Drinking water questions
March 22, 2009 10:18 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to obtain non-tap drinking water at home?

I just move to a new neighborhood, and the tap water isn't the greatest. We have several 1-2 gallon water bottles and dispensers. What is the lowest cost and healthiest way to fill these bottles? Here are some of my local options:

1) Water store
2) Water dispenser in front of the super market
3) Home filtration system (e.g. Britta)
4) Buying bottled "spring water"
5) Water service (Alhambra)

Also, how is "de-ionization" different from distilled water? I know that distilled water isn't good for drinking water - without minerals the water tastes flat. Does the same thing happen when the water is de-ionized?

I tried googling and ended up more confused than when I started. If anyone knows of some good sources on this topic, links would be greatly appreciated!
posted by jcdill to Food & Drink (14 answers total)
There are a couple of other options you might want to consider.
Inline (ceramic) water filters — by far the cheapest by volume but a potentially large upfront cost. I used this at a friends —they had a extra tap on the sink— and it was certainly convenient and easy to use.
Filling up your bottles/a jug and putting them in the fridge. Tap water is both cheap and healthy, which is not something that can always be said for bottled water. Chilling it in can make a surprising difference to the taste.
posted by tallus at 10:34 AM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in a town with really disgusting hard tap water. I have several hard plastic 1-gallon jugs that I bought at the store. (You aren't supposed to reuse the 1-gallon jugs that you buy new at the store, full or water, apparently.) I refill them at the grocery store; cost is $.33/gallon.

I go through about 3 gallons a week, so my cost is ~$4/month.

For cooking, I use bottled water in soups, stocks, sauces -- basically, anything where the water is going to be in the finished product. If I'm cooking pasta or something else where the water will be drained off, I use tap water.

My store has the option of deionized and reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis is much better, because it tastes like water. I think DI removes all the minerals, whereas RO leaves some? (I could be totally off here. All I know is that the RO is much preferable.) You don't want distilled water, so skip that entirely.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:35 AM on March 22, 2009

Oh -- one more thing. When I first moved here, I had tried filtering the tap water. Used both a Britta pitcher and a filter that attached to the tap. Both proved to be no match for the extremely hard water we have. I was going through too many filters, and the water still had an unpleasant taste. The bottled water is a much better solution for ME, but YWMV.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:37 AM on March 22, 2009

I've used the Britta filter attached to the tap with reasonable success in two different locations. Water tastes fine to me, I never run out, and I don't have to have containers of water taking up space in my refrigerator (Britta pitchers) or on top of my refrigerator (non-in home filtered water).

We get water delivered at work and pay an additional charge to rent a chilled water dispenser. Depending on where you live, deposits on the five gallon jugs of "spring" water can significantly add to your costs. In NY, where I now live, I think it is a $10 deposit and we have had trouble getting the delivery guys to pick up our empties reliably, so we're sitting on $100 of bottle deposits.
posted by sciencegeek at 10:47 AM on March 22, 2009

I've been using a Sears water distiller for the better part of 20 years with great results. Initial cost is hefty (~$100) but the water is pure and electricity cost is ~25 cents a gallon to produce.
posted by torquemaniac at 10:57 AM on March 22, 2009

A health consideration:
  1. Is the tap water fluoridated?
  2. Do you have young children?
If so, you should absolutely make sure they are drinking tap water.

For taste, a Britta pitcher should work just fine and honestly they last a lot longer than they claim on the package (6 months can really be stretched out much further if you want).
posted by Deathalicious at 11:39 AM on March 22, 2009

Oh, and as someone who drank my fair amount of Cairo tap water (which is safe but tastes pretty horrible), refrigeration absolutely helps with the flavor of the water. I've heard that leaving the bottle open will allow the water to improve in taste (assuming that there aren't strong odors in the fridge) as chlorine gas or whatever bubbles out.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:41 AM on March 22, 2009

I got a GE water filter system for ~$30 at Home Depot. The filters last around 3 months, and I think they come in 2-packs for under $10. The cost of the filters depends on your conditions...we have hard water with iron, and some grit ( it's from a a well). The unit has a shut-off for changing filters, which is nice. I installed my own, but a good plumber could knock it out in 1-1.5 hours easy. Water tastes great, and changing filters is a snap.
posted by lobstah at 1:40 PM on March 22, 2009

Thanks for all the suggestions. Here's some more info:

Our situation is much like mudpuppies situation.

There are no children, just 2 adults.

I'm trying to better understand the "water store" and "water dispenser at the super market" options, as I'm not sure that filtering this tap water is going to help. I know our tap water is safe - it's the taste that is an issue, not if it's safe to drink. (We have been drinking the tap water and using it for coffee and tea.) The water is also apparently very hard, as dish soap barely makes any suds. Any home "filtering" solution needs to deal with the minerals in this water. We are also looking at water rationing this year, so we can't use any type of home filtering that wastes water as part of the filtering process.

posted by jcdill at 2:23 PM on March 22, 2009

Second the GE filter- if you are going to be there for a while just bite the bullet and get it. I did all of that other stuff for ever and it is just a giant hassle. The Ge wasn't too hard to put it in, works perfectly, and I have tasty ice cubes now.

Also: shoot a message to you city council or wherever you are getting your water. You aren't the only person with the issue so get on them - if its a priority for them the water supply can usually be fixed up. The costs per gallon are laughably small, it just requires motivation to do and it be a priority over other projects.
posted by zenon at 2:56 PM on March 22, 2009

The water is also apparently very hard, as dish soap barely makes any suds. Any home "filtering" solution needs to deal with the minerals in this water.

Oof. Again, my experience is that the filters are just really useless for this situation. If you want a long-term solution and don't mind spending the money, you might invest in a water softener. You'll have to buy large bags of salt every so often.

The only differences between water store and water dispenser will be in cost and convenience. Compare prices, determine which is easier for you to frequent, and base your decision on that. (For me, the grocery store is just a lot easier. Both stores I shop at regularly have the refill machines inside the store, and I pay at the checkout. If I had to do the coin-op thing, I'd probably go another route.)
posted by mudpuppie at 3:21 PM on March 22, 2009

I had some really nasty-tasting tap water in suburban Chicago. Refrigerating really helped the taste, as did time. Just sort of got used to it.
posted by msbrauer at 6:07 PM on March 22, 2009

My dad can't have the salt that's in our water softener due to high blood pressure & other heart problems, so for years he's carried 16 1-gallon jugs in 4 milk crates to my grandma's, who has city water, and fills them there. It's used for both drinking and cooking.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:29 PM on March 22, 2009

The water is also apparently very hard, as dish soap barely makes any suds. Any home "filtering" solution needs to deal with the minerals in this water.

I used to use a water store that had an RO system for the hard water in the area. This does remove some of the minerals. Your local water store should be able to answer questions about the water they sell and offer you a sample of it to taste.

The only downside was having to drive to the store and lug around my 5 gallon water container. I eventually bought an under the sink RO unit from Costco, which worked great. These do waste some water, but you could run the tube for this to a container which would hold the water for other uses.
posted by yohko at 2:01 PM on March 23, 2009

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