Is Bottled Water Better Than Tap?

We ran a taste test, offering people New York City tap water and five other bottled waters, Evian, the top-selling bottled water Aquafina, Poland Spring, Iceland Spring (which comes all the way from Iceland), and American Fare, a discount brand from Kmart, which sells for less than half the price of Evian.

Would people be able to tell the difference when they didn't know what they were drinking? Would they still prefer their favorites?

Many who took our taste test were bottled water drinkers. They pay for it, they say, because tap water just doesn't taste as good.

It tastes flat and flavorless, they said.

Would the taste test show that?

We asked people to rate the waters as bad, average or great. Lots of people said one of the waters was particularly bad. Was that the tap water? No. Tap water did pretty well. Even people who said they don't like it, liked it on the blind test.

The "20/20" taste test was just one unscientific test, but lots of tests keep finding that people like tap water.

I suspect many people who buy the fancy waters are getting suckered by the ads or the labels.

In our test of bottled waters, Kmart's American Fare -- the cheapest brand -- won. Big-seller Aquafina came in second.

Iceland Spring tied the ordinary tap water for third place. Fifth place went to Poland Spring, and in last place, by far, with almost half the testers saying it tasted bad, was the most expensive water -- the fancy French stuff, Evian.

"It tasted like toilet water," one man said.

Evian had no comment about that review.

Bottom line, if you buy bottled water because you think it's healthier than tap, test after test shows no evidence of that. And if you buy fancy brands because you think they taste better, you're probably just buying the hype.

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