10, 2007


Some tap water is horrible. Las Vegas and Phoenix both had water from the tap that was just disgusting. Either bottled water or a filter makes a lot of sense in places like that.

If you buy a 5-gallon bottle and get it refilled at the purification stations in some stores, it's quite reasonable.... much more than tap water, but a tiny fraction of what standard bottled water would cost.

I think a decent countertop water filter is probably the cheapest way to go. The filters are usually $30 or so, and will treat many thousands of gallons. I'm not talking about the super-complex three-way systems, just the single, high-quality filter in a tube on your countertop. I used to use one when I lived in another spot where the city supply was gross, and got great-tasting water for a tiny premium over straight tap.

What I'd really like to see would be a filter that worked that well, but that wasn't disposable... if you could clean it in, say, the dishwasher, and then use it again, that would be perfect.
posted by Malor at 10:48 AM on September 10, 2007


I make my own water by burning gasoline and collecting the leftovers.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:01 AM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you live in an area with a good water source, tap water is typically purer and has less bacteria than bottled water, which has always been standing in the shelf for some time. In where I'm from, tap water often (but not always) wins in laboratory tests and blind tastings.
posted by ikalliom at 11:05 AM on September 10, 2007


US tap water tastes of bleach. I notice it less now but it drove me crazy when I first got here. Give me bottled anytime.
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on September 10, 2007


I agree, Malor...our water here wavers between somewhat innocuous yet "mineraly" to moderately chlorine flavored. To my palate, it tastes horrible unless absolutely frigid when you drink it. A glass of it, taken to the desk and allowed to warm to room temp while you're sipping on it, is very off-putting. The filtered/purified stuff stands up much better to drinking it cool-but-not-ice-cold, in my experience.

Also, here in Phoenix we have water vendors (stores) where they have a setup where the, yes, tapwater is R.O. filtered, U.V. treated, passed through charcoal, etc., and then sold for about 20 cents per gallon. So there's no problem with it having sat for a long time and collected leached plastic chemicals or bacterial growth, etc.

I've been ogling the simple gravity filters (canister type) but they cost about $100 with filters. For the price of the filter, I can buy 500 gallons of purified water which will last me for a 2 or 3 years. So it's a trade-off, but I suspect I will eventually get one. The convenience makes a big difference (no more hauling water).
posted by darkstar at 11:19 AM on September 10, 2007


NO, water is a compound of H and 0. Making it so that every individual very easily obtains and use enough potable water for their own daily survival and sanitation is more like a right.

Problem is that some powers-that-be would like to ask you for more money for the "privilege" of having enough water so that they can make huge profit , or fake having huge costs to deliver it (so they can make huge profit disguised as costs).


Excuse me a moment, but that's just nonsense. Public water supplies are complex and one of the unsung marvels of modern engineering.

The trouble is just that they are so successful that we consider ourselves entitled to it as a right, when it's a precious resource that requires a lot of effort to provide. It's when tap water is so heavily subsidised that people don't worry about their consumption at all that we see environmental nonsense like lush green lawns in Las Vegas or golf courses in Southern Spain.
posted by Skeptic at 2:38 PM on September 10, 2007


Doesn't anyone else notice your taste adjusts when you go to a different region? Water always tastes funny at first.
posted by AppleSeed at 2:47 PM on September 10, 2007


Was that Bill Clinton he was interviewing?
posted by jeremy b at 3:08 PM on September 10, 2007


I drink bottled water because the tapwater in the last two towns I lived in dehydrated me worse than coffe does. I can only assume that the chlorine levels in the tapwater is considerably higher here than in other areas. So, my choses are drinking bottled water or feeling like I've been punched in the kidneys.
posted by lekvar at 3:21 PM on September 10, 2007


I carry a big hunk ‘o platinum wrapped around a polymer electrolyte membrane filled with hydrogen and oxygen and a Tesla coil and manufacture my own H2O whenever I need it. Three pounds of platinum bling on a high tech tap, bitches. Plus it’s really dangerous which enhances my look so people think I’m edgy. I’m willing to not only spend a hundred grand, but I’ll blow my hands right off for my water.


