Water is the elixir of life and essential to human survival and health.
But what types of water are healthiest? This is the topic of hot debate among influencers and health experts.
Some say tap water is fine, and we should be grateful for the quality of our American water supplies.
Others say the exact opposite while touting the benefits of various types of filtered, mineral-enhanced, electrolyte-fortified, or different spring or mineral waters.
So, what’s a well-meaning hydration-conscious person to do?
The first step in determining the best water type is knowing your options.
Here, we discuss nine different types of water, their potential benefits, and tips on optimizing hydration.
The Benefits of Drinking Water & Staying Hydrated
Humans can only survive a few days without water.
Aside from the survival benefits, the human body relies on water for nearly every biochemical process, from making energy and blood to regulating body temperature and digestion/elimination.
Here are some specific benefits of staying hydrated and drinking enough water:REF#2893
- Better energy
- Better cognitive processes
- Fewer headaches
- Easier bowel movements
- Improved mood
- Better kidney and urinary function
- Better weight management
- Improved focus and concentration
- Healthier skin
- More balanced blood pressure
- Better blood volume and other heart health benefits
- Healthier joints
- Improved muscle function
- Greater milk volume in breastfeeding mothers and people
- Improved motivation
This is not an extensive list of all the benefits of drinking water. However, it does illustrate how vital optimal hydration is for health and vitality.
How Much Water Do We Need Anyway?
Most water-conscious people aim for at least eight glasses of water daily, but not everyone needs the same amount.
For example, if you’re very active, spend a lot of time in natural or artificial heat, and drink a lot of diuretic/dehydrating beverages, such as coffee or black tea, you probably need more water than someone who is more sedentary, spends most of their time in comfortable temperatures and favors herbal teas.
Likewise, people who watch their sodium intake and eat plenty of water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, may need to drink less water than those who do not.
Regardless, there are some general guidelines for optimal water intake.
The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.REF#2894
If this seems like a lot, remember that this includes fluids from water, foods, and other beverages. Fluid intake from foods accounts for about 20% of daily fluid intake.
So, what does that equate to regarding water intake from drinking water?
About 12-15 8-ounce cups a day for men and 9-11 8-ounce cups a day for women.REF#2895
Again, individual needs vary based on many factors, such as the amount of water-rich foods you eat, sodium intake, climate, gender, weight, exercise expenditure, pre-existing conditions, pregnancy or lactation, etc
Check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner for individual recommendations.
9 Types Of Water and Their Pros, Cons, and Benefits
Knowing what type of water to drink wasn’t an issue for most other generations.
People drank whatever was available and (hopefully) safe, which usually meant dipping into a well, tapping a spring, or, in more recent years, filling a glass from the tap.
Many people still rely on these types of water for survival and health benefits. However, many people, especially those in developed countries, have other choices today.
Here, we explore nine different types of water, their pros and cons, and potential health benefits.
1. Tap Water From Municipal Water Supplies
Tap water in America may not be perfect, but it is considered the world’s safest supply of drinking water.REF#2896
However, nearly all tap water in the United States contains various chemicals, such as chlorine, fluoride, and others, which are added to clean and purify the water and provide dental benefits.
In addition, reports have shown many municipal water systems contain concerning levels of other chemicals, pesticides, contaminants, heavy metals, intake of diuretic beverages or medications, pharmaceuticals, and microplastics.REF#2897 REF#2898 REF#2899 REF#2900 REF#2901
The extent to which these contaminants exist in tap water depends on the location, the municipal water system, and even the season.
Agricultural areas, for example, are typically more prone to having more significant pesticide residues in their water. In contrast, industrial areas may be more prone to specific chemical and heavy-metal problems.
Some helpful resources to gauge the safety and toxicity of your tap water include:
- Your city’s local water report (you can also ask for their more detailed annual report for more information)
- You can find your city’s report through the EPA’s Consumer Confidence Report program here
- The Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database allows you to search by zip code for contaminants in your water supply, and gives a score, “1” being the least toxic to “10” being the most toxic
Pros of Tap Water
- It’s cheap and available (almost) everywhere
- American tap water is considered the safest and cleanest water supply in the world
Cons of Tap Water
- It may not taste very good, depending on location
- Most tap water contains chemicals, such as chlorine and fluoride
- Tap water may also contain various chemicals and contaminants of concern
- Emergencies, such as water line breaks, may reduce access to clean tap water
- Although tap water is high regulated in the United States, contamination can happen
2. Filtered or Purified Water
Many people filter or buy purified water to avoid chemicals and other contaminants in tap water.
Filtered water can range from water run through a simple carbon filter to water that has underwent a complex reverse osmosis or UV light filtration process.
In other words, although all water filters purify water, not all water filters remove the same level of chemicals and contaminants.
Some only filter out basic chemicals and contaminants, such as chlorine and lead. In contrast, others remove smaller micron chemicals, particles, and microbes, such as various heavy metals, microplastics, pharmaceuticals, fluoride, parasites, and more.
There are countertop filtration units, under-the-sink models, gravity-fed filters, travel filters, whole-house systems, and even DIY options for those living off-grid or agricultural use.
