Bottled water: how safe is it?

Water Environ Res. 2005 Nov-Dec;77(7):3013-8. doi: 10.2175/106143005x73893.


Sales of bottled water have increased dramatically in recent years, with worldwide sales of more than dollars 35 billion, largely because of the public perception of purity and safety and public concern about the quality of tap water. Presently, there are no Food and Drug Administration (Washington, D.C.) recommendations regarding temperature and duration of storage for bottled water once it is opened and used. The objectives of this study were to examine the effects of time and storage temperature on bacterial growth and characterize the types of microorganisms contaminating bottled water after drinking once from the bottle. Bottled and tap water were tested using standard microbiology culture techniques. The bacterial count in bottled water increased dramatically, from less than 1 colony per milliliter (col/mL) to 38,000 col/mL over 48 hours of storage at 37 degrees C. Bacterial growth was markedly reduced at cold temperatures (refrigeration) compared with room temperature, with 50% fewer bacterial colonies in 24 hours and 84% fewer colonies in 48 hours. Interestingly, tap water resulted in only minimal growth, especially at cold temperatures (< 100 col/mL at 48 hours). These findings may be useful to increase public awareness and development of guidelines on storage temperature and expiration time for bottled water once it is opened and used.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Safety
  • Temperature
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Supply / standards*