For quite some time, different reports were released to the media regarding pollutants found in various municipal tap water systems. The bottled water companies advertise the purity of their water, the good sources, and the filtration methods used. For this reason, people have become more willing to pay a little more for the assurance of getting “clean” water.
Personally, I have lived in areas where the water had a metallic taste and I was somewhat concerned about the actual content of the water. I also lived in an area where the tap water was so heavily chlorinated that you could smell the chlorine during and after a shower.
It’s true that if you have lead pipes, you should get your water tested for lead, and there may be other contaminants. However, the answer to your question has a lot to do with the marketing campaigns of the bottled water companies. The funny thing is, a lot of bottled water is possibly just tap water sold to you in a bottle! Plus, the amount of waste and pollution generated by plastic water bottles is an ongoing challenge. You can always try filtering your own tap water and using a safe, reusable bottle made out of BPA-free steel.
While bottled water is huge, there are plenty of people (including me) who are not reluctant at all to drink tap water. I’d agree with nifferdil that effective marketing has a lot to do with it. Americans are pretty gullible.
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