Thirsty? Here Are 9 Types of Water You Can Drink
Plus, learn if there's one that's best for your health.
By Jennifer Still
You hear it all the time: You should be drinking more water. How much depends on the person, but generally speaking, staying well hydrated offers a host of health benefits. That includes higher energy levels and better brain function, just to name a few.
But not all water is created equal, with some being cheaper or providing more nutrients than others.
Here are the different types of water and what you should know about them
A piped water supply, tap water is found everywhere from the water that flushes a public toilet to the water that comes out of your kitchen sink or cleans your glassware in your dishwasher.
Though many people turn their noses up at the idea of drinking tap water over taste or safety concerns, the truth is that tap water is safe to drink across much of the U.S.
What's more, tap water isn't only good for you, it's cheaper than buying various types of bottled water.
While there are industry regulations in place that are meant to keep lead and other harmful substances from contaminating the water supply, sometimes this doesn't work. A prime example of this is the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Moreover, the Guardian reported on research showing plastic particles in tap water supplies around the world.
Public water supplies can also contain pesticide residue, aluminum, and other undesirable substances. If, however, you're worried that the treatments performed on your water supply aren't up to par, you can always purchase a home filtration system for further cleansing.
Pulled from a mineral spring, mineral water is, as the name states, full of minerals including sulfur, magnesium and calcium—all things that are good for you.
Mineral water does indeed have some health benefits, since it provides minerals your body can't create on its own. It can also help aid in digestion, and many people even like the taste of it over tap water, though that's down to personal preference.
One of the main downsides to mineral water is cost, especially when compared to tap water. Many of the minerals from this type of water can also be obtained from a healthy, varied diet.
Spring or Glacier Water
Spring or glacier waters are types of bottled waters that are claimed to be bottled at the source from where the water flows—either from the spring or glacier.
In theory, spring or glacier waters should be relatively clean and free of toxins. They also contain many of the same helpful minerals found in mineral water.
Depending on how much you drink, spring water could get pricey, especially in comparison to tap water. Also, some spring water is raw, unfiltered, and untested water, which could pose potential health risks depending on what it contains.
Sometimes referred to as carbonated water or soda water, sparkling water is infused with carbon dioxide gas while under pressure.
Sparkling water offers a different mouth feel to flat water, which could be a welcome change if you want something fizzy without sugar or artificial sweeteners.
That said, there are flavored sparkling waters available that do contain one or both types of sweeteners. Plus, because sparkling water tends to be mineralized—think Perrier and San Pellegrino—you're getting the added bonus of health-promoting minerals with your carbonation.
While there are some minerals present in sparkling water, there aren't enough to be truly beneficial to your health in a meaningful way. In addition, it can be expensive compared to both tap and certain types of bottled water.
This type of water is boiled and the steam is collected and condensed back into a liquid.
Distilled water is a great option if you live somewhere—or are visiting somewhere—where the tap water supply is contaminated or possibly could be.
As there are no vitamins and minerals in distilled water, there are no health benefits. In fact, it has the potential to be detrimental as non-mineralized water tends to pull minerals from where it can—in this case, your body, or specifically your teeth.
Purified water is usually tap or groundwater which has been treated to remove harmful substances like bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
This means that drinking it is pretty much guaranteed to be safe.
Like distilled water, purified water is a great option if your immediate water source is contaminated. That said, many countries purify tap water, so you're basically drinking purified water every time you fill a cup from your kitchen sink.
Because all potentially harmful substances are removed from purified water, you also miss out on some of the potentially beneficial ones that are added to tap water supplies like fluoride, which helps to reduce tooth decay.
In addition, purchasing purified water or even installing a filtration system at home can be pretty costly.
Flavored or Infused Water
Flavored water is water that's sweetened with either sugar or artificial sweeteners, and contains natural or artificial flavorings.
It can also add variation to your water intake since there are so many flavors available. Flavor can be added naturally by infusing fruit and vegetables into tap or bottled water, or you could purchase artificially flavored waters in most stores.
