Tap water is pretty safe in England (only from kitchen taps, don’t drink water from your bathroom), compared to many other areas around the world. However, some people prefer to filter it, to remove various impurities and to make the water taste nicer, especially if your local authority treats the water with fluoride (there is no proof that this does any good – Ireland has been fluoridating the water for decades, with no improvements to dental health – good teeth come from less sugar and refined foods, and good dental hygiene and access to a dentist).
Water is filtered naturally in nature through rocks (spring water), so if you are buying bottled water, this is usually better than distilled water (which boils the water, but removes the natural minerals). Hardly anyone can be bothered with the time and expense of installing a home water filtering unit, so most people who filter their tap water, choose to use a portable water filter. The problem with these is they are usually fiddly, expensive and made with plastic jugs and filters (you can recycle them, but only if you live near somewhere that accepts old cartridges). There are better ways to filter water (or simply to make tap water taste better, if that’s the reason why you filter it). Let’s take a look:
- The first thing to do (if the filtering is more for taste than health) is just to copy what restaurants do. Fill a jug of water and then just air it on the table. After 30 minutes or so, this should air out any ‘chlorine taste’, and with ice and slices of lemon/orange, the water should taste fine.
- Another idea to make water taste nicer is to make fruit-infused water or herb-infused water. You can also do the same with herbal teas (just make them up hot, then leave to cool). Check herb teas are safe, if you are pregnant/nursing or have any medical conditions.
- If you prefer to filter the water for health reasons too, then a charcoal water filter is likely your best bet. This simply uses pieces of charcoal to sit in the water, and after a few hours, it’s naturally filtered. The charcoal lasts for weeks (you can refresh it in the sunshine). And at end of use, you can either bury the pieces in the garden to help your soul, or use them to absorb odours (in the fridge, cupboards or even smelly trainers!)
- Some people prefer to filter water for pets too, but if you do this, don’t use distilled water unless recommended by a vet. Don’t let pets drink from puddles either (it could contain pollutants, oil or antifreeze). The best way to keep pets hydrating is to walk them early morning/evening in hot weather (so they have less chance of heatstroke) and carry filtered water on walks (don’t let pets gulp lots of water after exercise, to help prevent bloat).
Filtered Water for Developing Countries
Although much of the world is made with water, only around 3% is safe for drinking (the rest is either in glaciers while they are still not melting, or polluted. There are campaigns to stop big companies marketing baby formula in developing countries to mothers who can’t afford it, once they leave hospital. So they either water it down (too weak to be nutritious) or mix it with dirty waters. World Health Organisation says that many babies die due to this, when in fact most mothers can safely breastfeed.
If you would like to help clean water projects abroad (to stop the 80% of disease in developing countries caused by dirty water), there are simple empowering solutions, instead of always donating to big water charities.
- FRANK Water Coolers are good for offices and schools, and although not filtered, the water tasets better. Profits help fresh water projects in India, both when you sign up and when you refill.
- Hipporoller is a simple yet innovative invention that looks a bit like a big tub on wheels. It was created to help women and children fetch water without headaches and joint problems, caused by carrying water on their heads. The journeys are also quicker, meaning children then get to spend more time in school.
- Lifestraw & Icon Life Saver Bottle (which filter out impurities) are cheap to buy and install, and can remove most lethal diseases. Some people don’t like them saying it encourages people in Africa to drink from dirty rivers, rather than invest in clean water projects. This is true, but in an emergency, these are great solutions until clean water wells are built, and many international travellers also use them.
Belu Filter in Action is an ideal solution for pubs, hotels and restaurants. You lease a filtration system for a reduced weekly fee, then 50% from each sale of filtered water goes to provide clean water for those who need it. Provide hot, cold, chilled and sparkling filtered water for meeting rooms and refreshment areas, and keep staff hydrated, while helping others to access clean water.
You could supply staff with Belu Ocean Bottles (each one funds the collection of around 1000 plastic bottles, so they don’t end up in the ocean – they are upcycled, anti-leak, dishwasher-safe and insulated for cold and hot drinks (avoid wide-rimmed bottles for children or those at risk of burning their mouths). Or buy a water cooler (a great alternative to single-use bottles, where plumbed filtration is not an option). Each bottle can be used over 30 times (delivery is presently only for London and southeast England).
Belu Tonic Waters
Belu Tonic Waters also donate profits to help fund clean water projects worldwide. So at least when you sip on your G & T, you know that your favourite tipple is helping to ensure people in developing countries get access to clean healthy water to drink and wash in. WaterAid also helps to build decent toilets so everyone has access to hygiene and sanitation.
