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Is Your Favorite Bottled Water Acidic and Overpriced?

Our team put 25 of the most common bottled water brands to the test.

There's nothing slick about paying for something you can get for free, but considering bottled water was a $14 billion industry in 2015, it's safe to assume most people are still buying water at least occasionally.

Bottled water is the second largest beverage category by volume in the U.S. It wouldn't be a big surprise to see it surpass carbonated soft drinks at the top of the list soon, as new brands and types of water seem to show up on store shelves monthly. But is there a big difference between all the various bottled waters? Does it matter if you drink purified water or spring water? Or what about alkaline water and artesian water? In the video below we tested 25 different bottled water brands, compared their pH levels, and then looked at cost per ounce to find out which brands offered the "best" water at the best price. Some of you are buying acidic water and paying a premium on it as well.

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Water pH Levels and What They Mean

A water's pH level tells us how acidic it is on a scale of zero to 14. The lower the pH level, the higher the acidity; high-pH water is more alkaline. Ordinary tap water lands at about 7, which is considered neutral. Alkaline waters surpass this, sometimes reaching up to 9.5.

So is it bad to drink acidic water? The United States Environmental Protection Agency says that a pH level range of 6.5 to 8.5 is ideal for drinking water. That's not to say that bottled water below 6.5 is dangerous, although one 2015 study suggests that some acidic bottled waters could potentially contribute to dental erosion and tooth decay over time.

Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Alkaline Water?

The jury's still out on this one; there simply isn't a large body of scientific research to back it up. At this point, the reported benefits are largely anecdotal. The idea is that alkaline water's high pH levels protect the body from a whole slew of health ailments — from cancer to osteoporosis to arthritis — by neutralizing the body's natural acidity. But experts say that our blood pH, which lands at about the 7.4 range for healthy folks, likely doesn't need alkaline water to keep itself in check.

“It is possible that alkaline water can make minute changes in blood pH, but the body has a fierce regulation system that is hard to destabilize,” physical medicine specialist Nadya Sweden, M.D. told Self in a 2016 interview. “There is no medical proof that supports these claims, though.”

But research does suggest that alkaline water might be therapeutic for people with acid reflux. One 2012 study found water with pH levels of 8.8 to be effective in neutralizing stomach acid.

While the scientific community lacks hearty evidence, there are loads of loyal alkaline water drinkers who swear by the benefits. "I can feel the difference in my skin and my entire body,” reiki master Sepi Shyne told The Los Angeles Times last year.

Whether it's a placebo effect or the real deal has yet to be proven. If you drink alkaline water, however, you should opt for naturally alkaline water and not ionized alkaline water. Naturally alkaline water has a higher concentration of minerals straight from the source, which directly corresponds to its pH level. Ionized alkaline water, which is usually tap water to begin with, does not contain as many minerals from its source; it's added later.

How Popular Bottled Water Brands Measure Up

We personally tested the pH levels of 25 different bottled water brands. Here are some highlights. (Remember, pH levels for alkaline water typically range from 7.1 to 9.5.)

  • The brands with the highest pH levels (9.5) were Trader Joe's Alkaline Water and Essentia Ionized Alkaline Water.
  • The brands with the lowest pH levels (6) were Aquafina Purified Water and Ralph's Water.
  • It's a tie for all-around best value: Kirkland Purified Water (pH level 8.5; $0.01 per ounce) and Trader Joe's Spring Water (pH level 7.5; $0.01 per ounce).
  • For worst value, we're going with Aquafina Purified Water (tested acidic and cost $0.09 per ounce) and Dasani Purified Water (pH level 6.5; $0.09 per ounce).

Taking into consideration the information in the chart above, why would you buy any of the waters on the bottom right when you can get better and cheaper water from the brands listed near the top left corner?



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About the Author
Marianne Hayes Contributor

Marianne Hayes is a freelance writer, wife and mother in Tampa Bay. After earning a degree in journalism and creative writing from the University of Central Florida, she spent nearly a decade getting lost in New York City and Los Angeles before making her way back home again in 2014. Marianne's writing has appeared in a variety of publications including The Huffington Post, Forbes.com, LearnVest, The Daily Beast and more. When she's not writing, Marianne is usually cruising her local bookstore with her two daughters.