Often, flavored waters contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Varieties with sugar can lead to weight gain and have a negative effect on those with diabetes. What's more, some people may react negatively to artificial sweeteners.
Alkaline water has a higher pH level than normal tap water and contains alkaline minerals and negative oxidation reduction potential (ORP).
The fact that this type of water has a higher pH level has led some people to believe that it may help neutralize acid in the body, help slow the aging process, or even prevent cancer.
There's very little scientific proof, however, of this being true.
It's generally safe to drink alkaline water, but it could reduce stomach acidity, thereby lowering its ability to kill off harmful bacteria.
In excess, it could also lead to metabolic alkalosis, which could produce symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
Well water comes straight from the ground, though it's untreated and carries with it a number of risks.
If you happen to live in an area where wells are plentiful, or you even have one in your own backyard, the convenient access to what seems like fresh water could be attractive.
While there are many proponents of raw, untreated water, the benefits may not outweigh the potential risks.
That said, there are steps you can take to ensure your well water is suitable for drinking. For example, testing your well water annually for bacteria, nitrates, and pH levels. It's also possible to install a filtration system.
Because the water hasn't been treated, there's a big chance of contamination—particularly from bacterial and parasitic infections like giardia.
While well water used to be the norm, there's a reason that city water supplies and the regulations surrounding them were put into place—you simply don't know what you're getting unless you test or treat the well water yourself.
The Bottom Line
While you may have a preference for which type of water is best, generally, there's no one type that promises greater health benefits than the others.
So long as the water you're drinking is clean and safe, the main focus is to make sure that you stay hydrated and to ensure you're drinking enough water on a regular basis.
Jennifer Still is an editor and writer with bylines in Vanity Fair, Glamour, Bon Appetit, Business Insider, and more. She writes about food and culture. Follow her on Twitter.
Medically reviewed by Carissa Stephens, RN, CCRN, CPN.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
- How to Make That Sweet Potato Toast You've Been Seeing ... ›
- Beet It! 11 Nutrition-Packed Smoothies Featuring Beets - EcoWatch ›
- 8 Detox Salad Recipes to Kick-Start Healthy Eating - EcoWatch ›
- The 19 Best Foods to Improve Digestion - EcoWatch ›
- The 18 Best Healthy Foods to Buy in Bulk (And the Worst) - EcoWatch ›
Maryland will become the first state in the nation Thursday to implement a ban on foam takeout containers.
- New Jersey Legislature Passes 'Most Comprehensive' Plastics Ban ... ›
- Canada to Announce Ban on Single-Use Plastics - EcoWatch ›
- The Complex and Frustrating Reality of Recycling Plastic - EcoWatch ›
- Dunkin' Says Bye to Foam Cups (But Bring Your Own Thermos ... ›
- Maine and Vermont Pass Plastic Bag Bans on the Same Day ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ajit Niranjan
Leaders from across the world have promised to turn environmental degradation around and put nature on the path to recovery within a decade.
- Destruction of Nature Is Triggering Pandemics, Say Leaders of WWF ... ›
- The UN Wants to Protect 30% of the Planet by 2030 - EcoWatch ›
- New WWF Report Calls for Protecting Nature to Prevent Future ... ›
Just days after a new report detailed the "unequivocal and pervasive role" climate change plays in the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, new fires burned 10,000 acres on Sunday as a "dome" of hot, dry air over Northern California created ideal fire conditions over the weekend.
- California's Iconic Redwoods Threatened by Wildfires - EcoWatch ›
- California Wildfires Destroy Condor Sanctuary, at Least 4 Birds Still ... ›
- 7 Devastating Photos of Wildfires in California, Oregon and ... ›
- David Attenborough Calls For Ban on Deep-Sea Mining - EcoWatch ›
- Sir David Attenborough Set to Present BBC Documentary on ... ›
- David Attenborough Gives Stark Warning in New BBC Climate ... ›
Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
- Overlooked Flood Risk Endangers Homeowners - EcoWatch ›
- Florida Coastal Flooding Maps: Residents Deny Predicted Risks to ... ›
- Flooding Risk for U.S. Homes: Millions More Are Vulnerable Than ... ›