Pouring water from bottle into glass on blue background

The Best & Worst Bottled Water to Drink for Health + Taste

In an increasingly greener world, bottled water is going a bit out of style.  With more access to affordable at-home filtration processes and increasing awareness of plastic bottle pollution, many people no longer consider buying bottled drinking water these days.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that bottled water is still very convenient and, at times, a necessity. Therefore, you should at least have knowledge about the best bottled-water brands.  Then, you can make the right decision for your health and the planet’s health while still having good-tasting water.

mature woman selecting bottle of water at supermarket

With so many bottled water brands, picking the one that’s right for you can be overwhelming!

The Different Types of Bottled Water

Bottled water companies are required by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use specific terminology when describing their water.  The terminology then classifies the water into different types.  The different types of water are classified based on two things:

  1. Geological source
  2. Treatment (purification) method applied to the water

So, considering where the bottled water was sourced from geologically and how it was purified will determine the type of water it is classified as. It’s typically easy to figure out what specific bottled water is classified as.  The classification is usually marketed all over the water bottle’s packaging.

The Most Common Types of Bottled Water

  1. Mineral Water: Mineral water is geologically sourced from natural groundwater.  It may or may not be purified to remove unhealthy microbes (bacteria) and other potentially harmful contaminants such as those from pollution.  Some mineral waters are so pure that they, for the most part, don’t require a lot of purification. Most importantly, none of the water’s natural minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium are removed.  By definition, in order to be classified as mineral water, the water must contain at least 250 or more ppm of total dissolved solids.   
  2. Spring Water: Spring water is geologically sourced from a natural groundwater source that is highly pressurized to the point that it creates a natural spring above ground.  It is typically mildly purified in the same way that mineral water is to retain its natural minerals while getting rid of contaminants and bacteria.
  3. Purified Water: Purified water is sourced from tap water.  It goes through a thorough purification process in order to remove all unhealthy bacteria and contaminants.  Also, because the purification is so thorough, it usually rids the water of most or all of its minerals.
  4. Alkaline Water (or Electrolyte Water): Alkaline water is artificially processed water.  It is usually created from purified water and then processed by artificially adding in electrolytes.  Electrolytes are otherwise known as minerals.  They are typically the same minerals found in mineral or spring water.  

You have most likely already gone through the grocery store and seen these different types of water. However, it is important to remember that the type of water alone does not determine how healthy or tasty it is. To better understand how healthy and tasty bottled water is, you first need to better understand the different geological sources and purification methods. 

Additionally, there are two other factors that you need to consider in order to judge how healthy and tasty bottled water is. These four factors will tell you the overall quality of the water and then we can rank which bottled waters are the best, both health and taste-wise.

How to Determine the Best Bottled Waters

Now that you know the different types of bottled waters, we can dive into the four factors that are needed in order to determine how healthy and tasty water is. 

The four factors that are used to determine the best bottled waters include:

  1. Geological source
  2. Applied purification method
  3. pH level
  4. Added chemicals

bottled water

Geological Sources

1. Groundwater

Groundwater is what it sounds like: water that comes from the ground. Beneath the ground we walk on, there are large reserves of water called aquifers.  It’s estimated that there is 1000 times more water below the earth’s surface than there is in all the world’s lakes and rivers combined.  Even in the most unassuming places such as deserts, there’s a good chance that water lurks somewhere below the surface.

The best part about groundwater is that it is loaded with good-for-you minerals.  This is because of the earth’s water cycle in which rain seeps into the ground and moves through soil and rocks while picking up nutrients along the way.  Then, either through pumps, wells, or natural springs, the water is harvested for drinking. 

Typically, the deeper in the groundwater is sourced from, the more nutrients it contains.  This is because the water has to move through more rocks in order to get deeper and therefore has more of a chance to pick up minerals from the rocks.  Deeper groundwater is also less likely to carry contaminants such as pollutants.

Water closer to the surface of the ground is more likely to be contaminated with pollution from other bodies of water, the air, and litter. Overall, when sourced from the right geographical area that minimizes pollution and is treated to remove microbes and other contaminants, groundwater is typically very healthy and loaded with healthy minerals.  

2. Tap water

Tap water is a combination of water from rivers, lakes, and some groundwater.  It typically comes from bodies of water local to where you live.  For example, the water that comes out of your taps is usually sourced from your local area, treated at a nearby treatment plant, then sent to your faucets and showers.

Unlike groundwater, tap water usually goes through a long treatment process because lakes and streams usually have more bacteria and other contaminants.  It usually goes through two to three processes: one that adds chemicals to the water, a second that filters the water, and a third that further disinfects the water.  

Because of the long purification process, this water is usually very low in minerals.  Most of them are killed off during treatment. In recent years, there has been some controversy over the safety of drinking tap water.  The Flint Water Crisis notably showed what can happen when contaminated water is not properly treated.  This has raised many concerns over whether drinking water straight from the tap, even after it undergoes purification, is safe.

