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As the warm weather draws near, Americans are putting on their hiking boots, cleaning off their bicycles, and readying their water bottles for their seasonal spike in thirst. But which water to drink? Yes, all drinking water starts as precipitation, much of it having fallen hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Yet the differences between waters is remarkable depending on where it fell and how it was absorbed into waterways. More recently, bottled water marketers have entered the scene, touting the wonders of their products and, behind the scenes, planting fear about their main competitor – the tap. In the end, we’re left with a confusing supply of options. These definitions should help:
Spring. Coming directly from a spring or through a borehole right next to the spring, the flavor and composition of this water depends on the spring itself. Given the FDA’s loose definition of spring water, the so-called “spring” water may come from other sources, as well.
Mineral water. No surprise – water with high mineral content. At one time, health-seekers went to spas where they bathed in and drank mineral water straight from the earth. Today, it’s bottled and shipped.
Raw. Comes straight from the ground without processing or filtration systems. Bottlers believe the “living” waters contain nutrients, such as microscopic algae, potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium and, so, have “healing” qualities.
Glacial. The remains of glaciers that covered roughly 1/3 of the earth 20,000 years ago, this water is low on minerals and tastes much like rainwater. It may have more contaminants than other options.
Artisan. Essentially spring water held in a sloped aquifer which pushes water to the surface, creating a steady fountain. Artisan water tends to be more protected from containments than shallow sources.
Carbonated. Some water is naturally carbonated, while others have carbon dioxide infused at the bottler’s plant. Oddly, some bottlers remove the carbon dioxide and replace it after the water is processed.
Well. Gone are the days of a hole in the ground with a bucket held by ropes to contain it. Today’s wells are machine pumped Home owners swear by the well-water in their backyards, but bottlers avoid the description, making bottled well water hard to find.
Municipal aka Tap. Millions of Americans drink tap water from a variety of sources. While highly regulated, the taste and quality can be affected by everything from the surrounding environment to the pipes it travels through. Still, the price is right and amendments, from filters to distilling processes ae available.
Purified. After going through a multi-faceted cleansing process, this (typically tap) water is made “pure”…and tasteless. Some companies add flavor, such as Nestle who apply a 12-step purification process to their tap water, then “add a light blend of minerals” to give their product “its distinctive, refreshing taste.”
Fluoridated. In the 1940s, researchers determined that tasteless and odorless fluoride helped build strong teeth. It has appeared in municipal water since then.
Distilled. Distilled water is basically nothing more than hydrogen and oxygen molecules – formed through a process that turns water to steam, then back to water again, eliminating the minerals, salt, calcium, iron and other materials… not to mention the flavor. Distilled water comes in bottles although do-it-yourself systems exist for the home.