I don’t shop without making a menu plan and a list, and I don’t buy bottled drinks at all, including water.
For beverages, we drink almost exclusively water from the tap in my house.
In fact, I can think of few worse rip-offs in the grocery store than the commercial water products.
The fact of the matter is that the bottled water industry has carried out one of the most brilliant marketing campaigns in modern consumer history -- a campaign that has very effectively led U.S families to needlessly spend their hard-earned dollars on an unnecessary and exorbitantly overpriced product.
That means the ones purchased in the grocery store are between 75 and 400 times the cost of water from the tap!
And it's even worse when water is bought in a vending machine, convenience store, or restaurant, where the costs can easily rise to $8 or more per gallon.
Here’s the truth: despite the criminal mismanagement of the public water supply in Flint, Michigan that has led to the tragic poisoning of an entire city population, the vast majority of our tap water in this country is very safe.
That’s particularly true of our public water supplies that undergo regular testing.
There is simply no need to spend 400x and up to 2000x the cost of tap water to buy the bottled variety that is often just tap water itself.
It’s that much more expensive than the water coming out of your own pipes, but it might not be one bit different from that water.
There is absolutely nothing to prevent a seller from filling the bottles with water out of any old faucet and selling it at a premium in the grocery or convenience store.
Several brands do just that, and your favorite may be among them.
Use Refillable Bottles
The much cheaper, more environmentally sound approach is to buy yourself a reusable water bottle, fill it with tap water, and carry it with you wherever you would carry the throwaway.
Wash it in between uses, and it’s ready to go the next time you need it.
Some on the market even have built in water filters for those who are concerned about their source water, or just don’t like the taste.
The savings can be huge if you change to a reusable bottle. The average 4-person household expenditure for bottled water starts at $400 per year and increases to more than $1000 for the premium brands or the convenience store and vending machine varieties.
That's versus about 50¢ for the same amount of water from your tap. That's a huge difference.
Over the course of a life, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars.
Here are some steps I recommend:
Begin by Getting Your Tap Water Tested.
Before you now if you have a problem with your water, you need to have it tested to find out.
If you’re on a well, this should probably be done every year at a minimum, and also every time you make a repair to your plumbing, or change anything with your pump or well.
It is especially important to do it regularly if you live in an agricultural or industrial community, or if new development of any kind occurs in your area. Those situations can lead to changes in the groundwater that might require monitoring.
If you’re on a public water system, you need to test it only once to get the full picture on the water coming out of your faucet, and you probably won't have to test it again unless you notice a change in it, or hear about a switch in the source from your public utility. That’s exactly what happened in Flint.
In fact, I’d suggest making that a rule of thumb about your drinking water: anytime you notice a change in color, taste, or smell, have it tested.
Read on to see how you do that.
You can pick up very cheap DIY water testing kits at home centers, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, but be aware that they are not noted for their reliability.
You are better off using a testing lab certified by your state. You can use the link to help you find a list of labs in your area.
Or you can check with your local public health agency – found through a simple internet search - to locate a lab. In most cases, they will provide you with a kit and directions for collecting a water sample yourself, which you send away for the actual testing.
The kits range in the types of things they test for and in price, from approximately $50 and on up to $200 or more, depending on how comprehensive you want the test to be.
There are also single test kits available that allow you to check for the presence of particular contaminants, such as lead, for example. Those types of test can be as cheap as $15.
The results of these tests may bring a pleasant surprise and put many of your concerns to rest by not finding anything harmful in your household water at all. If that’s the case, then you’ve saved yourself thousands.
However, even if you do find issues with your tap water, there are affordable solutions in the form of various water filters you can install to eliminate the problem in your home.
If Necessary, Install a Water Filter
There are several types available on the market with varying prices and degrees of filtering capability. Be aware they all require that the filter be changed periodically, and the cost of those replacement filters can vary.
Here are some options:
These are the easiest to install. You simply unscrew the aerator on your faucet and screw this in its place. They may not fit every faucet, however. They also slow the flow of water, which is not necessarily a bad thing, since it can help reduce wasted water.
Under-Sink Filter ($100-$600, including professional installation costs)
There are many on the market. Sometimes the retailer who sells the filter will include installation in the price. The installation can also be a DIY project for someone with a bit of experience, the necessary tools, and access to water shut-off valves. Here’s a video to show you how. Or you can also hire a professional. Call around to local plumbers, check on Angie’s List or Home Advisor, and obtain firm quotes on this very straightforward project so that you can make an educated hiring choice.
These plug directly into your faucet and sit on the counter. While they filter large amounts of water fairly quickly, they do not fit every faucet and clutter what may be limited counter space.
Pitcher-Style Filter ($7-50)
This is the most affordable filter system of all that provides peace of mind about your water source at significant savings over the cost of buying bottle water.
Whole House Filter ($45-$1500)
The range of prices on this type of filter is due to the fact that many of them also include whole house water softeners. The lower end price is a very simple system that a seasoned DIYer can do on his/her own. But often this type of system requires the services of a professional plumber, unless you are very handy.
Once they are installed, the yearly expense of changing the filter is nominal, and far cheaper than bottled water.
So, there you have it – several methods to make your home tap water as safe as any bottled water you might buy.
By all means, go ahead and give any of these filtering options a try. With any luck, you’ll find the solution that will help you break any bottled water habits you might have, and save yourself a bundle in the process.
I think you’ll be happy you did.