When did the water section of the grocery store get to be more confusing than picking out a health insurance plan? Every time we wander down the bottled water aisle, we see something new, whether it’s vitamin-enhanced water, fat water, coconut water, or alkaline water.

Mineral water vs spring water

No matter where you go, you’re likely to see two mainstays in the bottled water section: mineral water and spring water. But how are they different, and are they any better than regular tap water? Here’s what water experts have to say.

What is spring water?

As suggested by its name, spring water comes straight from a single underground spring that rises naturally to the surface. Buyers like that spring water is collected at a natural source. Once collected, spring water then passes through the filtration process to remove unwanted particles.

What is mineral water?

Similarly, mineral water also originates underground from a protected water source. However, mineral water flows over and through rocks, picking up trace minerals along the way to distinguish itself from spring water. In the United States, mineral water is classified as water containing at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids.

You may hear people referring to mineral water as “hard” or “soft.” These descriptions refer to how many calcium and magnesium ions are dissolved in the water, with more dissolved ions lending to harder water. There may be a slight taste difference at play as well: some people say that soft water tastes a little saltier, while hard water tastes earthier due to the presence of minerals.

Are spring and mineral waters any better than my tap water?

Honestly? Not really. You may get sucked in by the packaging images of pristine freshwater springs, snow-capped mountains, and refreshing outdoors scenes. However, the fact is, all of this water still undergoes some sort of treatment – no matter where it’s from.

You know what else goes through treatment? The tap water that you get from the city basically free. What’s more, tap water is often more strictly regulated than most typed of bottled water. That’s because tap water is under the EPA’s standards and regulations, while bottled water is classified as a food and therefore faces the less rigorous testing of the FDA.

When push comes to shove, your tap water gets the job done: it hydrates you, keeps your teeth healthy (thanks to fluoride), and it costs roughly a million times less than bottled water. If you’re really particular about the taste of your water, why not try an at-home water filter and a glass water bottle? This one-two punch ensures that your water tastes the way you prefer, since glass drinking bottles are taste-neutral. Plus, these are one-time investments that you’ll use every day, rather than constantly running out to buy packages of bottled water at the corner store.  Hey, we’ll raise a glass to that.

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