In order to prevent another similar crisis from happening, some states are stepping up water safety protocols.  New York for example has very thorough regulations that protect the bodies of water that its tap water is drawn from.  They also have instituted stricter protocols for purifying the water in order to be sure contaminants are removed and they aren’t adding back in too harsh of chemicals.  

Moreover, it is more necessary to thoroughly purify tap water than groundwater because it is more likely to be contaminated with pollutants and bacteria.  Since it comes directly from rivers, lakes, and streams, those bodies of water are often highly polluted. Despite the purification process, though, many are still wary about drinking from the tap.  

tap water

Applied Purification Methods

1. Distillation

Distillation is usually used to turn tap water into purified water as it kills off healthy minerals as well as bad microbes and contaminants.  Distillation is not the most common type of purification. The process of distillation begins by heating tap water to the point of a boil.  As it boils, the resulting steam is trapped.  Then, the steam is recondensed into water in a much cleaner form. 

2. Micron Filtration

Water is filtered through screens with microscopic holes in order to remove chemical contaminants, microbes, and some minerals.  The best filters have the smallest holes in order to get rid of as many contaminants as possible.  This process also takes out some, but not all, of the healthy minerals in the water. If you have a water filter at home that you use to filter tap water, it most likely has a micron filter.  

3. Ozonation

Ozonation is the most common type of purification used for bottled water.  It can be applied to tap or groundwater.  It’s also known as a process that doesn’t dramatically alter the taste of the water.  The process uses ozone to disinfect the water and kill off microbes.  Ozone chemically kills off any of the bad bacteria in the water without leaving traces of other chemicals behind. 

A reverse osmosis water filter.

Reverse osmosis (RO) is a water purification process that uses a partially permeable membrane to separate ions, unwanted molecules and larger particles from drinking water.

4. Reverse Osmosis

This purification process is not the most common however it is still widely used for many bottled waters.  The process moves water upstream and through a selective membrane in order to remove bad microbes as well as the good minerals.  This technique is most likely to be applied to a purified water type. 

5. Ultraviolet (UV) Light

UV rays are used in the disinfection of contaminants.  It is often applied to both tap water and groundwater used in bottled water or water that comes straight from the tap.

Water testing test kit dipping in water with black background

The pH scale is traceable to a set of standard solutions whose pH levels are established by international agreement.

pH Levels

The third factor to take into consideration when determining the quality of bottled water is its pH level.  This is a very crucial factor when considering how healthy water is. pH describes the acidity of water.  It is measured on a scale from 1 to 14.  The closer to 1, the more acidic, and the closer to 14 the more alkaline.  Ideally, water should be around a neutral 7 or slightly higher to be a bit more alkaline.

Drinking highly acidic or basic water is bad for your health. Water that is too acidic has the potential to erode tooth enamel and creates a sour taste in the water.  Highly acidic water is also more likely to be contaminated with pollutants. Water that is more basic on the other hand is not necessarily unhealthy but does have a distinct bitterness to it.  It also could be a sign that the water has been infused with a lot of electrolytes artificially. Ideally, try to get water within the pH range of 6.5 to 8.5.

Added Chemicals

Some bottled waters are disinfected with added chemicals.  The two most common disinfectants are chlorine and fluorine. These chemicals are added to the water in order to ensure contaminants are gone and to prevent tooth decay. However, despite the attempts to try and make water safe, some people question whether or not it is safe to drink these chemicals.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has specific standards that only allow for so much of these chemicals to be in drinking water.  Overall, they say that trace amounts of these chemicals won’t cause health problems. Yet, some research shows that the use of chlorine and fluorine in water could cause long-term health problems.

Because the law still permits these chemicals in water based on research that they are okay to ingest, it is hard to determine whether or not you should drink them.  If you are concerned about these chemicals, then stick to a more natural mineral or spring water rather than tap water. Tap water is far more likely to be treated with chemicals.  

The Best Bottled Waters

Based on the four above criteria, we came to a conclusion on which bottled waters are the best in terms of health and taste factors. The following is a list of the best and worst bottled waters, ranked from the best to the worst.

1. FIJI Natural Artesian Water

fiji water

FIJI water tops the list by being both great for your health while still having a good signature taste. 

  • Type of water: Spring 
  • Geological source: Groundwater
  • Purification method: Micron filtration & UV Light
  • pH: 7.7

The geographic location of where this water is sourced is from an aquifer near a volcano in Fiji.  This specific location makes it high in minerals thanks to the volcanic rock which is both good for your health and the taste.  Because it is more basic, the taste will be much smoother. 

Overall, the taste you get from FIJI is somewhat distinct in a good way from the other waters. Also, the location where the water is drawn from is far out from most sources of pollution.  This makes it less likely to contain pollutants and the need to go through a long disinfection process. 