Since everyone’s water contains different chemicals and contaminants, it’s wise to review your city’s water report or have your water tested to determine the best type of filter for your home.
Bottled water labeled “purified” has undergone some type of filtration process to remove various contaminants and microbes.
Pros of Filtered Water:
- Filters range from affordable to expensive, with options for nearly every budget
- Filtering your water is cheaper than buying purified or spring water
- Contains fewer chemicals than tap water
- A home filter eliminates the need to buy bottled water, which reduces waste and carbon footprint
- Certain types of filters may also remove other contaminants or microbes
- Filtered water tends to taste better
- Some types of filters remove fluoride, which research has shown can be a neurotoxin, although it may provide dental health benefits. REF#2902
Cons of Filtered Water:
- Requires investing in a filter or bottled water
- Filters take up some room on the countertop, under the sink, or in your fridge
- Not all filters remove the same level of contaminants
- Filters require replacing every few months, which can be easy and cheap or complicated and expensive depending on the type of filter you choose
- Reports have shown many brands of purified bottled water may still contain many of the same contaminants as tap water. REF#2903
- Water bottled in plastic likely contains microplastic contamination REF#2904
Buyer’s tip: The only way to know for sure a filtration unit will live up to its claims is by reviewing reports of water filtered by that system. Reputable companies will be happy to provide these reports to you.
You can also look for filtration units that are NSF Certified. This certification is only given to filtration companies who have proven their units remove the chemicals and contaminants they claim to.
3. Mineral Water
Mineral water typically comes from natural mineral springs and is higher in natural and trace minerals.
Proponents of mineral water believe its minerals provide people with nutritional benefits they may not otherwise get from food and other types of water.
Mineral water is typically bottled and is available in sparkling or still.
Pros of Mineral Water:
- Contains essential minerals and trace minerals that may benefit health
- Is free from sanitizing chemicals, such as chlorine
- Is typically relatively pure compared to tap or purified water
Cons of Mineral Water:
- May taste too salty for some people
- Bottles create waste
- Mineral water bottled in plastic likely contains microplastic particles REF#2905
- Shipping water bottles requires fossil fuels
- May be too high in certain minerals, which could cause health issues over time
- Although most commercial brands of mineral water go through testing because they’re untreated there is a chance of contamination
4. Electrolyte-Enhanced Water
Electrolyte-enhanced water has become a health trend among athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and health connoisseurs.
Like sports drinks, electrolyte-infused water contains salt and other minerals to help support fluid balance and optimize hydration.
You can also find electrolyte powders to add to your water. Be mindful of added sugars or other ingredients before you decide to buy!
Pros of Electrolyte-Enhanced Water:
- Can be thirst-quenching and provide certain minerals
- May benefit athletes
Cons of Electrolyte-Enhanced Water:
- Cost. These waters typically cost more than bottled water and much more than tap or filtered water
- Waste. Premade electrolyte water is bottled, making it a poor choice for the environment
- Electrolyte-enhanced water in plastic bottles likely contains microplastic particles REF#2906
- Taste. These beverages typically taste salty
- Excess sodium. Unless you’re an athlete or training vigorously, consuming sodium from electrolyte water may be counterproductive
- Some brands may contain added sugar or other ingredients
5. Spring Water
Spring water is similar to mineral water, because it comes from a natural spring and is bottled at the source.
Spring water comes in individual or cooler-style bottles and usually tastes great.
Pros of Spring Water:
- Usually has great flavor
- Naturally pure (although some brands are better than others)
- May contain beneficial minerals and trace minerals
- Affordable if you have access to a spring on or near your home
Cons of Spring Water:
- Spring water can be more expensive than other types of bottled water and is definitely more expensive than tap, filtered, or purified water
- Bottled water equals more waste, and fossil fuels
- Spring water bottled in plastic likely contains microplastic particles REF#2907
- Spring water varies in taste depending on the mineral content and may taste salty or unpleasant to some people
- Although most commercial spring waters go through testing, there is a chance of contamination since they are untreated. If you get your water directly from a spring, be sure to test the water before drinking.
6. Alkaline Water
Many health advocates swear by the benefits of alkaline water, claiming it will help alkalize the body, which is often bombarded by excess acidity.
Alkaline water is typically bottled and has a higher pH than normal tap, spring, or mineral water. It also contains alkaline minerals and negative oxidation-reduction potential (ORP).
Negative oxidation-reduction potential refers to the ability of a substance to be pro or anti-oxidant. Substances with negative ORP values have greater antioxidant potential.
Alkaline water can also be made at home using filtered or spring water mixed with lemon juice, baking soda, or pH drops.
Although this sounds good in theory, the jury is out on whether alkaline water is worth the investment.
Some small studies suggest potential benefits, such as better blood viscosity after exercise REF#2908 and better bone density in women,REF#2909 while others do not.
Plus, many organs and systems, such as the digestive tract, must maintain a very acidic environment to function correctly. So, the theory isn’t exactly sound.
Still, some people swear by the benefits of alkaline water for supporting health.
