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Bottled Water vs. Reno's Tap Water

Facts, Figures and Tips About Bottled Water

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Bottled Water vs. Reno's Tap Water
Photo © Stan White
Updated April 23, 2011
Reno tap water is among the highest quality drinking water in the country. Drinking Reno's tap water instead of bottled water is a simple way to save money, conserve energy, and help keep a lot trash out of the landfill. It's also plain common sense not to pay over a dollar for what you can get for less than a penny. That's right; drinking water delivered by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) costs less than a penny a gallon as it flows into your home. Put another way, TMWA charges $1.58 per month for the first 6000 gallons of drinking water delivered to your faucet. I'll buy that and save my money for expensive things, like food and gas.

Truckee Meadows Drinking Water Quality

Most Reno and Sparks drinking water starts as snow in the Sierra Nevada and reaches us via the Truckee River. The TMWA water system includes a series of lakes and reservoirs, the largest of which is Lake Tahoe. The end result for us is some of the cleanest and highest quality drinking water in America; no bottled water needed. Go to the TMWA Water Quality web page for detailed information.

At the end of 2009, an outfit called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report ranking 100 cities in terms of the health and safety of their water supply. Reno (and Las Vegas) ranked poorly in the EWG report, prompting an immediate response from TMWA and Nevada officials. Learn more about this issue and get additional water quality details in my article The Lowdown on Reno's Drinking Water.

Bottled Drinking Water Facts and Figures

Bottled drinking water numbers are big and seeing some of them together helps put things in perspective. Even though there may be nothing wrong with bottled water per se, it's a mighty expensive way to quench your thirst.
  • Federal regulations only require bottled drinking water to be as good as tap water.
  • If bottled drinking water is only sold where it is produced (does not cross state lines), even minimal federal regulations do not apply.
  • Up to 40 percent of bottled water originates from municipal water systems; i.e., tap water.
  • We spend $15 billion a year on bottled drinking water.
  • 1.5 million barrels of oil a year are consumed to make the 70 million plastic water bottles used each day in the U.S. Additional fossil fuel is required to transport bottled drinking water to points of sale.
  • 22 billion empty plastic bottles a year are discarded; only 20 percent of those get recycled.
I visited a local Reno supermarket to see the choices in bottled drinking water and found an incredible variety of sizes and prices, making it quite difficult to tell what it actually costs per ounce, quart, liter, or gallon. I found gallons ranging from 98 cents to $1.50, 0.79 quart for 69 cents, and liters from $1.49 to $2.19. I didn't even try to calculate the unit costs for the cases of various sized bottles. However, no matter how you pour it, bottled water is way more expensive than what we already have by turning on a faucet.

Drinking Water Filters

Instead of buying bottled tap water that's been filtered, do it yourself. Several companies make home filtration systems with activated charcoal that will remove impurities like the residual chlorine found in municipal waters. Aeration and just letting it sit for a while will also dissipate the chlorine. According to Paul Miller, manager of Operations and Water Quality at the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, adding residual chlorine is a public health requirement that keeps bacteria at bay as water flows through the pipes between the treatment plant and customers' faucets.

Reusable Drinking Water Bottles

To carry around your filtered tap water, get a reusable bottle. These come in various sizes, shapes, colors, and decor. You can also choose metal (stainless steel or aluminum) or plastic (look for BPA free containers). At one of our Reno outdoor stores, I found a selection of sizes ranging from 10 oz. to 32 oz. There are also bottles with integral filters so you can refill on the fly should you run low on H20.

Sources: Truckee Meadows Water Authority, USA Today, Bottled Water Blues, Bloomberg Businessweek.

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