What’s Congress’ View on Bottled vs. Tap Water Quality?

Let’s learn a little bit about the US Government, shall we?

The United States Congress has an office in charge of audit, evaluation, and investigation, the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  Called “the congressional watchdog,” the GAO monitors how our government spends its money to ensure the appropriate use of taxpayer’s money.   (Bonus points if you’ve ever heard of the GAO before.  Unless you’re a poli-sci major, and then it doesn’t count.)

And why in the world would we interrupt our regularly scheduled Take Back the Tap blog posts for a quick lesson about Congress?  As we all just learned, the EPA and the FDA are in charge of ensuring the quality of our tap and bottled water, respectively. As government agencies, both are monitored by the GAO.

We already talked about the difference in power the two agencies hold, but… well, let’s be honest.  When I’m eating something, I don’t really care about which government agencies approved it or what legislation allowed them to do so– I care what’s in it.  In the case of bottled water, most people will say that they think it’s somehow cleaner than tap.  And, sure, they’re entitled to their opinion… but according to the GAO, they’re wrong.

The congressional watchdog commented on the bottled vs. tap divide in a truly scintillating eight page document (really, you should read it, your eyes won’t bleed at all: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-861T).  They determined that “FDA Safety and Consumer Protections are Often Less Stringent Than Comparable EPA Protections for Tap Water” and noted that most Americans, unfortunately, harbored some misconceptions about this fact.  So take it from the people in charge of the people in charge of maintaining the quality of tap and bottled water: bottled water isn’t healthier or safer or cleaner.  It just isn’t.

Recently, someone on campus put a fun display on a water fountain:


What’s amazing about the joke is that it’s a lot more accurate than most people even realize, and the GAO would agree.


PS: Sarcasm aside, the GAO document is actually surprisingly user-friendly and you should go read it.  It has a number of interesting statistics.


Author: Charlotte Humes


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