Tonic waters contain quinine, so avoid serving them if pregnant or you have an abnormal heart rhythm, kidney or liver disease or low blood sugar. The tonic waters are packed in glass bottles that are made from at least 70% recycled content. The range includes:
- Classic Tonic Water & Light Tonic Water
- Garden Tonic Water (citrus, rosemary, lavender)
- Fiery Ginger Beer (with cayenne, lime leaf, lemongrass)
- Glorious Ginger Ale (with bitter orange, cayenne, lemongrass)
- Lively Lemonade & Sunny Soda Water
Why is Bottled Water So Expensive?
Sometimes you may need to buy bottled water in an emergency, but why is bottled water so expensive? Obviously it’s best to drink filtered tap water where you can, or use a reusable water bottle. We are fortunate to have water that’s safe to drink (in blind tests, water from Thames taps beat some of the more expensive brands of bottled water). So what’s with all the high prices, just for something that should be free as a basic right?
The earth only has around 3% of its water available to drink, so it’s fairly scarce, and most of that is in glaciers. Yet 800 million people worldwide don’t have access to clean safe water, so the fact that we can turn on the tap and drink safely, is a luxury
Don’t drink from bathroom taps as they often come from different pipes – this could cause harm in susceptible people and pets, and should never be used for mixing up baby formula). In old houses, you may actually be pouring out water from tanks with dead rats in them (and boiling it does not purify it).
So why do so many people pay so much for bottled water, in countries where it’s safe to drink? Obviously the cost is from sourcing and bottling the water. But UK laws means that the water from the tap is usually as pure (or more pure) than water sold in bottles.
Can you imagine paying 2000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich? Annie Leonard
Tap water in the UK has got more expensive since companies went private (in Wales, it’s still a non-profit company with the best reviews). But tap water is still dirt cheap, compared with filtered or bottled water. It works out at around 0.1p a litre (compared to 65p per litre for bottled). Obviously some people may need to drink bottled water for medical reasons. But for everyone else, filtered tap water should be fine. And although it is not perfect, unfiltered tap water should not do most people much harm.
Water UK says that our tap water is among the best in the world, with companies running 2.5 million strict tests on drinking water each year. Chlorine is used to kill some bacteria but it should not do much harm and if you just keep a jug of tap water in the fridge (covered) the taste should disappear, just refresh every 24 hours. Cloudy water is not due to being impure, but due to tiny air bubbles, for a newly running tap. If you leave the glass to stand and the water clears, you know that’s the issue, and nothing to be concerned about.
If you have a stable home and lots of money, then filtering is good. But don’t let the thought of non-filtered water scare you. Drinking safe tap water is undoubtedly better than avoiding water at all, because it’s not been filtered. In the last year or so, the bottom of the bottled water industry seems to have fallen out. COVID has seen many people’s income dwindle, programs by Sir David Attenborough have made people realise the damage of plastic bottles to our oceans, and the huge growth in sales of reusable water bottles, has many people going back to tap water, filtered or not.
One of the most expensive bottled waters is from Fiji, owned by the company that makes Pom pomegranate juice. The company enjoyed tax-exempt status until a military leader staged a coup and decided they would have to pay tax. The company laid off employees and even briefly shut down, eventually agreeing to pay tax to benefit the people that lived there. What did not sit right was that the most expensive bottled water was being flown around the world and making profits for a company that did not pay tax in Fiji, a country where 12% of residents have no access to clean safe drinking water.
Of course, most French people drink water, and a lot more of it than here. Orangina is also popular, sold in the original glass bottles (that’s a pretty good drink usually, just sparkling water, orange and sugar). Coffee is also popular. Brandy (Cognac) and Champagne are also popular, as is the liqueur Cointreau (orange).
If you are going to drink the same amount of water as the French, then choose filtered tap water, and use a reusable water bottle. Recently, Evian has been promoting its plastic bottles that are made from recycled plastic. All well and good, but if it falls down a storm drain or drops off your boat, it still kills wildlife by breaking down into microplastics.
The brand is also owned by Danone, a multi-brand that uses a lot of palm oil and has been rapped on the knuckles for unethical marketing of formula in developing countries. It also owns Volvic. An ethical workers co-op it isn’t.
Many people are not fans of Evian water, due to the hardness of the water giving it not the best taste, and the higher price (one journalist once asked us to spell the brand name backwards?!) And the fact that the bottle is plastic also affects the taste. Recently, journalists and social media were up in arms, when the brand launched a designer Evian bottle that cost around 8 euros. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out why people were angry, in a world where around 800 million people don’t have access to fresh drinking water.
One critic juxtaposed a photo of the bottle with a family on a rubbish heap in India, rummaging to try to survive. Another asked ‘Can you buy it using Universal Basic Income?’
