In our household there has been the great debate, or Water Wars, depending on who you ask, about what is better to drink: tap water, bottled spring water, bottled purified water, or distilled water. What’s the difference between them all? Do those differences really matter to the average drinker?

Simple gal that I am, as well as cheap, I’m all for tap water. I believe our local municipality is doing its job to provide clean water for consumption as well as to be used in personal hygiene and cleaning. I tell everyone that if they are so paranoid about the city being involved in some kind of conspiracy to turn us into social zombies through our water supply we can always invest in one of those purifiers that attaches to the sink or sits in a water pitcher.

Tap water is specially treated to remove harmful chemical compounds and contaminants. It is also adjusted to be a particular pH which is more compatible with human biology. My kids freak out if the tap delivers a cloudy glass of water and point to it as proof that we are being poisoned. I tell them, “Be quiet! We are not being poisoned!” Then I explain to them that the cloudiness is not an indicator of impurities, but rather because of air bubbles or temperature or pressure changes. This often happens seasonally and if they just wait, it will pass and the water will look normal.

The general consensus among experts is that tap water in modern cities is just as safe as bottled water. The rare instances of contaminated tap water is about on equal footing with contaminated bottled water. Both sources of drinking water are highly regulated and monitored with strict guidelines testing water quality on a regular and frequent basis.

Now, with tap water, there is little choice. What pours forth from the faucet is what you get. However, there are many choices among bottled water. What is significantly different between all of the options?

Distilled water is basically water that is boiled with the steam being collected as impurity free water. This process can even make drinking water from sea water. Distilled water could be considered the purest of available commercial water sources. Its total lack of corrosive minerals is what makes it so widely used in automobiles and small appliances.

If distilled water is so pure, does that mean it is the best choice to drink? The World Health Organization determined in their own study that drinking distilled water can actually deprive the human body of essential electrolytes and minerals that can contribute to nutritional deficiencies. So, for drinking water, we have scratched distilled water off the list.

When my husband reaches for a case of purified water, I read the label that tells me it has been purified through reverse osmosis. I then wonder, “Am I just drinking tap water that has been bottled? Am I paying for something that my taxes have already paid for?” Purified water is treated by being forced through a membrane that removes particles and impurities. It too becomes demineralized like distilled water. However, purified water is enhanced by having essential minerals added. So, purified water is about as clean as tap water and healthy. To me, it seems a waste of money if the same product is flowing from my faucets at home for free.

My health conscious daughter finds spring water appealing, although my environmentalist son argues against it. I throw up my hands and ask, “Is it really that important?” Bottled spring water is usually sourced from underground reservoirs, then treated and purified. This may sound like a naturalist’s dream or an environmentalist’s nightmare, but, the reality is that most of our tap water is sourced from underground reservoirs as well, then treated and purified.

I find myself getting on the bandwagon with my local government as they try to convince the populace to drink tap water and toss the bottles that are quickly becoming the stuff of landfill horror stories. It does seem that bottled water is nothing but a clever marketing ploy to suck a little more money out of my pocketbook to buy a product I already pay for in my local taxes and get delivered right to my home. I think I will simply buy a case of whatever anyone wants. Then, I will fish the bottles out of the garbage, sterilize them, fill them from the tap, and put them in the refrigerator. No one will ever know the difference. With the money I save, I plan to buy a new pair of shoes for our family Christmas party.