For years water has been served up in bottles, from taps, from boreholes, and even untreated rivers that are the only source of water for millions of people worldwide.
Each has its own pros and cons. It is a hot topic that affects every person and animal on the earth. Everywhere you go to you will notice that each place has water that has a different taste.
This is not necessarily because there is something wrong with the water, it is different because of the source of water, temperatures, treatment processes, storage, and delivery.
But how long does bottled water last?
Water typically lasts forever, meaning it doesn’t have an expiration date. In fact, the FDA states that bottled water has an indefinite shelf life if it is stored properly. Bottled water usually is given a best before date of two years.
It is really the quality of the water source that affects the health and taste of the water. Stagnant water is full of viruses, bacteria, and parasites. That makes it taste as foul as it is from a health point of view.
Borehole water could be extremely dangerous because of pesticides seeping into the ground water. Tap water can contain contaminants and even rust from your pipes. As plastic ages, it breaks down releasing toxins into the water that can be very harmful to your body and will taste very bad.
In all these scenarios, the water is not the problem. The water would be perfect; the problem is that it is exposed to real-world contaminants which lead to bad taste and health issues.
When on holiday, many travelers bring bottled water with them or purchase bottled water exclusively because the water “tastes bad”.
Residents of that area will not necessarily agree that their water tastes bad. They are used to that taste and will think water in the USA tastes inferior to their countries water.
The taste, quality, and quantity of water are determined by geography, pollutants, treatment, packaging, storage, exposure to light and heat, pests, and diseases that occur in different areas.
Let us explore the quality of each water source and the pros and cons of each, and most importantly how to make your water last longer.
Many people believe that bottled water is safer than tap water. Too many people have died because of water-borne bacteria. Sometimes it gets into tap water, but bottled water is every bit at risk of becoming affected.
Bottled water is very often just tap water that has the mineral content adjusted. The water can come from wells, springs, and surface water.
Bottled water has the best before date to indicate when the water was bottled and when the plastic will degrade to the point of affecting the taste of the water.
Bottled Water Standards
Bottled water is monitored by the FDA. They do not require the same level of testing as the EPA. Their standards are:
- Sellers need to process, bottle, and transport water under sanitary conditions – this gives the producers and sellers a lot of wiggle room as sanitary is often open to debate
- Protect the water source from contaminant’s that could be harmful to humans
- Prioritize quality control processes ensuring the bacteriological and chemical safety of the water
- They are required to test and prove that the water they provide is safe and tasty by sampling it (talk about putting your money where your mouth is).
Keeping Bottled Water Tasting Fresh
Bottled water should be kept sealed in a cool, dark area, away from direct sunlight. Only buy what you need at a time or what you know you will need for the next week. The plastic deteriorates over time and leaves you with water that tastes bad.
It is much better to buy water in glass bottles. This is for 3 reasons:
- Glass can be recycled, leaving your footprint on the environment reduced.
- Glass does not deteriorate; this ensures that the water tastes as good as the day you bought it.
- Glass bottles will help keep your water fresher for longer; this means you can store a lot of it without worrying about its taste deteriorating – perfect for preppers and homesteaders.
What Happens if You Drink Bottled Water that Tastes Funky or is Contaminated?
Water that has not been used before its best before date or that has not been stored appropriately will smell and taste bad. (But do not throw older bottles of water away, they can still be used to water your plants, bath the dog, or even flush the loo.)
Exposure to heat or light will cause the plastic to deteriorate leaving your water tasting nasty. If you have purchased water that has been contaminated before being bottled, the heat and light will provide the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply.
Drinking bottled water that is off can:
- ❌ Result in problems of the reproductive system in both men and women
- ❌ Cause serious neurological issues
- ❌ Cause diarrhea
- ❌ Lead to vomiting
- ❌ Cause cancer: plastic is full of carcinogens which cause cancer if they leach into the water
- ❌ Have a detrimental effect on people with compromised immune systems like old people, babies, and people with certain chronic ailments.
