What Type of Water Should You Be Drinking?
Water — though as OG as it gets to beginning life on Earth — is not immune to fads. You can see this clear as crystal at the grocery store, specifically the aisle reserved for bottled water. It seems that we all need to have taken courses in hydrology and organic chemistry to understand how this water is better, safer, and more extraordinary than what is flowing through our faucets — but the companies don’t offer up too much clarification, and they still reap the benefits of being in a 12 billion dollar industry.
With the crisis in Flint, Michigan and the California drought, water is in the limelight, and your locale truly makes a difference as to the chemicals, toxins, minerals, and other variables at play. Not only are bottled water companies showcasing how they veer from all that could be lurking in tap, they also tout the benefits that their various methods have on the quality and nutrients available. We’ve broken it all down into nutritional nuggets, so we can decode what these bottled up buzzwords actually mean.
Tap Water ~
According to the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, the best tasting tap-water of 2015 comes out the spouts of Hamilton, Ohio (who knew??). If you’re living in Hawaii, for example, and you’re lucky enough to quench your thirst with water about as close to Mother Earth as it gets, more power to you. But for most of us in bustling cities that face chlorine, fluoride, and even arsenic, these contaminants can make the one thing we all need to survive, truly undrinkable. In addition, consistent exposure to the toxins of unadulterated tap can strip away all the nutrients you strive to flood your body with each day, and lead to deficiencies and chronic inflammation.
We are 70% water and even a small 2-3% dip in hydration level can result in serious drops in your metabolic, mental and physical function. We need alkaline, clean water with minerals and vitamins present, and toxins, contaminants and acidic qualities missing. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in liters of water per day.
So, what can be found in your own town's tap water system? Different city system’s tap water contain different chemicals and contaminants. No pipe system is the same, and therefore no tap water is the same. Older city systems (looking at you Atlanta, Detroit and San Francisco) are, as you would guess, much rustier, dirtier, and suspected to contain arsenic and aluminum. Also, strangely enough, toilet-flushed prescription drugs lurk in tap water (!!!!!), and the filtration process aims at getting these guys out before we come into contact with them.
And, aside from the scarier suspects that lurk within, city sink water can be extremely acidic, and what you want is pure alkalinity. Alkaline water is intended to balance the body's acidity to help reach a healthy pH level — acidity scales are measured from zero to 14, with 7.4 being considered the neutral value you want in water. Any number below seven is considered acidic, and anything above it is considered more alkaline.
The digestive system, in particular, is severely impacted by excess acid, which causes indigestion, bloating, and acid reflux among others. Aside from the abundance of living, water-rich fruits and veggies that you're eating, drinking alkaline water is one way to help manage that balance of acidity vs. alkalinity in the body. When overloaded by acidity, our immune systems suffer and fresh oxygen cannot be seamlessly delivered into cells. So do yourself a cell-loving favor, and educate up on the many different types of filtered water systems you can hydrate with.
Bottled Water ~
Distilled: Distilled water is made by boiling, evaporating, and then condensing the vapour. The idea is that it boils out all of the nasty contaminants. It is essentially mineral-free water, which can be potentially dangerous because the body needs sodium and electrolytes to perform critical functions. It can also be extremely acidic because it actively absorbs whatever is in the air (aka carbon dioxide). It’s a somewhat controversial choice, with many scientists recommending that this water not be imbibed regularly.
Spring: Sounds idyllic, like woodland creatures gathering bucket-fulls of the most pure water on the planet. In truth, spring water is classified as such when it simply emerges from the ground on its own. Once harvested, the water goes through a filtration process, but many companies work to preserve the original minerals and qualities. We're big fans of Mountain Valley.
Artesian: This process means that the water is pumped up from an aquifer, and in a confined space. The water is tapped by a well and the pressure pushes the water up and then through rocks, creating a flowing well, similar to a sponge being squeezed out. It’s praised because it retains its mineral content but does not come in contact with the air or other contaminants. Companies like VOSS, for example, have an aquifer in pristine Southern Norway.
Reverse Osmosis: Reverse osmosis, in simplified terms, helps the desalination of water, by separating the solvent (water) from the solute (salt / toxins / minerals). This process is used in water treatment plants, recycling purposes and even in making maple syrup! The process itself is quite costly, and it is reported that about 80% of the water ends up being wastewater. In addition, this process also strips reportedly around 90% of the calcium and magnesium naturally present in water.
Alkaline: This takes us back to rudimentary science class, to the days of protons and electrons. Ionization (or alkalization) splits the water molecule by way of electricity, and then adds one more Oxygen. This doesn’t make it just H2O — this makes the water H2O+O. Extra Oxygen, ergo more alkaline energy + a less toxic body. The claims are that it offers antioxidants, high pH (which you want), and deep cell-renewing properties.
Deionized: When the water is deionized, this means that all of the ions and minerals are taken out — sodium, iron, magnesium, etc. There is a little back and forth on this, but it is typically not made for human consumption because of potentially chemically-laden ion exchange resin.
Mineral: Mineral water is water with additional electrolytes and salt, often from a mineral spring — sometimes, the water even appears sparkling from the gases and sulfur (you know how we heart our sulfur!) To make things more complicated, this is different from mineralized water, which has artificially added these minerals back in.
Carbon Block: Carbon block filters are your best option for at-home filtration. You can simply stick a piece of charcoal in a water bottle (more on that below) for ultimate purification. But, on a more complex level, as is for bottled water companies, carbon block water filters work with the process of adsorption, which is the chemical bond of an impurity to the surface of the charcoal block. The EPA has recognized carbon block filtering as the best available technology for the removal of herbicides and pesticides from tap water.
Ion Exchange: Ion Exchange filters are designed to remove limescale salts from dirty water. This system exchanges the water’s “bad” ions with the system’s own “good” ions. It is said that Ion Exchange filters take water from tasting “hard” to tasting “soft” by sorting out magnesium and calcium ions (which according to thirsty enthusiasts, makes water taste heavy).
DIY Filtration ~
There are many filtration systems that can be attached to the faucet or placed in carafes and pitchers (we are especially keen on Soma’s sleek and plastic-less design), which can bring peace of mind to your tap situation.
Make use of a charcoal stick — like this one — by putting it in a pitcher or bottle of water. The activated charcoal will bind to impurities and act as a filter-on-the-go. You just need to replace the stick every 3-4 months, but this is a cost-effective and green alternative to the miles-long buildups of bottled water compiling on our precious planet.
Hopefully this demystifies the industry a little bit. It’s important to keep yourself hydrated, eat your water, and arm yourself with the knowledge to pick water that’s clean and supports your vibrant, juicy life!