Some homes in Singapore are forking out such amounts for the sake of drinking bottled water, which they think is purer and healthier than tap water.
Accounts executive Francis Goh and his family do not drink tap water at home. When they make drinks like tea or coffee, they run the water through a filtration system before using it.
Mr Goh, 63, spends close to $200 a month on bottled water and the family members go through at least 12 1.5-litre bottles a week.
He also buys 500ml bottles of water for his four children to take along when they go out.
The Goh family made the switch to bottled water in the early 2000s.
Daughter, Sarah, 21, an undergraduate, said her aunt in the United States had convinced them to switch due to concerns over chlorine levels in tap water.
But Mr Goh’s children do drink tap water when they are out. Son, Gabriel, 24, also an undergraduate, said: “Water is still water. The idea is to decrease the chlorine intake.”
Experts say the level of chlorine in Singapore’s tap water is within acceptable limits.
In 2016, chlorine levels in all the waterworks ranged from 2.04 to 2.98mg per litre, well within the World Health Organisation’s limits of 5mg per litre.
The Gohs believe that since making the switch, they have been falling sick less often.
The younger Mr Goh said his family is willing to spend money on bottled water for peace of mind.
Asked if they would ever give up drinking bottled water, he said: “If it gets too expensive, yes, of course.”
Until then, they are happy to continue drinking bottled water. They buy Evian and Vittel mineral water in 1.5-litre bottles and Ice Mountain in 500ml bottles.
“We like the taste of Evian more. But the small bottles are expensive,” said Mr Goh.
BOTTLED WATER AVAILABLE IN SUPERMARKETS
When it comes down to the molecular level, all water is the same – H2O. The only difference is the presence or absence of minerals.
Associate Professor Richard Webster from Nanyang Technological University’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences said that tap water and bottled water should be of “very similar quality” after being treated. But there are differences in terms of where the water is sourced from and how it is subsequently treated.
MINERAL WATER Natural mineral water is extracted from underground sources and may contain small amounts of minerals.
Sometimes, minerals may be added to water and this is also considered as mineral water.
DISTILLED WATER The water is treated through the process of distillation. This involves boiling the water and re-condensing it by cooling.
ALKALINE WATER Water with pH levels above 7 are alkaline. Some studies have suggested that alkaline water can help with acid reflux, high blood pressure and diabetes. Bottled alkaline water from supermarkets claim pH levels of 8 and above.
DRINKING WATER This category is a catch-all for water that is considered fit to be bottled for drinking. This includes water processed by reverse osmosis.
WHAT SCIENCE SAYS
Purer, more balanced or even providing health benefits – these are some claims that brands make.
A report commissioned in 2001 by World Wildlife Fund International said bottled water may not be safer than tap water, as there are fewer standards to conform to. However, this has been disputed by the International Bottled Water Association.
But water with minerals was found to lower the blood pressure of people with low urinary excretion of magnesium or calcium, according to a study published in the BMC Public Health journal in 2004.
Others may also benefit, as a Montana State University professor and his team found. The study, conducted in 2010, found that people who drank mineral-based, alkaline water were better hydrated.
An in-vitro laboratory study published in Sage Journals in 2012 suggested that alkaline water could be good for patients with reflux disease. Despite some studies affirming the benefits, experts told The Straits Times that more conclusive results are necessary to support claims for alkaline water and oxygenated water.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine investigated claims in 2006 that athletes could gain a competitive edge by drinking water with extra oxygen, but found that the claims failed the study’s analysis and physiological tests.
When it comes to the taste of water, most people cannot tell the difference, The Guardian reported in 2011. Two earlier studies – in France and Northern Ireland – led to the conclusion that water simply tastes like, well, water.
Generally, one should drink around eight glasses of water a day, with each glass holding 250ml of water.
Fluids can also be obtained from food and other beverages. The Health Promotion Board recommends choosing water over sugar- sweetened drinks, which can lead to obesity and weight gain.
$134m The amount consumers here spent on bottled water in 2015, nearly 24 per cent more than in 2010, according to data from research firm Euromonitor International
1,000 How many times cheaper tap water is, compared to bottled water, according to national water agency PUB
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Article by Abigail Ng, originally appeared in The Straits Times.