Editor’s note: O‘ahu’s
water consistently tests high for safety, purity, and taste.
Tap water is not without its problems. The nonprofit Environmental
Working Group (EWG) in 2005 tested municipal water in 42 states
and detected 260 contaminants in public water supplies, 140 of
which were unregulated chemicals, that is, chemicals for which
public health officials have no safety standards or methods for
EWG found more than 90 percent compliance on the part of water
utilities in applying and enforcing standards that exist, but
faulted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not
establishing standards on many chemicals from industry, agriculture,
and urban runoff that contaminate our water.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has also
conducted extensive municipal as well as bottled water tests,
says: “In the short term, if you are an adult with no special
health conditions, and you are not pregnant, then you can drink
most cities’ tap water without having to worry.” This
is because most of the contaminants in public water supplies
exist at such small concentrations that very large quantities
would need to be ingested for health problems to occur.
As for bottled water, it is first important to know that 25 to
30 percent of it comes straight from municipal tap water systems,
despite the pretty nature scenes on the bottles that imply otherwise.
Some of that water goes through additional filtering, but some
does not. NRDC has researched bottled water extensively and has
found that it is “subject to less rigorous testing and
purity standards than those which apply to city tap water.” Bottled
water is required to be tested less frequently than tap water
for bacteria and chemical contaminants, and U.S. Food and Drug
Administration bottled water rules allow for some contamination
by E. coli or fecal coliform, contrary to EPA tap water rules
which prohibit any such contamination.
Similarly, NRDC found that there are no requirements for bottled
water to be disinfected or tested for parasites such as cryptosporidium
or giardia, unlike more stringent EPA rules regulating tap water.
This leaves open the possibility, says NRDC, that some bottled
water may present similar health threats to those with weakened
immune systems, the elderly, and others they caution about drinking
The bottom line is that we have invested considerably in highly
efficient municipal water delivery systems that bring this precious
liquid straight to our kitchen faucets anytime we need it. Instead
of taking that for granted and relying on bottled water instead,
we need to make sure our tap water is clean and safe for all.
CONTACTS: Environmental Working Group, ewg.org/tapwater; EPA
Local Drinking Water Information,epa.gov/safewater/dwinfo; NRDC,
Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.