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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Tip-top tap

Drinking from the tap

Credit: iStockphoto

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If you want to be healthy, water is the best drink going. But lots of people worry about water quality, and reckon bottled is much healthier than tap.

Why does tap water get such a bad reputation? Australian standards for water quality are among the highest in the world. You can check them out for yourself here: Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

If your water at home is cloudy or tastes a bit yuck, it might be your pipes, in which case a filter on your tap is a lot cheaper than fixing the pipes! Or it might be a local supply issue, so getting in touch with your local council would be a good idea.

While I was searching for more info, I saw that most of the claims about unhealthy tap water were from websites run by - you guessed it - bottled water companies. I guess with an annual market worth $385 million in retail sales, they think it's worth it to talk the competition down.

But the majority of bottled water is only filtered tap water anyway, from the same place as the water in your house and office. It's regulated under the Food Standards Act, which isn't as strong as the tap water guidelines above.

The Australian Bottled Water Institute also has standards, but as far as I can tell, no one's actually checking to see if manufacturers meet them. It's not a huge risk, it's just that it's not any better than the water you can get from the tap. Since it's much more expensive, I don't see what it is we've been paying for!

If you're interested in finding out more about the quality of water in bottles and from the tap, check out this report from Choice Magazine: Bottled Water: A Triumph of Marketing (sorry, it's a pdf, about 234kb).