How much does bottled water actually cost you?

Spilling bottled water

How much does bottled water cost verses regular tap water? Bottled water can be expensive and in most cities tap water is quite a bargain. Many people seem to be obsessed about buying bottled water. Judging from the huge skids of bottled water on display in the grocery store , it must be quite popular.

Bottled water

The most expensive place to buy bottled water is a restaurant. Most fast food restaurants sell bottled water for $1 per 0.5L bottle. That's $2 per liter.

The cheapest place I could find bottled water was at Costco. A case of 35, 0.5 L bottles of water was $2.85. This works out to 8.14 cents per bottle or 16 cents per liter. That's a lot cheaper than buying it on the go at a fast food restaurant or vending machine.

Unfiltered tap water

From my water bill I found out that tap water costs me $2.10 per cubic meter. One cubic meter is 1000 L . Therefore my cost per liter is:

$2.10 / 1000 L = 0.21 cent per liter. That's only ¼ cent per liter!

Since each bottle is half a liter, the cost per bottle is only 0.1 cent.

That's quite a difference, on the expensive side, bottled water is $2 per liter, while regular tap water is only ¼ cent per liter.

Filtered tap water

People may argue however , that bottled water is cleaner than regular tap water. Tap water is usually chlorinated which can give it a mild swimming pool water taste. If you live in an older neighbourhood , or an older house , there is a chance that you have small concentrations of lead in your water. Many years ago lead was used in the solder that is used to join the copper pipes together in your home. If the water sits in the pipes too long , the lead can leach into the water. Other than those two contaminates , tap water is highly tested by local governments to ensure that it is as clean as possible and free of contaminates.

Bottled water is supposed to be cleaner than regular tap water mainly due to the fact that the manufacturers filters it before bottling it. They remove any chlorine they added to purify it, as well as any other possible contaminates. Many people say they prefer the taste of bottled water simply because there is no chlorine taste.

So what if we factor in the cost of filtering the tap water? If you filter your tap water just before you drink it you can remove most of the chlorine taste and other contaminates. In theory you could make tap water taste just as good as bottled water by removing the chlorine and other contaminates.

In our house , we have a fridge that has a water and ice dispenser built in. It provides cold filtered water by taking tap water and running it through a filter before dispensing it.

Here is what the filter looks like. The filter fits into the bottom of the fridge.

Water filter

The filter reduces 16 contaminates including nasty things like lead , benzene and mercury. It also reduces chlorine taste and odour. It also reminds you that not all of these nasty things may actually be present in your tap water.

Water filter package

The water filter is also certified by NSF, an independent testing agency that tests and verifies water filters to ensure that they actually do reduce the contaminates that they claim. NSF in some cases also performs testing on bottled water to ensure that their purity claims are accurate as well.

Obviously water filters will wear out and need to be changed from time to time. The filter we have recommends replacement about every 6 months or 200 gallons (757 liters). A light on the fridge turns red after measuring out 200 gallons (757 liters) of use.

Water filter capacity

The price of this water filter varies depending on where I buy it. If I buy it at the local home center , it costs about $70. However , if I buy it online direct from the manufacturer in a 3 pack , I can get it for $99 for 3. Since the manufacturer offers the 3 pack for $99 with free shipping , it works out to be only $33 per filter. If I factor in the price of the filter to my tap water usage , I can get the cost of filtered tap water.

The filter is $33 and will filter 200 gallons or 757 liters of water. I already know that my tap water costs $2.10 per 1000 liters, so the water cost over the life of the filter is :

0.757 * $2.10 = $1.59

If I add in the cost of the filter, 200 gallons or 757 liters of filtered tap water costs me:

$33 + $1.59 = $34.59

So my cost per liter for filtered tap water works out to be:

$34.59 / 757 liters = 4.6 cents per liter.

You can see that adding in a filter adds quite a bit of cost to regular tap water , but it is still cheaper than bottled water.


You can see that there is a huge price difference between bottled water and regular tap water , depending on where you buy it and if you filter you tap water or not. Here is a summary chart of the results:

Table 1: Bottled water cost v.s. tap water cost
Type of water Cost per liter Cost verses unfiltered tap water
Tap water (unfiltered) 0.21 cents 1 Times
Tap water (filtered) 4.6 cents 22 Times
Bottled water (bulk) 16 cents 76 Times
Bottled water (restaurant) 100 cents 476 Times

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Updated: August 15,2012.

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