30 years ago it was the posh thing in offices distinguishing cooperate America from just your average business, letting employees know they had arrived somewhere different than the typical office space, when there was a water cooler to gossip around. 20 years ago it was the Culligan staple in upper middle class homes; you didn’t drink from the tap you drank filtered water from a company, healthier, better quality. Then by the late 90’s someone got the idea to move away from big bulky plastic barrels of water delivered by a man in uniform to your home and sell more portable sizes via supermarkets nation wide, ideal for gym bags, in home workouts advertised as healthier than the stuff you merely bathe in. Creating an attitude of, no I don’t want my kids drinking out of a “dirty” tap. And now, yes it seems America has finally shed its bottled water obsession; top restaurants have stopped serving it in favor of plain old tap water. Some state governments, Virginia, Illinois and New York have banned its use in their offices, public functions and ordinary citizens have had enough of the fad that seemed to last too long.

Why, top on the list for ordinary consumers is the economy; people can no longer justify the expense of buying water when it already comes out of the tap and they pay a home water bill. Others have gotten smart, started reading labels or discovered one of the many news exposès on exactly where that mountain or spring water actually came from. Younger and older generations alike are increasingly concerned about the environment and the amount of oil it takes to create said bottles not to mention the amount of plastics ending up in landfills rather than recycle bins. Yes people have begun to understand that their mountain and spring water came from no such place but is usually only slightly more filtered tap water; in many cases the standards for cities public tap water is higher than those for bottled water companies. Bottled water gets recalled too; similar to food recalls, the Johnson & Johnson over the counter drug recalls when people started reporting strange odors and black particles in pill bottles, anything produced in a factory, aided by machinery, an assembly line can end up with foreign substances in it, including water. Metal shavings from arms that put on lids to related devices that attach labels, again similar to food processing plants, bottled water factories can be subject to filth, pest infestations and a host of things they themselves are unaware of.

But is that the end of it or just the beginning as some people must wonder is anything safe to drink considering the same radio show broadcasting this newest trend also broadcast new recommendations for the amount of fluoride to put in tap water. Seeing as much of the content was too high when combined with fluoride enhanced toothpastes, mouthwashes and other products used by nearly everyone today, leading to brittle, breaking teeth in children, extensive dental work including crowns, caps and extractions. All while fluoride in tap water was touted as one of the benefits of drinking from the tap once more. Controversy pertaining to fluoride in water is nothing new; diehard conspiracy theorists have tried to link it to everything from tooth decay to lower I.Q.’s in children, even some diseases, though no real evidence is there to back up any such claims. Health conscious doctors, nutritionists and experts implore people to remove soda from their diets an effort to prevent both obesity and type 2 diabetes. Weight loss gurus will tantalize people with the number of pounds they can shed removing the drink from their life. Phase one and phase 2 diet doctors who swear by it for themselves and their patients believe the epidemic of acid reflux and chronic heartburn have an underlying root in fungi production, such as yeast, fed by sugary drinks compounded by the acid content. Feeding information to the public in the battle of the bulge, it’s always a case of eat this not that; spilling over into the which is going to give you more bang for diet buck, pomegranate juice wins over traditional orange juice packing higher doses of vitamins and antioxidants. It seems the only healthy things to drink today are water and milk, no variety, no variation.

Added to the debate over which water to drink is the region you live in; area’s that employ hydrofracking for natural gas and various methods of obtaining natural resources for energy and fuel consumption could have possibly unhealthy drinking water. Home videos have been shot by residents in effected areas of them being able to light their tap water on fire; companies are not required to disclose all the chemicals they are using, leaving a huge unknown for people drinking provided water in those parts of the country Rural water sources, not purified by city filtration, often contain naturally occurring additives that can effect taste, color, over all quality; known as hard water it can have high mineral deposits, and while some minerals are good, too much can take a toll on the body making kidneys work harder to filter metal deposits, lime and calcium levels. Though said calcium is again listed as one of the pluses to drinking tap over bottled water. Leading people with medical conditions and families who want to be sure of what they are actually getting to install water softeners, whole home water filtration systems at considerable cost. Further some areas upon investigation have been found to have dangerous bacteria like E-coli, levels far above safety standards, floating in the water we are told by health experts we need to drink more of, aren’t getting enough of. Even distilled, filtered drinking water sold by the gallon, typically used in irons, steam vacuums, mops and other appliances, what could be called the poor man’s bottled water, consumed by cost conscious, lower-income individuals still keeping an eye on their health is purely acidic on the PH scale. Translating to acid wear on teeth and who knows how many other negative effects on the human body.

So we return to the concept of what is safe to drink, what is not, which is healthy for you, which is not, what is the best option in a game that seems the lesser of so many evils. Looking at the larger picture, the question becomes is it going to once more become a case of the haves and have-nots regarding the best optimal drinking water? Best going to those who can buy it from the store, everyone else left to muddle through; bigger question, have we been neglecting regulation, examination of tap water on the assumption that few people, if anyone, drinks it anyway? Another looming question to think on, what exactly is in all the water we are drinking whether the source is the tap or a company; are we using enough filtration in our public water systems or do we need to increase it? The discussion forgoing the trend in the medical community, the nutrition community, the health community, nearly every community of doctors, experts and researchers associated with our physical, mental, emotional, psychological well-being to say one thing one minute and say something else the next, to tell the public to remove something from their diet, to get rid of a particular bad habit only to find some new benefit to eating this thing or doing that activity.

Tied to that are the holes in some of the other reasons American consumers decided bottled water was no longer for them. For those who want filtered water without the price tag of a whole home system or feeding the expensive craze, there are filters that fit onto your sink tap in kitchens, bathrooms, pitcher filters like Brita filtering enough to serve the needs one person, a small family to drink, cook with and counter top filters, cleaning larger amounts of water supplying the needs of a large family, parties and entertaining requirements. Concern over the amount of oil it takes to make so much plastic for such a meaningless purpose seems fruitless when taking into account the amount of other natural resources used to make stainless steel, the popular reusable container substitute for all that low-grade plastic. Unease about the amount of plastic essentially being wasted, whose final destination is the landfill not a recycle bin, could be alleviated and go farther in aiding the planet with better, more comprehensive, simpler recycling programs. Programs designed to take the burden away from the consumer, the average person for saving the planet; ideas like charging slightly higher trash bills in order for all trash to be sorted by processing plant workers to recycle what can be, dispose of paints, motor oils, electronics and the next generation of light bulbs appropriately.

Of course this is by no means the end of the bottled water debate or usage as vitamin waters, flavored waters and other spins on just plain old water continue to dominate the market. Some people will drink flavored, vitamin, varieties thinking are good ways to get nutrients if they are allergic to certain fruits or want a different taste as opposed to the monotony of ordinary water. And not everyone is convinced that bottled water is an exorbitant expense or that tap water is the best, safest thing they can drink; others like the taste, lack there of, in their bottled water over their tap water at home. Still more will stick to the connivance of buying bottled water ready to use rather than hunting stores and online venues searching for this products version of a coffee filter, a new one of the entire mini system that just went berserk spewing water all over your kitchen or just abruptly stopped working, so now you’re in the store finding out they discontinued the brand you loved trying to find a comparable model. People today don’t have time for that, which means preference, trend or no, we haven’t seen the last of bottled water, unfortunately.