2. Poland Spring Water

A close second is Poland Spring Water.  No, it is not from Poland.  It comes from groundwater in an isolated part of Maine. 

  • Type of water: Spring
  • Geological source: Groundwater 
  • Purification method: Micron filtration & UV Light and Ozone disinfection
  • pH: 7.7

The geographic location from where it is sourced is naturally high in electrolytes, making it richer in good minerals than other brands.  This not only makes it better for you but also gives it a nice, smooth texture similar to FIJI. Because it is sourced from a more remote location, it is unlikely that it is highly contaminated with pollutants.

3. Icelandic Glacial Spring Water:

Perhaps one of the purest waters in the whole world, Icelandic Glacial water comes from the remote Olfus Spring in Iceland.  

  • Type of water: Spring
  • Geological source: Groundwater
  • Purification method: None
  • pH: 8.4 

This water has the overall highest pH of any other water on the list.  It goes through little to no purification process and does not add or remove any of the natural minerals.  Because it is on the more basic side, it tastes a little more bitter than more neutral waters. Even better, Icelandic Glacial was the first water bottle company to ever go completely carbon neutral.  So, if you’re concerned about environmental impact, this water is the way to go.

4. JUST Spring Water

Sourced from a mountain spring in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, JUST Water is another very pure, highly alkaline water.  

  • Type of water: Spring
  • Geological source: groundwater
  • Purification method: UV Light and Ozone disinfection
  • pH: 8.0 

The water goes through very little purification in order to get rid of microbes and contaminants without stripping away the natural minerals.  

5. VOSS

voss water

VOSS comes from an inland water spring located in southern Norway. It’s naturally low mineral content gives it a more neutral, yet sophisticated taste.

  • Type of water: Spring
  • Geological source: groundwater
  • Purification method: None
  • pH: 7.3 

The water is considered natural spring water therefore it goes through minimal treatment in order to maintain the water’s natural flavors. 

6. Essentia Ionized Water

Essentia water comes from taps in Southern California.  It is first purified and then infused with minerals.  

  • Type of water: Purified, Alkaline 
  • Geological source: Tap
  • Purification method: Micron filtration & reverse osmosis
  • pH: 9.5 

In order to avoid making the water overly bitter with too many minerals while still keeping the pH high, they remove the most acidic of the minerals.  That way the water stays more basic and smooth yet is high in minerals and still tastes good.

7. Evian

Derived from deep within the French Alps, Evian is natural mineral water that is practically unprocessed.

  • Type of water: Mineral
  • Geological source: groundwater 
  • Purification method: None
  • pH: 7.2 

Being very high in minerals and unprocessed, not everyone tends to like the taste of Evian.  If you prefer very pure water but still don’t want it overly basic from the minerals, then Evian is a good choice. 

8. Glaceau Smart Water

Smart water is derived from a spring in Connecticut.  It then goes through a thorough process in order to remove all minerals, microbes, and contaminants to become a distilled water. 

  • Type of water: Spring, Alkaline 
  • Geological source: Groundwater 
  • Purification method: Distillation 
  • pH: 7

Once the water is completely purified, it is infused with a number of electrolytes including magnesium, potassium, and calcium.  It isn’t overly saturated to avoid making the water too basic. Overall, Smart Water tastes very neutral yet isn’t as high in pH due to a lack of natural minerals and a longer treatment process. 

9. Dasani

Made by Coca-Cola, Dasani sources its water from multiple different states including California, Minnesota, and Michigan. 

  • Type of water: Purified, Alkaline
  • Geological source: Tap
  • Purification method: Reverse osmosis
  • pH: 4.5 

The water goes through reverse osmosis then is re-mineralized with magnesium, sodium, and potassium chloride. The taste of the water, with the pH being lower, gives it more of a sour aftertaste.  This also presents issues related to tooth enamel erosion.  

10. Aquafina

Made by Pesi, Aquafina is very similar to Dasani.

  • Type of water: Purified, 
  • Geological source: Tap
  • Purification method: Reverse osmosis
  • pH: 4.5 

However, unlike Dasani, Aquafina is not infused with minerals.  Therefore, it is on the more acidic side of taste without having almost any minerals at all. 

The Bottom Line on Bottled Water

We all could use a little more hydration every once in a while.  And, if you’re going to pay for bottled water, it’s best that you pick out the one that is best for you and tastes good. There are countless solid at-home filters you can buy; if none of them work for you, then don’t be afraid to give one of the top bottled waters a try.

Bonus tip: Check out this video to see where FIJI Water comes from (we all want to go there).

 

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Joshua Perkins

Joshua spent ten years as a water systems technician in California before settling down with his wife and two young children in Nashville in 2018. Through all of his experience, he learned the benefits and shortfalls of so many different types of water filtration systems, from pitchers to whole-house installations. He started Water Filter Authority in 2019 to empower other families to make the right decision for their long-term health and wellness.