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Bottled water no better than tap

Consumer advocacy group Choice has called out health claims made by bottled water companies, saying tap water is just as good – and comes at a fraction of the cost.

Choice tested the claims made by several bottled water brands. One company, Australian Artisanal Water, stated its high levels of mineral salts are rapidly absorbed into the system and have a “cleansing” effect.

Choice found tap water contained a higher level of these minerals in an equivalent volume.

Another brand, Zouki Breathe, marketed itself as ‘oxygen water’. Allegedly sourced from a spring in Ballarat, it claimed to have the "highest concentration levels of oxygen in any spring water in Australia".

But according to Stuart Khan, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering at UNSW, there are no benefits to drinking oxygen water.

“Oxygen water is a rubbish idea,” he said, explaining that after water has been extracted from aquifers, oxygen concentrations will naturally reach a new equilibrium with the above-ground atmosphere.

The public perception that bottled water is subject to stricter quality standards than tap water also collapsed under scrutiny.

“Although industry research shows Australians believe bottled water is safer and tastier than tap water, beverage companies are only required to test their products once a year; tap water is tested regularly,” Choice spokeswoman Kate Browne said.

The study also looked at the cost difference between bottled and tap water. Where Sydney Water charges $2 for 1000L of filtered water, bottled water is priced at around $3.50 per 600mL bottle.

“Consumers are better off topping up bottles from the tap or from a jug in the fridge,” Browne said.

Last month, Sydney Water called on the city’s residents to help curb the number of plastic water bottles that end up in the city’s waterways.

According to Sydney Water’s Robert Allen, the removal of plastic bottles from litter booms in the city’s waterways costs around $420,000 each year.

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