Refill is a tap water refill app, which you can download to find places that let you fill your bottle with tap water for free. There are almost 275,000 refill stations across the world, plus you can find coffee shops that give you discounts for bringing your own cup. And for those that let you take your own lunchboxes, on the go.
Switch to a Reusable Water Bottle
Choosing a reusable water bottle helps to keep plastic out of our oceans. As well as not being healthy to drink from, plastic bottles degrade over time into microplastics, which are ingested by marine wildlife, if the bottles end up in our oceans or seas. Plastic is also made from oil. The best reusable water bottles are ones that are made from a material that is not plastic, and last for years. There are various choices from insulated stainless steel to bamboo to reinforced glass. Avoid wide-mouth bottles for hot liquids or for children.
This vacuum insulated water bottle is condensation-free and cool to the touch. In stone or black, it’s made with double-walled vacuum insulated technology, to keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours. With a capacity of 500ml, the food grade stainless steel is used to ensure the safest drinking experience, while retaining taste and purity. 1% of profits go to environmental nonprofits, and another 1% to community youth projects.
FOSH Reusable Water Bottles are an ideal alternative to disposable plastic water bottles, which break down into microplastics that harm our oceans and marine wildlife. Designed to last for years, these bottles are made from stainless steel, just choose your favourite design.
The triple-insulated bottles keep drinks hot for 12 hours (and cold for 24 hours) and have a durable powder coated finish. The wide mouth is good for easy filling (don’t use for children due to hot drinks). The bottles have a 550ml capacity. Choose from:
- Blaze Red
- Butterfly Yellow
- Clownfish Orange
- Flamingo Pink
Nought Stainless Steel Water Bottle is in a beautiful Scandinavian-inspired minimalist design. It has a leakproof screw-top lid with an easy carry handle, and a wide neck with curved lip. This bottle keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours, and hot for up to 12 hours.
Wave Stainless Steel Water Bottle is a stylish insulated bottle with a screw cap. Designed for those on the move, it can keep your drinks cool for up to 24 hours, and hot for up to 12 hours. Perfect for refilling and reusing, the 600ml bottle is great for safe hydration. Leakproof, and easy to clean.
A Bottle to Clean Up the Oceans
Ocean Bottle is dishwasher-safe and has a handy carry loop, and the top unscrews to become a cup. 500ml in size and dishwasher-safe, and carries a 2-year warranty. Sold in recycled packaging, it’s made from double wall vacuum-insulated stainless steel and recycled content, with anti-leak dual opening lid, to make filling and cleaning a breeze.
For each bottle sold, the company donates to an organisation that employs local people worldwide, to clear the ocean of plastic bottles. You help further when scanning your bottle at selected outlets, to refill your bottle with tap (faucet) water.
A Self-Cleaning Reusable Water Bottle
This self-cleaning reusable water bottle is double-walled to keep drinks cold for 12 hours or hot for 4. It uses UV technology to clean the inner of bacteria, viruses and mould, just click a button, takes 3 minutes. When tested, this bottle killed over 99.99% of bacteria when exposed to 3 minutes of UV-C light. Do not wash this bottle in the dishwasher, nor submerge the lid in water, as it will damage the UV technology.
This social purpose stainless steel water bottle is made from super-insulated stainless steel, to keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours. The 500ml bottle has 2 caps (one with and one without a handle). And for each bottle sold, the company gives cartons of water to a homeless person, as many people living on the streets suffer from dehydration, heatstroke and heat-related illness, during summer.
Where to Find Zero Waste Fizzy Water
DASH Water (use code WONKYWATER50 for 50% off all products!)
We are all regularly told to drink tap water, as opposed to bottled water. But what if you prefer your water bubbly? Water is obviously better than coke, and although the odd natural soda is fine, water is the beverage of choice. So how do you create fizzy water, if you don’t want to buy plastic bottles of the stuff. Here are a few ideas – from homemade fizzy water to better brands in glass bottles or tins. And then for the hedonists among you, we’ll look at fizzy water with alcohol added (only a little bit!) Never give sparkling water to pets, as it could expand and cause bloat. In fact, it’s good to avoid for anyone with gassy problems.
What is Fizzy Water?
Fizzy (sparkling water) is simply water that dissolves carbon dioxide through high pressure. This creates carbononic acid. There are some natural springs where the water is naturally sparkling, but few and far between. Today nearly all sparkling water is artificially created. It’s popular alone or to dilute alcohol like spirits or wine (a spritzer). It’s also used in cooking to make fluffy batters. Some people find that sparkling water (esp. soda water) helps digestion. Club soda is simply the same, but with mineral salts added.
