Published August 6, 2017|4 min read
Nobody wants to pay for something that’s usually free – unless you’re talking about water.
Per ConvergEx Group Chief Market Strategist Nick Colas, Americans spend over $11 billion on bottled water every year, even though tap wateris cheap — so cheap, in fact, you could drink eight glasses of it per day, for an entire year, and still have it cost half the price of a single bottle of water bought at a gas station.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the math. Using Colas’ estimates, getting your recommended eight glasses of water a day from tap water costs about 49 cents for the entire year. The bottled water equivalent would cost around $1,400.
If you’re a heavy drinker of bottled water, that’s nearly $1,400 in savings. Even if you install a high-end $300 water filter, that still results in savings of over $1,000. Most of the time, if you want to save an extra $1,000 without increasing your income, you need to make large cuts in your budget. You might have to cancel a vacation or scale back on eating out. But switching from bottled water to tap water? That’s generally a minor change that can deliver real savings.
But is drinking tap water safe?
The ongoing lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan has shown not all water systems are safe from contamination — and, in fact, a recent analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found around 77 million Americans are served by water systems with violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Odds are, your local tap water is safe, but statistics like that underline why it is important to verify the quality of your water.
Fortunately, there are ways to check. You can request local water quality reports from your municipal water utility. If you get well water, you can have it tested with a mail-in kit. If you’re not sure about the quality of your tap water, check this Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resource on how to get your water tested.
A reason to ditch the bottles
Many people justify buying bottled because they believe they’re getting “pure” water. Here’s a little industry secret: Some of the most popular bottled water brands like Aquafina and Dasani don’t come from secluded mountain springs or virgin aquifers. They actually come from municipal water supplies, which is a fancy way of saying you are buying tap water that’s been filtered. If it’s hot and you’re thirsty, getting a bottle might be your best choice. But if you’re buying bottles because you think it’s so fresh and so clean, consider that you can often replicate the experience — and skip the big markup — by simply filtering tap water yourself.
DIY bottled water aka 'buying a water filter'
While there are complex filtration systems that cost hundreds of dollars, you can opt for a simple filter that’s just as good for a fraction of the price.
Brita water filters are a household name, for good reason. Whether you’re buying a faucet attachment or a pitcher, Brita provides easy-to-use products, usually for under $50. If you’d rather not be tied to your home water source, a filtered water bottle allows you to collect water from fountains, the office, or home, and keep it with you on the go. Not only will this keep you hydrated, it will also prevent you from buying bottled water in a pinch.
Some reusable water bottles have filters built into them. Bobble, perhaps the most popular brand, has a carbon filter inside the cap which allows you to drink filtered water even if your source isn’t quite pure. It dramatically improves the taste of most tap water, while also removing impurities. And it lasts for 40 gallons, which is about two months of regular use. Like Brita filters, Bobble bottles are relatively affordable; bottles and replacement filters both start at $9.99 — meaning you can have just-as-good-as-bottled water with a filter that will pay for itself after only a few uses.
Note that carbon filters won’t remove every type of contaminant, but they will prevent many. For a complete list, check this detailed chart which describes which impurities your water can filter.
We need water to live, but we don’t need to buy expensive water to live well. Whether you buy a filter for your home’s tap water, use a bottle with a built-in filter, or fill up from a public water fountain, skipping bottled water can save you thousands of dollars per year. You’ll be drinking the same water for much less and your wallet will thank you for it.
Trying to trim your budget? These 7 apps can help you spot the unnecessary expenses.
Get essential money news & money moves with the Easy Money newsletter.
Free in your inbox each Friday.