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Thanks to innovations in the bottled water world, there are dozens of types of bottled waters, from mineral and distilled to boxed or bubbly. This can be confusing; often, the difference between bottles is nuanced or filled with romanticized stories of where it came from. There's water from the verdant Fiji mountains, a small lake in the French mountains, and even some distilled through rare metals or volcanic rock.
With the help of a registered dietitian nutritionist, we navigated the surprisingly complex world of bottled water to bring you everything from the best spring waters to the best alkaline bottles.
Best Overall: Mountain Valley Spring Water
In the Ouachita Mountains, Mountain Valley produces fresh water from an untamed water source—natural hot springs on the hills above Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks to the crisp mountain air, each bottle boasts fresh-tasting spring water favored by everyone from Elvis Presley to Dwight Eisenhower.
“Natural spring water or artisan water has been shown to be an excellent choice in water. Unlike reverse osmosis, spring water retains much of the original trace minerals,” says Dr. Sarah Hung, a naturopathic physician.
In this case, the spring water retains the nutrients and minerals found in the Ouachita region—the brand owns 2,000 acres of forest in the area. As a gift back to the land, Mountain Valley undergoes extensive conservation efforts to preserve and revitalize it. While many spring water brands opt for plastic bottles, Mountain Valley leans into its natural roots with reusable glass bottles.
Best Budget: Nestle Pure Life Purified Water
The Nestle company is home to 64 different brands of water, including Perrier and Poland Springs. Pure Life is one of the most popular, sold in every big box retailer across the country, but don't discount it just because it’s an entry-level option. Even though Pure Life is incredibly affordable, Nestle still applies high-tech filtration to each bottle, just like it does in it’s higher-end brands.
Technically, this bottle is purified water. The water is sourced from both well and municipal sources, and then carbon filtered, softened, demineralized, and remineralized. The 12-step process ends with an ultraviolet light for disinfecting. No calories or sweeteners are added over the process. Consider it elevated tap water. Super easy to grab and take on the go, keep a case in the trunk of your car or in your pantry.
Best Distilled: Resway Distilled Water
One of the biggest draws of distilled water, like Resway, is that it's the preferred water of CPAP and humidifier machines. Using distilled water will prevent bacteria and minerals buildup. Distilled water can also elevate your skincare routine. Many municipalities add chlorine and calcium to water to purify it, but the chemical can strip down your skin’s barriers. Calcium is particularly damaging—found in hard water (tap water high in dissolved minerals), it can worsen eczema and acne. Many beauty experts swear by washing your face with distilled water.
“Distilled water is made by collecting the steam of the water after it has been boiled and condensing it back into the liquid,” says Bansari Acharya RDN, a registered dietitian and nutritionist. “The advantages are that the process of distilling the water makes the water purified. However, the cons are that this water contains no naturally occurring vitamins or minerals.”
Best Mineral: Topo Chico Mineral Water
While many think of LaCroix as the big sparkling mineral water brand, Topo Chico is the original, and it's beloved by the craft drink crowd. The iconic glass bottle has been made in Mexico since 1895 and has since gained a cult-following thanks to its bright bubbles, retro branding, and lack of underlying fake flavors. Best of all, Topo Chico works incredibly well in a cocktail, from a mojito to a Tom Collins and everything between.
What differs mineral water from regular spring water? It will contain a small amount of naturally sourced minerals, like calcium and magnesium.
“This type of water is usually sourced from a mineral spring and can contain minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, and sulfur,” says Dr. Acharya. “The benefits of this water are the minerals that are contained in it, which are essential for the human body.”
Best Alkaline: Essentia Alkaline Water
Consider that in the scale of water, pure neutral is a seven on the pH scale, meaning it’s neither acidic or overly alkaline. Alkaline water amps up the alkalinity in the water, allowing each bottle to hydrate the body more efficiently.
“Alkaline water is a source of water that has undergone a process known as electrolysis that raises the pH,” says Dr. Hung. Essentia water is one of the best-selling brands of the alkaline category, with a pH of 9.5 and a silky, refreshing flavor.
Why opt for water with a higher pH? Aimed at hikers, bikers, runners, and athletes, Essentia is carefully processed for ionized hydration and is clinically shown to hydrate more efficiently than regular tap water. A small infusion of electrolytes—bicarbonate, potassium, magnesium, and calcium—is added to further hydrate the body. Each bottle undergoes proprietary microfiltration and reverse osmosis to purify and remove 99.9 percent of imperfections, particularly the bitter-tasting acidic ions you’ll recognize from tap water.
Best Filtered: Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water
This Hawaiian water brand has an unusual way of purifying it’s water: Rain falls on the Mauna Loa volcano, filters through the thousands of feet of porous volcanic rock, which naturally purifies the water and adds beneficial minerals, and is eventually collected from a forest spring and packaged by Waiakea. The resulting bottle is bright, fresh, clean, and crisp; naturally high in oxygen content, mineral content, and pH levels.
Waiakea was founded in 2012 by then-22-year-old student Ryan Emmans, who was disappointed in the wasteful state of the bottled water industry. With his brand, everything is sustainably sourced with bottles made of recycled materials, and the entire production process is certified carbon neutral. Outside of the production process, Waiakea works extensively to give back to the planet through a variety of clean drinking water and reforestation initiatives. Case in point: For every liter purchased, Waiakea donates a week’s worth of clean water to an African community.
Best High-End: Acqua Panna Spring Water
“Spring water comes from the earth’s surface and underground water supplies,” says Dr. Wendy Bazilian, nutrition expert on "Live with Kelly and Ryan." “It makes up approximately 3/4 of all bottled water sold in the U.S”
Spring water is the basis for many different iterations of high-end bottled waters, from Evian to Fiji to Voss. A particular standout is Acqua Panna, an Italian brand that sources water from deep below the hills of Tuscany. It spends 14 years journeying through the underground aquifers beneath the hills, naturally filtering itself along the way, and is then poured into glass bottles as part of the brand’s effort to reduce plastic consumption.
Acqua Panna is soft and velvety on the palette, and is a particularly excellent alternative for spiffing meals and cocktail hours. You'll often spy the label on tables at fine dining restaurants.
Oxygenated water is another up-and-coming H2O, but Dr. Bazilian warns against it. She says, “Oxygenated water is spring or municipal water with extra oxygen added, and it claims improved hydration, but an FDA lab back in the early 2000s analyzed oxygenated water soon after it came on the market and found it to be nothing more than salt water. Some companies market it as the 'Champagne of water.' This may be true when referring to its price tag—up to $35 for 1/4 cup!"
For great-tasting, glass-bottled spring water beloved by the stars, we recommend The Mountain Valley (view at Amazon), bottled in the Ouachita Mountains. For athletes looking for something a little extra to hydrate them through a run, hike, or sporting event, go for Essentia Alkaline Water (view at Amazon).
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Kate Dingwall is a freelance writer whose work focuses on food, drinks, and travel. She is based in Toronto and holds a Wine & Spirits Education Trust Level III qualification. She interviewed three experts for this roundup.