Sparkling Water (made with wonky fruit)
DASH Water (use code WONKYWATER50 for 50% off all products!) is a super brand of sparkling water, made with natural bubbles and wonky fruit, that has been rejected by industry and would otherwise end up on landfill. The drinks contain no nasties (artificial sweeteners etc) and are sold in easy-to-recycle aluminium cans and glass bottles. You’ll find them in many stores, or order in bulk online. This is a Certified B company (the best there is, in terms of sustainability).
These drinks give a natural lift from fruit and bubbles, with no sugar, sweeteners or calories. So unless you are drinking water from the tap, you can’t get more zero waste than this. The range includes:
While we are fussy about flavour, we don’t care if the fruit is bumped, curved, broken or squashed. In a small way to help raise awareness about the big issue of waste. One bashed up berry, curly cucumber and lopsided lemon at a time! DASH Water
If you order DASH Water online, there are seriously good discounts for students (or £20 for referring a friend). And big discounts for following the company on Instagram.
All key workers get a whopping 50% off their first order, just show proof of employment. Ideal for teachers, nurses, carers, fire & rescue crew and others, to enjoy sparkling water with wonky fruit, at a better price!
Aqua Libra Sparkling Water Drink
You may remember years ago that indie health stores would sell glass bottles of a lovely non-alcoholic drink that tasted a bit like a liquid apple crumble. Today the same company instead makes sparkling water infused with fruits, sold in zero waste cans. Aqua Libra only contain sparkling water, fresh fruits and a dash of lemon. Choose from Raspberry Blackcurrant, Cucumber Mint Lime or Pineapple Grapefruit.
Sustainable Hard Seltzer Drinks
Hard seltzer drinks are a new import from the US: sparkling water that is flavoured with fruit juice with alcohol too. A more natural alternative to conventional alcoholic drinks, these are some of England’s more sustainable brands.
Arrowtown Drinks blends simple natural ingredients to create alcoholic fizzy waters (red berries or lime elderflower). The nature-loving founders donate 10% profits from the sales to environmental and wildlife conservation charities. Red Berries helps African wildlife and Lime Elderflower helps marine conservation.
Berczy Hard Seltzer is a sparkling alcoholic water, inspired by a trip to Canada. These vegan drinks are low in calories and sugar, and gluten-free. The perfect gift, they are also good for BBQs, picnics or a relaxing evening. Made in England, sustainability is at the core of all they do. Made from natural fruits, British spring water and four-times distilled sugar beet alcohol, the drinks are available in 3 flavours (also as a mixed pack) in a cardboard box:
- Lemon & Lime (low-cal gin & tonic alternative)
- Peach & Raspberry (sweet, light & refreshing)
- Passionfruit & Turmeric
Long Shot Drinks makes hard seltzers (alcoholic sparkling waters) in classic British flavours. Inspired by an idea from North America, these drinks translate the flavours to the kinds that are popular in England. Sold in tins, all the drinks are under 70 calories and cater to a variety of needs (vegan, gluten-free, low-sugar and keto-friendly). The range includes:
- Strawberry Rhubarb
- Raspberry Blackcurrant
- Grapefruit (check medication)
Make Your Own Sparkling Water
You guessed it, you’re thinking a Soda Stream, right? Yes, that’s one way but it’s not the only brand. They’re no cheap, but if you like lots of fizzy water, they work out way cheaper (and less taking-bottles-to-the-recycling-bank-hassle) than bottled. Once bought, you obviously need to buy canisters, but after that, it’s child’s play. SodaSream is one of the best known models, but it doesn’t have the best reviews as it’s rather large and clunky.
Mysoda Toby Sparkling Water Maker is the greenest option, made from wood and needing no electricity. Silent to use and reusable canisters, it’s sold in three colours and delivered in plastic-free packaging. The antifreeze nozzle allows very cold water to be carbonated.
Aarke is a luxury brand (just over £200) so best reserved for restaurants and hotels, but good if you constantly serve fizzy water to diners and guests. It’s very quiet and made in Sweden. Made from stainless steel, it has an internal safety valve system and precision nozzle. Just fill to the line with fresh clean water and pull the lever. Push and hold until you hear a buzz, then release and unscrew the bottle.
Charcoal Water Filters are made from biodegradable bamboo filter, then compost after use. Good for a 2-litre jug of water, find a pack of 8 in a reusable cotton bag. Place the filters in a jug or bottle of tap water and they will slowly filter out chlorine and chloramines. Then compost at end of life. After 2 months, you can place in the fridge or bathroom to remove smells, or use to remove moisture from damp areas. Use 3 to 4 pieces for a 1 litre jug or 6 to 8 pieces for a 2 litre juge. Wash in running clean water to remove powder, boil for 10 minutes, then cool and dry, the charcoal will sink in a week or so, leave for 8 hours to work or chill, then re-steriliser weekly and replace after 2 months.