Pros of Alkaline Water:
- Does not contain chlorine or other contaminants
- Contains beneficial minerals
- May provide antioxidant benefits
- Can be made at home cheaper than buying bottled
Cons of Alkaline Water:
- Its benefits have not been proven
- It’s expensive if bought bottled
- Bottled alkaline water creates waste and burns fossil fuels
- The flavor may not be pleasant for some people
- Alkaline water bottled in plastic likely contains microplastic particles REF#2910
7. Well Water
Many health-conscious people aspire to be on well water to avoid the chemicals and other issues with municipal water.
Well water does not contain sanitizing chemicals and may be very pure depending on its depth and other factors.
Well water may also contain harmful chemicals, pesticide residues, and minerals or have a very high or low pH. So, it pays to have your well water tested annually and before consumption.
For this reason, many people choose to filter their well water for an added layer of protection and purity.
Pros of Well Water:
- It's free from chemicals used in municipal water supplies
- Once the well is installed, it doesn’t cost anything, apart from well maintenance
- It can be very pure depending on how deep and the location
- Well water is zero-waste if stored in reusable containers
Cons of Well Water:
- It can contain pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and other contaminants
- It may contain excess minerals, such as copper or calcium, which can cause damage to your pipes and your health over time
- Not all well water tastes good, especially if it’s high in sulfur
8. Vitamin Water
Vitamin waters are purified bottled water with added vitamins, minerals, sweeteners, and flavors.
There are various brands available with different ingredients.
Pros of Vitamin Water:
- They taste good
- They’re convenient
- They supply varying amounts of essential nutrients
Cons of Vitamin Water:
- They may contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners
- They’re expensive, usually $1.50-$3.00 a bottle
- Some brands contain dyes and other artificial ingredients
- Vitamin waters are bottled, which is wasteful and not eco-friendly
- Most people get enough nutrients from food and will not benefit from extra vitamins from vitamin water
9. Coconut Water
Coconut water is the water from young coconuts and is typically bottled.
It is considered very hydrating due to its naturally occurring electrolytes, such as potassium, and is low in sugar and calories.
Pros of Coconut Water:
- Tastes sweet without a lot of sugar. Note: Some brands contain sugar or flavoring, so check nutritional labels
- It’s natural and doesn’t typically contain artificial ingredients (but always check labels)
- It’s widely available
- Contains natural electrolytes and other trace minerals
Cons of Coconut Water:
- It can be expensive, especially organic or raw brands
- Raw coconut water may contain harmful bacteria
- Transport and packaging burns fossil fuels and contributes to waste
- Some coconut plantations do not operate under fair trade or environmentally-sound practices
- Look for Certified Fair Trade coconut products to support ethical farming and worker treatment
10 Tips To Help You Stay Hydrated and Drink More Water
No matter what type of water you deem best for you and your family, it’s essential to get enough for optimal hydration.
Here are ten ways to help ensure good hydration habits:
- Set a goal and stick to it. Whether you start slow and aim for three glasses a day or go all out and aim for 9-15 glasses, a goal will help you get to where you want to be
- Use a glass or stainless steel water bottle to help track how much you’re drinking and to also avoid microplastics
- Add natural flavors such as lemons, oranges, cucumber, strawberries, or herbs to enhance flavor and appeal
- You can purchase water bottles with built-in infusers (as mentioned in our Galentine’s Gift Guide)
- Include herbal teas, like Gaia Herbs Cleanse and Detox or Organic Hibiscus Tea, as part of your daily water intake
- Avoid excess consumption of diuretic beverages, such as coffee and caffeinated teas
- Sip your water slowly versus chugging it. This can help prevent frequent trips to the bathroom.
- Include water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables as part of your healthy diet
- Craving something sweet? Try adding a few drops of stevia, a spoonful of monk fruit, or a bit of raw honey to a glass of lemon water for a healthy and hydrating lemonade
- Use a water app to help you track your progress
- Drink extra water after working out, sweating, or drinking alcohol
Finally, be kind to yourself. If you’ve been neglecting your water needs, don’t try to start drinking 9 or 15 glasses a day immediately, if that’s your ultimate goal.
Instead, slowly work up to a realistic goal, paying attention to how you feel as you increase consumption.
Many people report their thirst and desire for water naturally increases as they drink more fluids.
Increasing water intake gradually gives your urinary system time to adjust, preventing frequent bathroom visits.
So, What Is The Best Type of Water To Drink?
Although there are many types of water of varying quality, there is no perfect water for everyone.
What matters is staying hydrated and drinking the best quality water you can find.
For some, this means buying an elaborate water filtration system or tapping a local spring.
Others will be happy drinking tap water or using a simple carbon filter.
Regardless, unless it’s your only option, consider avoiding bottled water to help reduce emissions and single-use plastic waste.
Even if you’re traveling, consider investing in a travel filter, which comes in bottles, small battery- or squeeze-powered contraptions, gravity-fed models, or even straws to reduce plastic waste.
If you must buy bottled water, consider water in reusable glass bottles to minimize microplastic exposure and pollution.
Finally, whatever type of water you choose to drink, aim for the recommended amounts of 12-15 8-ounce cups a day for men and 9-11 8-ounce cups a day for women.REF#2911
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