I think water is a resource people have a right to. It falls from the sky. You wonder if there will be laws against collecting it.
Granted, it’s a right you have to pay for to get sent to your house, but that’s one of those fundimental reasons government is around, big infrastructure engineering projects and protections like keeping some nut from poisoning the water supply.
(Although Batman’s been doing a pretty good job there...)
So I don’t mind paying taxes to the water reclamation district at all.
What’s going on, quite a bit, is the misuse of that resource such that many people don’t have clean water to drink.
Although that’s more of a logistic and environmental/waste disposal problem in many cases.
I’d have to say, then, the right to drink clean water is a right superior to the right to, say, boost profits by dumping waste into the commons.
The objections to the erosion of the culture that values those government protections and how water is considered are valid ones. It’s not a stretch to consider a culture which thinks of water only as something for use in the toilet - as dilution for pollution (to make less efficient disposal methods more viable to make more money). You can’t make money off of a natural resource considered as something everyone has a right to.
But you can’t drink money.
(Although you can drink Brawndo, ‘cos it’s got electrolytes) ...brought to you by Carl’s Jr. *accepts $500*
posted by Smedleyman at 3:23 PM on September 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Since it appears we now have now achieved more than unity, ..."
"... we are therefore wrong."
posted by Flunkie at 4:50 PM on September 10, 2007


The place I spent this summer at, I used bottled water for everything except washing dishes and showering. I had to. I was drawing from a well, and didn't have a water softener, so the tap water was undrinkable.
posted by kafziel at 5:42 PM on September 10, 2007


"I think water is a resource people have a right to. It falls from the sky. You wonder if there will be laws against collecting it"

Actually where I live it is against the water laws to collect the water that falls on your roof and store it in a rain barrel for use later.

I'd also like to see the 30 dollar countertop filter that purifies many thousands of gallons of water.
posted by Eekacat at 5:47 PM on September 10, 2007


I was drawing from a well, and didn't have a water softener, so the tap water was undrinkable.

I don't understand this. I lived for more than a decade on well water, hard'er than stones. Smelled a bit when it was hot; otherwise, healthful in the extreme.

I'd also like to see the 30 dollar countertop filter that purifies many thousands of gallons of water.

We have a trifilter system under our counter here in Korea. Costs maybe $30 a year, all in, for the filters, which are changed on different schedules. I don't know why they would cost wildly more anywhere else.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:18 PM on September 10, 2007


Melbourne (Australia) tap water is beautiful -- the nicest I've ever tasted anywhere, including bottled water. Unfortunately there's only 50-60 weeks worth left due to the drought, which makes it really odd to read some of the comments here because we're hitting a point where water is becoming a privilege.
posted by prettypretty at 10:27 PM on September 10, 2007


Brisbane (Australia) tap water is absolutely shocking. I have been trying to adjust to the taste my entire life ... no joy. So, due to my mother's insistence that filtering water made no difference, and not buying bottled water, I spent most of my first 20 years dehydrated. I eventually moved out of home and bought a water filter ... and discovered that water wasn't so horrible after all. I drinkn bottled water occasionally, usually when I need a new plastic bottle because and old one is starting to get a bit skanky. The old ones get recycled, of course.

However, we're in the midst of a pretty damn severe drought. We're down to 4minute showers, half-flush water-saving loos, no watering gardens or washing cars, no filling pools, and absolutely minimal domestic use of water, to the tune of 140L a day. Recently, we achieved an average domestic use of 122L per person per day. Given that with a non-watersaving showerhead, that's about 10minutes under the water ... and that's before toilets, laundry, food prep and cleanup, drinking water ... yeah. The water situation here is beyond tight. And they're seriously considering tightening water usage further this summer. What is left to cut out? I don't know. There's certainly a water rates rise on the near horizon - if only to encourage people to be even more conservative in their water consumption.

With that in mind - it's starting to look like a civic duty to drink imported bottled water. At least it isn't our (rapidly diminishing) water being drunk, then.
posted by ysabet at 11:20 PM on September 10, 2007


In ancient times, before bottled water was popular, you could buy gallon jugs in grocery stores from $.52 to $.69 for Poland Spring. In California, I preferred Arrowhead. In Europe, it's Spa (Belgian). In South Africa, Tsitsikama. I only buy water away from home, anymore.

At home, I've used Brita and in South Africa, H2O (brand), filters. Filters work just fine for me.

When I lived in Wisconsin, I could drive to springs and fill my own bottles. But one spring always gave me heartburn. Ah, but having read some Michael Jackson, I suspect they could make a fine Lambic beer from that water! (Not that I care, I don't like fine, traditional Lambic beer anyway).

I do, however, have a beautiful tear-shaped glass bottle of Evian, sold for the turn-of-the-millennium, still unopened. I figure one day I'll put it on ebay and see what happens!
posted by Goofyy at 6:08 AM on September 12, 2007


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