By Caleb Lunetta
Signal Senior Staff Writer
While bottled water is part of a multi-billion-dollar industry, whether it’s worth it or not is really all up to the beholder.
According to Masukh Swami, who runs the Newhall Market Side Store at 24621 Arch St. alongside his family, his business will order whole palettes at a time for people wishing to only drink Fiji Water — a popular brand of high-end water bottles that its distributors say comes from an artesian aquifer in Viti Levu — the largest island in the Republic of Fiji.
They also Swami also says that the Essentia brand — one that it is “supercharged with ionized alkaline water,” according to its distributor — is another one of their best sellers, along with Dasani — “process of reverse osmosis filtration with a proprietary blend of minerals to create fresh, clean, and premium tasting water,” according to its distributor — and Aquafina.
But what do these additives or special processes do? According to the experts, not much, or at least, not much is known in terms of the scientific benefits of choosing tap over bottled.
Jodi Dalyai, a licensed dietitian at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, said that for brands like Arrowhead or Fiji, or many other big names that have come and gone through the years, there’s no real reason to buy it unless you’re concerned about the health of your neighborhood drinking water.
“You can actually get mailed reports from your water company about testing of your water,” said Dalyai, referencing the Santa Clarita Valley specifically. “But I don’t recommend spending money on bottled water.”
“It can be convenient, but it’s also kind of a waste of resources as far as the environment goes with plastic bottles,” said Dalyai. “So, you certainly don’t need to buy it for health, unless you know for sure there’s a reason that your water might be contaminated.”
In terms of the environmental angle, the Environmental Protection Agency has reported that in 2018 plastics generated roughly 35.7 million tons in municipal waste, which was 12.2% of all municipal solid waste, and 27 million tons of plastic ended up in landfills.
And with regard to the health and safety of local water, officials at SCV water say that their primary focus with local H2O that pours out of your tap is the health and safety of their customers.
“Before reaching the tap, our water must withstand rigorous rounds of treating, monitoring and testing,” said Kathie Martin, the communications manager for SCV Water. “We conduct more than 20,000 tests each year at various points in our treatment and distribution system.”
Cost analysis vs. health benefits
The personal finances are a factor that should be taken into account, as well as the health benefits of water, the local experts have said. And it seems to be a logical one in favor of drinking tap water.
Tap water here in the SCV costs roughly $.003 a gallon, according to Martin. One gallon of Fiji water, based on its per-liter price, comes to about $69.
“So, $1 would get you more than 300 gallons,” said Martin. “This doesn’t include fixed charges, but still clearly the more economical source.”
A large reason people may make the association between health and their water is the taste, and that’s based on the distinction between the taste of water — whether it is hard or soft — according to the experts.
“Bottled water can also be hard or soft. Sometimes, if someone doesn’t like the taste of hard water, just drinking it cold can make it more pleasing,” said Martin. “‘Hard’ water refers to naturally occurring minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. These are present in our groundwater, picked up as it filters through sand and gravel, but pose no adverse health effects.
“In fact, the minerals are the same type that can be found in dietary supplements,” Martin added.
For waters such as Essentia, that come bottled and sold direct to you in stores, the scientific community is still trying to decide if there are any health benefits.
“I think the problem is there’s a lot of platitudes, but they’re unproven,” said Dalyai. “So, again, it’s not harmful. There are possible benefits, but when you do the rigorous studies involved in any type of feeling … when it comes to consumption, whether it’s food or beverages, they’re really, really challenging.
“There’s just not a lot of research to show there’s necessarily any benefits for anyone drinking, say, alkaline water,” Dalyai added. “There’s a lot of people who say they feel like they get benefits from it, but as far as understanding like your acid base balance in the body, your lungs and your kidneys function to help keep your body at a certain pH, and whether drinking water can affect that is kind of debatable.”
Dalyai said while it really comes down to finances, environmental factors and people having different tastes from others, hard vs. soft, it is important to understand that you need water to replenish your body in a healthy way. And we only get 20% of the water we need daily from our food.
“We lose water: When we’re sweating, we lose water, when we’re talking, and our body requires replenishing water every day because of that and urination,” said Dalyai. So, we all need water when needed.”