Choosing which bottled water you should buy has become somewhat of a daunting task considering just how many different brands are out there. We went ahead and compiled a list of the top 6 bottled water brands, comparing each based on 5 categories we've humbly deemed as important to your health, the planet's, as well as our community's.
Our holistic review of each brand takes a look at everything from the source and pH/alkalinity, to environmental practices, charitable programs, and packaging. For taste, we aggregated people's reviews online and chose the most recurring word to describe the water, double checking our answer with our own internal taste test. While we cannot help but be partially biased (hello Waiakea water), we'd like to think we have meaningful insight into the industry and possess the knowledge around what constitutes a great bottled water.
Unique quality: Very low Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). Some people prefer this as it can be an indication of the water's purity, although this also means there are less beneficial minerals in the water (the lower the TDS, the lower the mineral content). Minerals deliver the health benefits and optimal hydration we look for in a good water (electrolytes are actually minerals), so in our opinion a low TDS is not necessarily indicative of a healthful water.
Our Take On It: Voss is commendable for its commitment to environmental practices. While the glass packaging makes it reusable, Voss would be a more healthful water if it were naturally alkaline. Natural alkalinity cannot be replicated in a lab and is only a result of the natural filtration process as well as the surrounding soil, bedrock, and vegetation. Voss's pH comes in at 6.0 which is actually on the acidic side of the pH scale (7.0 is neutral). That being said, allowing a water to maintain its natural pH is far more healthful than creating an artifically alkline pH through ionization or electrolysis.
Unique quality: Vapor distilled water.
Our Take On It: While SmartWater's distillation process does remove contaminants, it also strips the water of some seriously important elements. When water is devoid of all minerals, its hydrogen content becomes greater. In the water's attempt to balance itself, it ends up leaching off the body's own mineral reserves3. Prolonged consumption of water like SmartWater can lead to severe mineral deficiencies and such diseases as osteoporosis, diabetes, tooth decay and heart disease.
In addition to lacking healthful qualities, SmartWater has zero environmental practices in place and lacks a charitable component. Since the company is owned by Coca Cola, a massive company with massive influence, SmartWater could make a significant impact on the CPG industry. Coca-Cola representative Dora Wong admitted that the SmartWater's California-based bottling plants use 1.63 liters of water for every liter of beverage produced, an alarming statistic considering California's drought status that only changed in 2017.
Unique quality: Waiakea is a "young" water, taking less than 30 days to travel from its origination atop the Mauno Loa, to where it's sourced. This gives it its unique taste profile highlighted by its high mineral content, as well as ensures its purity (less time spent steeping in an aquifer picking up contaminants). Waiakea contains the recommended daily value of silica, as well as magnesium and potassium (two superstar electrolytes that actually need each other to be absorbed by our bodies).
Our Take On It: Waiakea was founded to change the bottled water industry from within. The data shows bottled water isn't going away, and so we saw a need to set an example for the CPG and beverage industry as a whole, emphasizing people and planet over profits. Waiakea was the first US bottled water to be certified Carbon Neutral, and donates over 5% of revenue to nonprofits in Hawaii and across the world. We realize there is still a lot of room for improvement. By the end of 2017 we wish to have a fully biodegradable bottle in both aerobic and anaerobic states.
Unique quality: The water is untouched until you open the cap.
Our Take On It: Fiji is admirable for its natural alkalinity and taste, as well as its natural volcanic filtration process that is similar to Waiakea. While Fiji definitely values the integrity of its water source, environmental practices are not in place to preserve the ecosystem from which it comes. This comes hand in hand with the fact that native Fijians living close to the water's source are plagued by typhoid outbreaks because of the island’s faulty clean water supply. Not to mention, their signature bottle is made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its consumers. In addition to being the number one imported bottled water in the United States, Fiji is available in 60 different countries across the globe, making it a major source of global recognition and legitimacy in the bottled water world. Thus, the company could be a major industry leader and change-maker if they were to make environmental and ethical practices a pillar of the brand, something we hope they will work towards.
Unique quality: Uses micro-filters, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet exposure to take their water to 99.9% purity.
Our Take On It: At first glance, Essentia's pH of 9.5 is appealing. But then read the fine print and you'll see that the water's alkaline pH exists thanks to an unnatural process of ionization, reverse osmosis and added sodium bicarbonate. People have termed this "synthetic" or "artificially" alkaline because it's devoid of natural occurring alkaline minerals. The good news is that Essentia does have some minerals added after ionization, the question is how much. The bad news is that it's from sodium bicarbonate (AKA baking soda).
Unique quality: The water takes a 15 year journey through layers of glacial sand deep within the Northern Alps before it is bottled.
Our Take On It: Unlike Essentia, Evian water is not subject to any sort of purification process—nothing is added or removed from the point of extraction. So, what you see in terms of the source is what you get: a naturally clean tasting spring water with a high mineral content that lends itself to healthy living. But Evian isn’t up to par yet when it comes to environmental practices. While we certainly admire Evian's goal of using 25% rPET bottles and becoming CarbonNeutral by 2020, we wish Evian had jumped on the environmentally conscious train a little earlier in the game. After all, Evian is a very well established brand that could serve as an industry leader when it comes to sustainable practices.
With all that said, determining which bottled water is the best on the market can be a subjective quest. But Waiakea speaks for itself. Our movement away from singular profits and towards a triple bottom line model that emphasizes people, planet, and positive systemic change is something unique to Waiakea alone.
The overarching takeaway is that you should strive to avoid consuming ultra purified city water that lacks critical minerals in favor of clean sources with a naturally occuring high mineral content.