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Bottled Water Information

Information on how bottled water is regulated and labeled.

Have you ever had the question: What makes bottled water different from tap water? Or why do labels say “mineral water” or “sparkling water”—isn’t water just water? If those questions are on your mind, this information on how bottled water is produced, regulated, and labeled is for you.

Bottled water is regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as a food product. When stored it should be treated as a food product. The source for the bottled water is subject to approval by the state regulatory agency. (In Texas, that would be us—the TCEQ.)

Bottled water comes from one of these types of sources:

  • A regulated municipal water supplier. The bottler may further treat this water to obtain the desired taste. For example, often the bottler will treat water from a municipal supply to remove chlorine, filter it to reduce the amount of minerals present, or both.
  • A standalone well or spring.
  • An approved rainwater collection system.

The label on the bottled water must name the source. If the water is treated by the bottler, the label must also identify the method of treatment.

The following is reproduced with permission from Plain Talk About Drinking Water, copyright © 2001, American Water Works Association:

Q: What do the labels on bottled water mean?

A: Effective May 13, 1996, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) established new rules for the labeling of bottled water.

  • Artesian water or artesian well water is water that comes from a well drilled into a confined aquifer in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.
  • Groundwater is water from a subsurface saturated zone that is under a pressure equal to or greater than atmospheric pressure. Such groundwater must not be under the direct influence of surface water.
  • Mineral water is water that contains not less than 250 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of total dissolved solids (TDS—determined by evaporation to dryness and weighing the residue) coming from a source tapped at one or more bore holes or springs, originating from a geologically and physically protected underground water source.
  • Purified water or demineralized water is water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable process that meets the definition of purified water in the United States Pharmacopeia, 23rd revision, January 1, 1995. Alternatively, water may be called deionized water if the water has been processed by deionization, distilled water if the water has been processed by distillation, reverse osmosis water if the water has been processed by reverse osmosis, and so forth.
  • Sparkling bottled water is water that, after treatment and possible replacement of carbon dioxide, contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had as it was taken from the source.
  • Spring water is collected from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Water must be collected at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. A natural force must cause the water to flow to the surface and the location of the spring must be identified.
  • Sterile water or sterilized water is water that meets the requirements of the sterility tests in the United States Pharmacopeia, 23rd revision, January 1, 1995.
  • Well water is water from a hole, bored, drilled, or otherwise constructed in the ground that taps the water of an aquifer.

The FDA requires the following additional labeling requirements:

  • If the TDS content of mineral water is below 500 mg/L or above 1500 mg/L, the statement low mineral content or high mineral content must be added to the label, respectively.
  • If the source of bottled water is a community water supply, from a community system or from a municipal source must be added to the label.
  • If the product states or implies that it is to be used for feeding infants and the product is not commercially sterile, not sterile must be added to the label.
  • Except for bottled water described as water, carbonated water, disinfected water, filtered water, seltzer water, soda water, sparkling water, and tonic water, the FDA has mandated a list of microbial, physical, and chemical tests that cover the quality standards the US Environmental Protection Agency applies to tap water. If the product does not meet these standards, the terms contains excessive bacteria, excessively turbid, abnormal color, abnormal odor, contains excessive chemical substances (unless it is mineral water, then contains excessive [specific chemical] is used), or contains excessive radioactivity. No sampling frequency or enforcement requirements are included in the regulations.