Not all water is the same. If youre buying bottled water, its important to scrutinize the label. Unless the water is labeled spring or mineral, it will be sourced from a municipal water supply. This means its the same water that comes through the tap, with additional purification steps.
Water cannot be labeled natural spring or mineral water unless it has received an official designation. This is awarded only after water passes tests that prove its naturally free of toxic elements and conforms to the requirements of the spring or mineral designation.
All bottled water in Canada must comply with the Food and Drug Act and list the type of bottled water, the source, the amount of dissolved solids (the minerals), any additives and any treatment the water has undergone. If there is no Ingredients List, the water is natural and has not had anything added to it.
Be aware that terms like purified water and drinking water likely indicate the water came from a municipal water supply. Unless the label specifies the water came from an underground spring or artesian well, it likely did not.
Look also for the mineral content of the water. Ingredients like calcium, potassium and magnesium are naturally occurring in water. They are essential to human health and they also help water determine its pH balance.
Bottled waters are not all the same. Canadian labeling laws require bottled water to be classified as one of the following types, which must be declared on the label:
Spring Water This comes from an underground water source (but not from a public community water supply). It should contain fewer than 500 parts per million of total dissolved solids (minerals).
Mineral Water Like spring water, it also comes from an underground source, but it has more than 500 parts per million of dissolved solids. While laws in Europe about mineral water are much stricter (nothing may be added to or taken from the water), in Canada, you can find both carbonated and still mineral waters, defined only by mineral content. The carbonation might be naturally occurring, or it could be added to the water.
Drinking Water This is bottled water that can come from any source usually a municipal water supply that has been purified by a process such as distillation, deionization or reverse osmosis.
Carbonated Spring Water Bottled spring water that contains natural or added carbonation and is connected to an actual spring. This is not the same as mineral water, as it will have lower mineral content. Soda water, seltzer water and tonic water are considered soft drinks, not bottled waters.
Natural spring water bottled right at the source needs no purification to be safe and healthy to drink. However, spring water that has sat in tanks or been transported before bottling is exposed to bacteria and must be purified. As well, waters taken from municipal water supplies, lakes or rivers also need to be processed to be safe enough to drink. Heres what your water might have been through:
Distillation Steam from boiling water is recondensed and bottled. Boiling kills all microbes, making it very safe, but it also gets rid of waters natural minerals, which gives it a flat taste and reduces its health value.
Deionization Also known as demineralization, uses ion exchange resins to bind to and filter out the minerals in water. The results of this artificial process are similar to distilled water.
Micron Filtration Water is filtered through microscopically tiny holes to get rid of contaminants and microbes.
Ozonation By adding artificially created ozone gas to it, water is disinfected, which kills most microbes. However, this process has been linked to the formation of bromate in water, which has health concerns.
Reverse Osmosis Under pressure, water is forced through a membrane, which filters out microbes, chemicals and also all the minerals.
Ultraviolet Light Water is passed through UV light, which does not affect the physical or chemical make-up of the water but kills most contaminants.
Chlorination The disinfectant chlorine is added to many municipal water supplies and some processed bottled waters as well, particularly those that have gone through reverse osmosis. Chlorine kills pathogens effectively, but there are health concerns with byproducts of the process called trihalomethanes (THMs).