Tap Water VS Bottled Water

When it comes to mineral or tap water, the spirits diverge. One prefers bottled water; the other drink it directly from the tap. But which of the two is actually healthier? And what are the differences in production and quality? You can find out all of this below.

Water is vital for us humans; we need several litres of it every day to avoid drying out. Blood, brain, liver and muscles are susceptible to water shortages. In Germany, clean drinking water is available directly from the pipe, yet many people prefer mineral water from the bottle.


Tap Water vs. Bottled Water: Which Is Better

Tap water versus mineral water – origin and regulation

Tap water

There are legally laid down definitions for the terms tap water and mineral water, taking into account the chemical and microbiological composition, extraction, and production. German tap water is subject to the Drinking Water Ordinance and must be constantly checked for pollutants by waterworks and independent institutes.

It is about 30 per cent extracted from above-ground and 70 per cent from groundwater deposits. In contrast to mineral water, drinking water is, by definition, also used as service water.

While natural mineral water is also treated with a few isolated processes, it is primarily defined by its constant composition in the mineral content and the origin from greater depths of underground water resources [1]. The extracted mineral water is subject to the Mineral and Table Water Ordinance and must be officially recognised. [2].


Better in consumption but also taste?

A test by WDR has found no difference between tap water and still bottled water from a taste and nutrition point of view. The result did not make much difference because the water used was all shallow in minerals. Silent, low-carbon water releases less flavour-bearing minerals from the rock than carbonated water on the way to the earth’s surface and tastes milder [3].

Is this perhaps the reason why many Germans prefer bubbling water? The consumption of bottled mineral water with carbonic acid is very high in this country, at over 80% of all sales over 500 different bottled water. Consumption of still mineral water, on the other hand, is only about 14.3% [4].

According to the well-known global study Greendex by the National Geographic Society from 2014, we Germans consume 68% of our water from bottled water and are thus world champions. In comparison, our neighbours in Sweden drink just 6% of the bottle [5]. The historical change in Germany is also remarkable, while the per capita consumption of bottled water in 1970 was still 12.5 litres, so in 2022 it was already 147.3 litres. The trend continues to rise! [4]

So what makes the boom of bottled water? The taste is probably too, but isn’t it much more the belief that it is purer and healthier? Or is the buying behaviour not much more influenced by the massive marketing of the corporations? Bottled water seems to be a lot of money.



The quality of tap and mineral water – Which is healthier?

mineral water

Mineral water = an extra amount of minerals?

Although the name suggests it, mineral water does not necessarily contain more minerals than tap water. However, many Germans think that mineral water contains more minerals and prefers to use bottled bottles in the supermarket rather than simply to the tap.

But does mineral water contain more minerals than tap water? A test by Stiftung Warentest 2022 found that mineral water is often low in minerals [6]. Depending on the region, tap water contains little too many minerals and is therefore difficult to flatten.

However, humans do not need the increased concentration of minerals in the water. They usually already eat the minerals they need through their daily diet and can process them better. Read more.


External tests – better is relative.

In 2011, Ökotest examined 118 mineral water brands for mineral content, heavy metals and sustainability. Many of the tested water bottles in reusable packaging have performed “very well”. In part, however, the results were also worrying. Some of the mineral water bottles were contaminated with heavy metals such as uranium, arsenic, boron and manganese. Uranium can damage the kidney and liver even in small concentrations, while boron hurts development, reproduction, and manganese can cause excessive neurological disorders [7].

Tap water is treated and controlled by the waterworks before it is fed into the water network. All this is done following the Drinking Water Ordinance in compliance with approx. 50 specified limit values. For the Federal Environment Agency, compliance with the limit values means excellent drinking water quality. But pollutants below the limits remain in the water, and for many pollutants such as drug residues or polar pesticides, there are still no limit values. Here, too, independent institutes such as Stiftung Warentest were able to detect residues of X-ray contrast agents, sweeteners and pharmaceuticals in many places [8].

Interesting: Contaminants from pollutants occur not only in tap water but also in mineral water.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense to take the topic of drinking water into your own hands and to prepare your own tap water: If you want to drink healthy and tasty water, you can easily fall back on tap water due to nutritional characteristics, but this should be treated with a professional water filter.


Sustainability of tap and mineral water

Bottled water from the supermarket is not sustainable. Not only does the production of plastic bottles require fossil raw materials, but they are also needed for filling systems and for transporting the bottles to the supermarket. The plastic bottles’ subsequent removal provides an additional negative environmental balance [9], so disposable bottles are a particular burden on the environment.

Tap water has a shallow carbon footprint in comparison. Although the treatment of drinking water also costs energy, this is relatively low. According to a study by the ESU Services Institute, mineral water in the bottle has a 90 to 1000 times higher environmental impact than tap water. The exact height depends on the distance the water must travel to the end-user [9].


Cost differences between tap and mineral water

A big advantage of tap water is a low water price. In Germany, tap water is paid an average of around 0.165 cents per litre. Cheap mineral water is available from 12.67 cents per litre, 75 times more. Well-known brands also offer bottled water for 80 cents per litre, which is 500 times more expensive than tap water [10]. Also, the costs of packaging and transport have to be taken into account for mineral water.

However, to meet the comparison, the effort for a water filter system, including filter change, must be offset at this point. But here, too, one-time purchase with 200 euros and an annual cost of filter changes from 80 to 100 euros is a manageable investment. Make your own bill!


Conclusion – Water from the pipe is a good alternative

Although most Germans prefer mineral water, tap water is often more convenient to use, more cost-effective and more environmentally friendly. Even annoying crate towing is superfluous with the water from the pipe. You don’t have to worry about quality; Germany’s tap water is considered perfect drinking water and is nutritionally comparable. However, if you want to make sure that you consume impeccable drinking water and achieve a delicious taste, it is recommended to purchase a professional water filter.

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