- ☑ The FDA says that bottled water has an indefinite shelf life if it is sealed and stored properly
- ☑ Bottled water is convenient to carry with you whether you are hiking in a dry area or just taking the train home
- ☑ It is vital for use during natural disasters when contaminants and sewer seepage have compromised the water supply. The massive earthquake in Haiti and the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans are prime examples
- ☑ Convenient if you are hiking or camping
- ☑ If your tap water becomes contaminated, bottled water is the only safe water source until the tap water issue is fixed
- ❌ The MDH recommends that plastic bottles should not be reused for anything; they are for single use only. Once used, the bottles could be exposed to microorganisms that could affect your health in a big way
- ❌ Plastic is not biodegradable. It cannot be recycled; businesses are working toward reducing their environmental impact by using tap water or water fountains with paper cups that can be recycled. A plastic bottle takes 100 years to degrade
- ❌ Bottled water is mind-bogglingly more expensive than tap water
- ❌ Because the plastic deteriorates leaving the water tasting bad, you should always check the best before date. The best before dates indicates the optimal storage date based on when it was decanted into the plastic bottle
- ❌ The plastic bottles will make the water taste a bit off if you do not store them properly or purchase only what you will need immediately
Tap water is hands down the cheapest water you can buy. It goes through rigorous testing to ensure that it is fit for human consumption.
However, human error does happen; my town is a prime example of this, we have opened taps and run bath water only to find feces floating in it, Y-U-K!! Different countries have different standards regulating what is an acceptable content of bacteria and contaminants.
Tap Water Quality and Standards
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is charged with keeping tap water healthy. The tap water must be tested by the Department of Health regularly to ensure it is safe for human consumption.
The EPA also has 3 Specific requirements to pass their safety for human consumption standards:
- They require that information and potential health risks that can occur from drinking contaminated water is provided every 3 years when the water is tested – this is mostly done after the water has made people ill as that is what causes them to retest water at the point where people got ill and then digging up the water line to check for holes that could allow contaminants to invade the safe water.
- They want to know the source of the water to test for contaminants at the source.
- That the water complies with safety regulations.
The EPA requires that local municipalities inform the public about the effects on the health of the consumer should they drink contaminated water.
Keeping Your Tap Water Tasting Fresh
Pour only what you want and drink it immediately. Water left open can be exposed to airborne contaminants.
If you want cold water for those hot days, decant your tap water into glass jars with lids. Glass does not let any cancer-causing carcinogens permeate the water.
Happens if You Drink Tap Water that Tastes Funky or is Contaminated?
Tap water can become contaminated with bacteria, parasites, radioactive components, and most dangerous, heavy metals.
Heavy metals can lead to:
- ❌ Cancer
- ❌ Kidney damage
- ❌ Liver damage
- ❌ Anemia
- ❌ Intestinal symptoms
Children, babies, older people, people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, and people undergoing cancer treatment are all more likely to become ill if they consume contaminated tap water.
Drinking contaminated tap water can lead to:
- ❌ Diarrhea
- ❌ Vomiting
- ❌ Skin discoloration
- ❌ Fever
- ❌ Headache
- ❌ Nerve problems
- ❌ Kidney failure
- ❌ Organ damage
- ❌ Cholera
- ❌ Hepatitis
- ❌ Typhoid
- ❌ Damage to the reproductive organs
- ☑ Convenient
- ☑ Less damage to the environment
- ☑ Can be filtered easily and cheaply
- ☑ Can be poured into a reusable glass or steel bottle
- ☑ Safe to drink (except when a contamination occurs)
- ☑ Treated with chlorine, chlorinates, or chlorine dioxides
- ☑ Contains healthy minerals like calcium, magnesium, and fluoride
- ❌ Can contain pesticides
- ❌ Chlorine in high quantities can be toxic
- ❌ Can be contaminated by your own plumbing
- ❌ Can be damaging to people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, or preexisting medical conditions
As most homesteaders prefer to live off the grid as much as possible; homesteads are often very rural and therefore have little – if any – affordable access to municipal water lines.
We tend to think that borehole water is way underground and therefore must be good for drinking. We could not be more wrong!
Borehole water is the most prone to have negative effects on humans and animals. Boreholes can be as contaminated or even more contaminated as surface water. Worse still, they are exposed to some VERY dangerous chemicals homesteaders and farmers use on their crops and animal-borne disease.
