Don’t Buy This: Fancy Bottled Water Is a Stupid and Expensive Habit

Trendy waters—from alkaline to hydrogen—can cost you thousands of dollars a year. Here’s why you're better off drinking tap water.
Don't fall for the marketing hype behind alkaline water or any other water sold in a bottle or can. Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz

After a killer workout at the gym you may want to keep the good vibes going by springing for an ice cold bottle of fancy water. Hey, it’s better than gulping down a Coke, right? Sure, but you’d actually be better off sticking to a refreshing glass of tap water.

Bottled water has always been problematic. Now the health claims behind newer hydrogen, electrolyte and alkaline waters is being vastly overstated. “The industry is all about marketing and people are being suckered into thinking there are actual health benefits,” said Josh Bloom, senior director of chemical and pharmaceutical sciences at the American Council on Science and Health.


Consumers aren’t getting that message though. Americans spent $18.5 billion on 14 billion gallons of bottled water in 2017, making it the most popular beverage you can buy. But there’s no reason to follow the herd. Here’s why you’re better off with regular water:

You could easily waste hundreds of dollars of year on this expensive habit

Let’s start with the price. Tap water is basically free, whereas specialty bottled and canned waters cost thousands of dollars a year. Take Dr. Perricone hydrogen water, which costs about $3 for an eight-ounce can. That translates into $2,190 annually if you guzzled two cans a day.

If you prefer electrolyte water like 26-year-old art gallery intern Aman Bachhawat, you could spend about $515 a year for 17 ounces a day on Core Hydration electrolyte water. “It’s lighter [than tap water]. It’s really smooth,” said Bachhawat, who added that he started drinking it two months ago.

Even relatively cheap enhanced waters like Essentia ionized alkaline water will set you back $471 a year if you gulp down one 20-ounce bottle a year. Cray cray.

Buying plastic water bottles trashes the environment

Many of these so called healthy waters come packaged in a plastic bottle, which is an offense to the environment. Plastic bottles end up polluting oceans and rivers, emitting chemicals which endanger the marine ecosystem, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Buying bottled water is a waste of money and harmful to the environment,” Dr. Kathleen Fairfield, a physician scientist for the Center for Outcomes Research at Maine Medical Center, said. “If people live in an area where the water has an odor or bad taste, they can use a simple carbon filter (like Brita or others) to remove chlorine and impurities.”


Plastic bottles are a major source of pollution in oceans and litter on land.

But about recycling? Unfortunately, plastic lasts forever, like for 450 years, BBC reports. Less than half of bottles are recycled and only seven percent become new bottles. That means approximately 10 million tons of plastic ends up floating in oceans each year.

Hydrogen water is not a magical elixir

But what about the claims that alkaline water is going to reduce your reflux problem? Or hydrogen water will give you more energy? For the most part, the answer to those questions is hell no. Buying bottled water with added ingredients like electrolytes, hydrogen or alkaline is “total bullshit,” Bloom said. "It’s a bunch of crap and this industry is out of control," he said, adding, "Any science behind these claims is minimal."

What's more, you don’t need to hydrate nearly as much as you might think. Most of the water you need comes from the food you eat, whether it's an apple or a slice of watermelon. So instead of downing eight glasses a day, let your thirst be your guide.

As for what to do with all the money you'll save? Build that emergency fund, save for retirement or use it to take a fun vacation. At least then you'll get something worthwhile for your cash other than the illusion of health.

Follow Gina Ragusa on Twitter.