An ode to tap water: drink it, citizens!

The man on TV, somewhere in steaming hot central Africa, explained to the interviewer that a charity’s support meant his village now had fresh, cool water to drink… for the first time.

If you’ve ever had to drink water at air temperature during the summer you’ll know how horrid it is, and how chilled water seems so much more refreshing.

It made me think about how lucky we are in Britain to have a more or less guaranteed supply of cool, clean, fresh water on tap in every home in the country. Yet fewer and fewer of us are actually drinking it.

We use it to wash and bathe in, to clean our cars and our clothes. But the drinking water we’ve always been so proud of isn’t our water of choice for drinking any more. Instead, millions of us buy bottles of mineral water.

When Perrier first hit the supermarket shelves, ordinary people laughed at the silly Yuppies who bought it, people with more money than sense. Why buy it bottled when we have some of the finest tap water on the planet? A few years later the pretentious trend had been normalised and everyone was drinking the bloody stuff, although to many it still felt like a guilty pleasure.

Why do we like so-called ‘mineral’ water so much? Is it just because it’s fizzy, so more interesting to the palate than tap water?  Maybe it’s because of the misconception that it’s healthier, full of lovely minerals that tap water doesn’t contain. Which, of course, is rubbish.

As the sheknows website says:

“There is a belief that bottled water is far healthier than tap water, free of bacteria and nasty chemicals and that this is reflected in the taste. “Pure” is a word that water companies like to include in advertising campaigns and slogans, knowing that many people attach it to health and superiority over other products. However, many people believe that bottled water is nothing more than a money-making scheme backed by clever marketing that the public repeatedly falls for.”

Bottled water is ridiculously costly,too. A 330 ml bottle costs more than a quid. And the environmental cost is scary.  Only a small proportion of plastic bottles are recyclable and the rest end up in landfill sites.

Worse still, the effect on our health is in question. Water stored in plastic bottles means chemicals from the plastic can leach into the water, including horrid things like Bis-Phenol A. A 2010 study at Tufts University Medical School, Boston, USA found that Bis-Phenol A might increase your risk of cancer. Nasty.

Tap water, on the other hand, is tested rigorously and frequently to make it as safe as possible. The UK’s legal standards are strict: The European Drinking Water Directive 1998, plus various national standards including tests for micro-organisms, chemicals like nitrates and pesticides plus dangerous metals like copper and lead. Another plus – tap water contains fluoride, which can reduce tooth decay and is a major toothpaste ingredient.

The African man I saw on telly would think he’d died and gone to heaven if he’d had a supply on free, fresh, cool, clean water for life, like us. And he probably thinks we’re crazy to drink bottled water when it’s free from a tap.  I can’t help agreeing, when faced with the bare facts.

Are you hooked on mineral water? If so, have you ever thought about why? You could think twice next time you’re down the supermarket and let it lie… why not stick to tap water? If you keep a ready supply in the fridge it’ll stay cool even in the heat of summer. It’ll save you a fortune over time. And it tastes great.

Drink our tap water, citizens!