You may be lulled into a false sense of security because you do not use anything dangerous on your homestead, but your habits are not always followed by other homesteaders and farmers.
Even if they did practice safe, organic farming, even these shared habits will not necessarily make your water as safe as you think. Underground streams stretch for miles and miles and wind and twist through twists and turns not visible to the naked eye.
To make your borehole water safe for consumption over long periods of time, you will have to treat and store the water properly.
Who Regulates the Quality of the Borehole Water and What Standards are Required?
Drilling a borehole does take some compliance with government standards; this is important because you will need to know where the best place is to drill, how deep to drill, and most importantly, what the water level is.
They have a vital role, monitoring the water level to ensure that the groundwater does not run dry.
They will come out once every five years to take water samples to ensure that the water is safe for use. They basically test for heavy metals, exceptionally high levels of pesticides, and serious contaminants that can result in major health complications and even death.
However, the quality and safety of your water are really in your own hands.
How to Keep Your Borehole Water Tasting Fresh
You can and should sanitize your borehole water. There are 4 methods to do this:
- Use a good filtration system
- Use chemicals like chlorine
- Boil before use
Chemicals will leave your water with an unpleasant taste and boiling water, even for two people (not to mention animals), will feel like a full-time job. It is very labor-intensive and will take the better part of a day to sanitize enough water for use.
If you treat your borehole with chemicals, you will not be able to use the water for 1 – 3 days and the borehole will have to be drained before refilling and using.
Distillation requires a lot of space for the distillation system, and is time-consuming to monitor, process, and maintain.
A good filtration system will be worth investing in. It can be placed at the head of the borehole allowing every drop of water to come out fresh and clean.
To store your water, it is safer to use glass bottles over plastic bottles. If you do use plastic, make sure it is not single-use plastic.
What Will Happen if You Drink Borehole Water that Tastes Funky or is Contaminated
The potential for serious health complications that can occur if you drink contaminated borehole water is very high – especially if you do not filter, treat, or boil the water for use. Borehole water can contain naturally occurring arsenic, radionuclides, and other heavy metals.
Drinking contaminated borehole water may cause:
- ❌ Damage to the whole nervous system
- ❌ Damage to organs
- ❌ Diarrhea
- ❌ Vomiting
- ❌ E-Coli outbreaks
- ❌Cholera outbreaks
- ❌ Developmental issues
- ❌ Waterborne illnesses
- ❌ Damage to the reproductive systems of men and women
- ☑ Boreholes increase the value of your property
- ☑ The investment in a borehole will save you money in the long-term
- ☑ They are easy to maintain
- ☑ Depending on where you live, the quality of the borehole water can have health benefits
- ☑ You will not rely on the municipality for a steady supply of clean drinking water
- ☑ Contains naturally occurring minerals
- ❌ Boreholes are a big investment
- ❌ If untreated, it has limited uses such as drinking, cooking, and watering edible vegetables
- ❌ Rely on a good filtration system
- ❌ Can have extensive short-term and long-term health risks if untreated
- ❌ If it contains a high concentration of magnesium, it can result in gastric issues
- ❌ Can contain bacteria and viruses
- ❌ Can contain dangerous pesticides and chemicals
- ❌ Can contain parasites
Whether you are using tap, bottled, or borehole water, each has many benefits but also many risks.
In whatever method you choose to furnish your water needs while keeping your water clean and fresh, glass is always the best method of storing to keep a supply of clean water.
Do not reuse single use plastic bottles. Once opened, you should drink the water from the plastic bottle within 4 days.
I recommend that you use a water filtration system for both tap water or borehole water. There are so many convenient, cheap, and easy to install options available. We do not have a reliably clean and safe municipal supply water source.
My first defense is a reliable filtration system attached to my fridge. We only drink water from this source during our everyday use. However, I also keep 20 170-ounce bottles of water on the bottom shelf in my dark, cool, pantry.
We had a total loss of water about 5 years ago because someone drove a heavy truck over a massive, exposed cement pipeline. The whole pipeline had collapsed under the strain.
The whole province had no water for 3 and a ½ weeks! People used pool water to flush toilets and made the long journey to the next province over for bulk bottled water supplies.
Plan for the worst, and you will not be left wanting.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.