Have you taken a look at the label on your ever-present bottle of spring water lately? It probably says something like “mountain spring water”. Now, take a close look the the full color drawing that also graces the label, in this case, a bottle of Arrowhead spring water. (If it isn’t Arrowhead in your area, it will be Ozarka or Deer Park, Ice Mountain or Poland Spring, as all are owned by Nestle Waters.)

Isn’t that a peaceful scene? A beautiful blue sky with fluffy white clouds, lush evergreen trees, and a silver-blue mountain with a stream of clear, cold water bubbling out of it. I’m assuming that the spring the water comes from is somewhere around that virtual stream.

All bottled spring waters seem to show mountains and lovely scenery, along with clear spring water. These pictures are there for a reason. The companies are trying to create an image in your mind about spring water coming from a lovely, pristine mountain, when in reality, it comes from a hole in the ground.

That’s not to say that spring water isn’t good to drink, because it certainly is – at least it is better than tap water! But it is only fair that you know exactly where it comes from. It doesn’t come from a remote mountain spring in a picturesque setting like the advertisements would have you believe. When a spring source is located by a water company, a new bottling plant is built there at the source of the water. This is supposed to help keep down any contamination of the water, but it doesn’t prevent it from happening.

Contamination in spring water is something not too many people know about. Perhaps they are too busy putting down their chosen bottled water’s nemesis, which is purified water. We’ll get back to the contamination problem in a moment, but for now, let’s see just what purified bottled water is.

Purified water is sold as just plain old bottled water. Often, this water is municipal or tap water which has been treated with either reverse osmosis, distillation, or deionization in order to remove any bacteria or dissolved solids. This additional processing, in addition to what the municipality’s water department has already done to process and cleanse the water, still allows the water to retain some of its natural flavor, and it is for this reason that many people prefer it over spring water. It’s estimated that 25 percent of all bottled water comes from a city/municipal supply.

When you purchase bottled spring water, you are expecting a product that is a little different than purified municipal water. You’re led to believe that spring water is superior, and the labels on this water generally do all they can to nurture your belief with those pictures we spoke of earlier. But, these labels are deceiving. Recently, two big-name brands of what was supposedly spring water were called to task for advertising what had been found to be municipal water as spring water! Their labels have been changed to reflect this, but many people were fooled for a long time.

The only way a bottled water can be labeled as spring water is if it comes from a spring. Now, you probably read that and thought, “Well, of course!” But the whole problem is that spring! Spring water has to flow out naturally to the earth’s surface from a source that is underneath the ground. The water has to be gotten directly from this spring, or from a “Bore hole” which has to be as close as possible to the spot where the water naturally comes out. If a pump is used to get the water out, or any machine that uses force from the outside of the spring, then the water that is pumped out has to be exactly like the water that is naturally flowing out as far as composition and quality go.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, that bore hole can easily become contaminated, as can the spot where the spring comes out of the ground. And, since the Food and Drug Administration’s rules allow bottled spring water to have some forms of contamination, there is not a whole lot that can be done. These contaminants include E.coli or fecal coliform, which are two bacterias that point to fecal matter inclusion in the water. Tap water rules prohibit any contamination with these bacteria. Since purified bottle water is made from tap water, it stands to reason that this type of bottled water would be much safer and better tasting than spring water.

Bottled water is not required to be tested for the parasites known as cryptosporidium and giardia. Cryptosporidium is a type of protozoan that can cause diarrhea. In healthy people, the infection it causes does not last too long, but in children and people with a compromised immune system, it can become quite severe and refuse all medical attempts to stop it.

Giardia is often found in unsafe water. In fact, water is the main source of this infection.

Giardia can cause a person to bloat, be nauseated, have watery diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. You can also lose up to ten percent of your body weight when infected with this parasite. It takes from two to six weeks for the infection to improve, but has been known to become chronic giardia and last for months and years.

The potential for bottled spring water to have contaminants and parasites, or both, is small, but it is there. Purified water is much safer for you and your family if you are at all worried about the cleanliness of the water you drink.