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#2
Arrowhead has always been my go to! Never been a fan of Dasani or Aquafina... They always tasted funny.
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#3
This post looks like sh1t in mobile classic view.
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#4
Excellent piece of research. Thank you!
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#5
Where's Poland Spring?
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#6
Cool and interesting article thanks. By any chance could we add Ice Mountain natural spring water to list?
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#7
Quote from ionizer View Post :
This post looks like sh1t in mobile classic view.
Can you post a screenshot?
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#8
So if there's no compelling evidence to suggest that alkaline water has health benefits, except perhaps to relieve acid reflux, why should we care about the pH in bottled water? Also, the cost/oz seems highly suspect. The cheapest, Kirkland and TJ's are clearly multipacks (usually 24-35) while Dasani and Aquafina must be single bottles, even though they also come in multipacks for similar pricing.
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#9
nice article & video! more please. ...is that average pricing per/? or SD deal pricing?
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#10
I am surprised you didn't include the Walmart brand. I see those more often than any because of their price and ease of availability.
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#11
Such a garbage article. The amount of high ph water needed to drink to change blood ph is incredibly large and would need to be done consistently. As for helping acid reflux, the effect would be the same as taking a few tums. And high acid water? How many waters have ph's lower than coke?

How about do what you are good at and look for deals. And leave science to scientist and pseudoscience in tbe toilet where it belongs.
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#12
Marianne, thanks so much for the work you put on the research and putting the data together in order to share it with us, also, I bet most of the reader really appreciate this article you wrote.
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#13
taste
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#14
You - correctly - point out that alkaline water has ZERO verified health benefits (or detriments) other than, possibly, helping with acid reflux. Alkaline water stays alkaline exactly long enough to get in to your gut at which point stomach acids neutralize it. Your stomach is supposed to be acidic as that is what helps break down your food in to nutrients that are extractable and usable by your body. If you were to drink enough water to in any way affect the ph of your bodily systems you would be...well, you can't drink enough water to do so.

Secondly, nutrients are moved throughout the body by the blood. Blood has a highly regulated ph. Any (significant) change to your blood ph is immediately counteracted by the body or else you become ill. Blood ph can be affected by what is ingested, by vomiting, diarrhea, lung function, endocrine function, kidney function, and other factors but the body tightly regulates blood ph between 7.35 and 7.45. Again, you cannot drink enough alkaline water to have an effect of any significance on your bodily systems.

I stress the above because after you make the point that there are no proven benefits of alkaline water you then go on to rate water and contradict yourself by stating that the alkaline waters are "better". Unfortunately statements like these do a disservice to your readers by perpetuating the very health misconceptions you argued against in the first part of your article.

In fact, with no effective difference between ph I would think you would be stating the water priced higher strictly due to its ph would be the worst value, i.e. the chart shows Trader Joe's charging 4x as much for its alkaline water compared to its spring water.

The other criticism I have of the chart is that the price range per ounce appears suspiciously wide. According to the chart Aquafina or Dasani cost almost 10x as much as Trader Joe's Spring Water. A quick google search shows prices that dispute that finding; I suspect that the prices you found were for different quantities of water. A single bottle is going to cost significantly more than a 24 count case of water regardless of brand.
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Bottom line: with no proven benefits or detriments to the ph of bottled water, shouldn't water be rated solely on price vs taste preference?


Other fun facts:
Ph of pure water, H20 ONLY, no minerals = 7.0
Normal ph range of stream water = 6.0 - 8.0
Normal range of rainwater = 5.0 - 6.5
Normal range of seawater = 7.5 - 8.4
Ph of lemon juice = 2.0
Ph of ammonia = 12.0
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Last edited by Lumen_D April 19, 2017 at 03:49 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
#15
This study has so many holes in it that it could hold water never mind give an accurate cost analysis.
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