Most of us who are health conscious try to drink spring water versus tap water in order to avoid impurities and chlorination. Then, just recently, a friend commented that we are paying more for spring water that comes out of the ground for free then we are paying for gasoline for our cars. I got out my sharp pencil and my “beaners” cap and crunched the numbers. A 24oz sport bottle of Poland Spring cost $1.39 at the store. There are 128 ounces in a gallon. That means that a gallon of Poland Spring water in sport bottles cost $7.41 versus $2.50 for a gallon of gasoline.

more than you wanted to know about water

Once I realized this startling result, I decided to research just exactly what I was drinking and what made it so expensive.

What I found out was shocking and unsettling. Most people think that spring water is “pure” because it comes from some spring in the center of a forest and has no chemicals leaching into it from a nearby chemical processing plant. That is not accurate. Most spring water is as impure as tap water. On average, spring water contains approximately the same amount of impurities found in drilled well water or tap water.

Now here comes the unsettling part: Most spring waters are not bottled at or even near their water source. They are pumped into diesel tanker trucks and are transported to the bottling facility. Health regulations mandate that the water in the tanker trucks have to be either chlorinated or ozonated to protect against bacteria. So in other words, no matter how pure the spring water is coming out of the ground, once it is pumped into the tanker trucks and is chlorinated or ozonated it is immediately impure. When the spring water arrives at the bottling plant it goes through a carbon filtration process to remove the chlorine. After that, there are other filtration processes and treatments needed to remove floating particles.

So when you read a spring water label that reads “100% PURE,” it does not mean that there are no impurities in the water. It refers to the source of the water in the bottle. If 100% of the water came from an underground source like a spring instead of a tap it can be labeled 100% pure.

One more thing: Do not be fooled by the label “Natural.” It has no legal meaning! Water coming from the Hudson River can be labeled “Natural” since a river is a natural source of water.

In addition, another misleading label is “protected source.” Spring water purveyors would want you to believe that that implies that the source is hidden deep in some forest. That is also not true. It could mean a well-head that is surrounded by a fence in a city.

Since I was so disappointed with what I found out about spring water, I decided to look into water with other labels. The first that I looked into was “filtered water.” The source of filtered water is normally municipal tap water. The water is run through carbon filters to remove chlorine (which makes it taste better) and sometimes through a micron filter before being
ozonated and bottled. It is basically tap water without the chlorine. It is really not much different than many spring waters.

Distilled water was my next stop on this H20 odyssey. Intuitively I thought distilled water should be the best since it is boiled and the steam is condensed into a purified product. Unfortunately, there are many volatile organic compounds found in water, and many of them have boiling points below that of pure water. For that reason, when the water is boiled, the volatile organic compounds boil off first and become impurities in the distilled water.

It seems that the purest of the water species is “purified water.” It truly is purer than other types of waters. Most people buy purified water because they want something that is of a higher quality and purity than tap water or spring water. To meet the legal definition of “purified water,” water impurities must be removed or reduced to extremely low levels. Water, which meets this definition, is of higher purity than spring water, tap water, or filtered water. Purified water is much more filtered than “filtered water.” Purified water is cleansed and purified through additional purification processes, like reverse osmosis, distillation, or deionization. The resulting product is of significantly higher purity than either spring water, tap water, or filtered water. Even though purified water can come from a spring, surface source, ground water, or directly from a tap, the purification process is designed to remove virtually all types of impurities. The quality of the source water has little bearing on the quality of the final product.

As consumers, we deserve to get what we believe we are paying for. With water, as in many things, the operant philosophy is “caveat emptor” – let the buyer beware.

Paul Profeta

Paul Profeta


Paul V. Profeta co-founded Profeta Farms with his wife, certified Integrative Nutrition Coach, Joanne Malino and organic farmer John Place. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Business School, Paul created a very successful real estate investment company. Concomitantly, he taught and published at Harvard Business School, created the Real Estate Investment Department at Columbia Business School, and most recently endowed the Chaired Professorship of Real Estate at Rutgers Business School resulting in the creation of the Rutgers Center for Real Estate. As a successful athlete in high school and college, Profeta was always interested in health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. Eventually, he decided that America has to change the way it feeds itself. Industrialized food processors shipping food across the country creating a large carbon footprint and offering “food products” with known contaminants and questionable ingredients was not the answer. He has created Profeta Farms, LLC as a template for the way America should feed itself… local, sustainable, certified organic farms featuring integrity and transparency, using the environment in a sustainable and responsible fashion while treating animals humanely so that local shoppers can “know their farmer” and personally check on the farmers methods and ingredients.


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