Bottled water sales have soared over the past decade increasing more than 142%; more than 6 billion gallons of bottled water are sold every year, and that number doesn’t seem like it’s going to go down anytime soon. The average water consumption per person has risen 63%.

Environmental Waste

So the question is, why is everyone drinking bottled water? Bottles supply many people with their only source of clean, drinkable water in third world countries, and play a crucial role in promoting healthy habits where infrastructure is low.

But bottled water doesn’t just benefit those in developing countries:

Although it can be expensive, many people in developed countries benefit from bottled water in a number of ways. For starters, bottled water often replaces sugary beverages that are ever present in vending machines and at parties.

The average soda may have upwards of 40 grams of sugar (that 160 calories just from the added sugar), so replacing that with a bottle of water can greatly reduce sugar intake.

In tandem with that, bottles just make water much more accessible, and they let you track how much you drink. Many studies show that simply being aware of your water intake is enough to bump you up to the recommended eight glasses a day.

Types of Bottled Water:

Most of what we think of as “bottled water” is non-sparkling (water without carbonation or bubbles in it); so the distinction may seem silly at first, but in many countries “bottled water” inherently means mineral water. Of our non-sparkling waters, we have a couple options.

Spring Water: Spring water comes from deep underground aquifers. These aquifers, due to immense pressure, slowly push water to the surface and out through springs. This kind of water is often collected straight from the spring (before surface contaminants can leach into the water), or though a well that taps into the aquifer that leads to the spring. This kind of bottled water is very popular but often is cited as being somewhat hard (think lime-scale and water softeners).

Artesian Water: Artesian water is similar to spring water, except in that artesian aquifers are often more selective. Artesian aquifers are often selected because they have a desirable combination of water and minerals, and the water is often pumped directly from the aquifer itself, as opposed to letting it seep out through springs and collecting it at the surface. This practice generally ensures a more pure water composition, as it cannot leach minerals from the limestone it passes through. The word “artesian” actually comes from the first wells to be drilled all the way to an underground aquifer in the province of Artois, France in 1750.

Mineral Water: Mineral water is any naturally occurring water that is not municipal, and contains substantial amounts of minerals such as calcium, chloride, sulfate, carbonate, or bicarbonate. In order to truly be considered mineral water these minerals must occur naturally, and cannot be added after the water is collected. Many claim that true mineral water has more than 250 parts per million of mineral matter. The question arises: “is mineral water something more that simply hard water?” Although many of the minerals found in mineral water are the very same that are removed by water softeners and filters, sulfate, carbonate, and bicarbonate are not generally found in hard water, and are by and large considered the hallmarks of good mineral water.

Purified Water: Purified water contrasts with spring water, artesian water, and mineral water in that the natural minerals that originate in the earth are purposefully taken out. Even amount purified water, many different methods are used to varying degrees of purification. Distillation, reverse osmosis, and deionization are all methods used to produce purified water.

Distilled waters are arguably the purest, as they have been boiled into water vapor (a process in which impurities remain solid/liquid), then condensed back into near 100% pure H2O. Reverse Osmosis is a popular technique in which water is forced through a pressurized membrane, similar to the common filter. Deionization is similar to the water softening process, in which unwanted chemicals are attracted by charged ions and taken out of solution.

You may be reading and decide we’re not giving you the whole picture about bottled water.

Here’s the deal: Bottled water can produce obscene amounts of waste, and can be a substantial financial cost. But with recycling and bulk purchases at wholesale establishments like Costco or Sam’s club, bottled water can be healthy for you, the environment, and your wallet.