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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. “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.
Of course, water in single-use plastic bottles isn’t the best choice for the environment. If you are looking for an alternative for tap water at home, we recommend looking at water filters or trying a water delivery service; for water on the go, try using refillable bottles. But if bottled water is the best option for you, we researched to find you the best choices.
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.
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.
Source: Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas | Bottle Material: Glass | Size: 1 liter
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 differentiates 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 Bansari Acharya RDN, a registered dietitian and nutritionist. “The benefits of this water are the minerals that are contained in it, which are essential for the human body.”
Source: Cerro del Topo Chico, Mexico | Bottle Material: Glass | Size: 12 ounces
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. It is worth noting that the clinical study was funded by Essentia, however, so there is a conflict of interest. A small infusion of electrolytes—bicarbonate, potassium, magnesium, and calcium—is added to further hydrate the body. According to the company, 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.
Source: Southern California | Bottle Material: Phthalate-free plastic | Size: 20 ounces
Best Filtered: Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water
This Hawaiian water brand has an unusual way of purifying its water: Rain falls on the Mauna Loa volcano, filters through the thousands of feet of porous volcanic rock, 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. His brand focuses on sustainability 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.
Source: Hawaii | Bottle Material: 100 percent recycled plastic | Size: 16.9 ounces
Best High-End: Acqua Panna Spring Water
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 company that sources water from deep below the hills of Tuscany. According to the brand, the water 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 palate and is a particularly excellent alternative for spiffing meals and cocktail hours. You'll often spy the label on tables at fine dining restaurants.
Source: Tuscany, Italy | Bottle Material: Plastic | Size: 33.8 ounces
What to Look for in Bottled Water
Remember that water is a natural resource—water from a clean, fresh source just tastes better. (Have you ever tried water from a mountain stream?) Many natural sources preferred by water brands are incredibly pure and uninterrupted by human hands, such as underground aquifers or high-elevation mountain springs. While filtration processes and chemical additions will change the taste of a water, a large part of the flavor comes from where the water is sourced from. For example, the water will pick up flavors as it winds its way through the rivers and streams. That said, when you’re researching a brand, look into where it’s made—there’s a difference between truth and a marketing story.
Just like any beverage, choose your water based on your personal preference. Drinking water can vary wildly in pH, mineral content, salinity, and other various tasting notes. For example, higher levels of sodium in water can leave it tasting slightly salty, while levels of magnesium can leave slightly bitter notes. Try a few to understand what flavor profiles you enjoy.
If you’re one to go through a full case of bottled water, consider the environmental impact. Plastic bottles have an obvious impact on our planet, so consider looking into glass or brands like Waiakea that use recycled plastic. Glass bottles are more conscious, though they are heavier, so they require more carbon output to ship.
Outside of the physical bottle, examine the bottle and check when it was manufactured and the location or type of water source. Check to ensure the seal is not broken.
Is bottled water distilled?
Not all bottled water is distilled. Distillation is just one way to purify water. Water can also be purified via reverse osmosis and deionisation.
How long does bottled water last?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require a shelf life for bottled water. While the water will technically never expire, most producers recommend not drinking bottled water that has been sitting for over two years. While the water will not expire, plastic bottles may start to melt or deteriorate if not stored in a cool, dry place.
Where does bottled water come from?
Bottled water can come from a number of sources, from mountain springs to underground aquifers to municipal supplies.
How should bottled water be stored?
Bottled water should be stored in a cool, shady, clean, and dry environment. Keep the bottles away from sunlight—the heat can cause the plastic to warp.
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.