Is bottled water part of your daily routine or weekly shop? If so, you could be spending about €550 a year on it, according to estimates from social enterprise Refill.ie. Saving that would be a big chunk off your car, home or health insurance.
We can, and do, switch a mortgage rate or lender, shop insurance quotes and ferret out new broadband deals of course, but some of the biggest savings available to us will come from changing a habit. There are cheaper, greener and possibly healthier alternatives to bottled water. Some are even free.
Householders in areas with poor water quality may have little choice in this regard of course, but most of us do.
If sparkling water is your thing, you can get the fizz at a fraction of the cost. Soda-makers, which work by pumping gas into tap water, have made a comeback recently.
A Philips model, the GoZero Sparkling Water Maker, came tops in a Good Housekeeping best sparkling water maker review last month. You’ll get one from DID Electrical at €139.99. It includes one carbon dioxide cylinder that makes up to 60l of sparkling water, replacing 120 single-use 500ml plastic bottles.
Soda-makers don’t use electricity either, so they won’t add to your energy bill.
Website Faerly sells a cylinder to match the Philips and other machines for €30, or four for €120, with free delivery in one to two days. And don’t toss the box from your delivery; you can reuse it to send back the empties. Faerly then gives you €10 back per bottle to use against your next cylinder purchase. The return shipping cost is €7 regardless of the number of cylinders returned, so let a few build up to spread the cost.
If you’re in the habit of buying a bottle of sparkling water on the go, there are big savings to be made. If you buy six 1.5l bottles of Lidl’s Saskia sparkling mineral water a week, for example, that’s €234 a year. The cost of the water using a soda-maker with the cylinder discount is €154 per year. That’s a saving of €80. And that’s before you look at the savings against higher-profile premium water brands.
Put a filter on it
Can’t quite bring yourself to drink water directly from the tap? Or perhaps the water from it has a sediment or funny taste or smell? A water filter jug gives you filtered water without the big bills.
Brita is one of the best known brands, and models sell from about €20, including your first filter cartridge. The Brita Maxtra filter cartridge reduces taste-impairing substances like chlorine, which can also affect the odour of your tap water. It also absorbs metals such as copper and lead and certain pesticides. It protects against limescale build-up in kettles too.
Cartridges last for four weeks and you can buy four for about €23. You can post your old Brita cartridges back to Co Meath-based company Bluestone for free. In return, you will get 25 per cent off a new cartridge. Alternatively, you can drop them off for recycling to shops where the jugs are sold.
Excluding the cost of the jug, four weeks of filtered water for the family will cost you about €8. Buy 1.5l a day in the shop for four weeks and it will cost you upwards of €21.
You can buy some bottled water for less than the filter jug alternative. A six-pack of 2l bottles of Dunnes Stores “Family Favourites Irish spring water” costs just €2.89. That’s a remarkable 24c a litre. For that, you are getting six 2l plastic bottles, their hard plastic corks, the sticky plastic label on each bottle, and the plastic shrink wrap encasing the six bottles.
Just remember you are paying on the double to dispose of it all in your bin charges.
There’s the cost to the environment too of course. It takes three times as much water to make a plastic bottle than there is water in the bottle, according to Refill.ie. “But I put them in the recycling” is not necessarily an out – not all plastic is recyclable and not all recyclable plastic is recycled.
You are more likely to spend on bottled water if your tap water is unsafe, or if you think it is. Save worry and money by informing yourself. Check the quality of your tap water on the Uisce Éireann website by entering your Eircode.
Uisce Éireann tests all public water supplies in accordance with the EU drinking water regulations for things like bacteria, chemicals and metals. If you have a concern about your water quality, there’s a 24-hour number you can call.
“Health reasons don’t justify the wide use of bottled water,” according to Cristina Villanueva, lead author of 2021 research on bottled water by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal). “When you weigh up both, what you gain from drinking bottled water is minimal.
“People trust bottled water because advertisers have done a good job of convincing people it’s a good option,” she said. So if you have a bottled water preference, it may be the result of the power of marketing.
The bottled water industry’s biggest competition is tap water. Consumption of bottled water is high in countries with problematic water supply, and in countries where bottled water is branded as having special properties, according to Statista.
The wellness zeitgeist has boosted sales, but bottled water may be no healthier for you than tap water – and it may be worse.
The average person eats, drinks and breathes between 78,000 and 211,000 microplastic particles every year, according to Human Consumption of Microplastics, a study published in Environmental Science & Technology that analysed 26 other studies from around the world. The biggest known source of microplastic that enters our bodies is bottled water, according to the study. The average number of particles ingested per litre is 94.
Get a bottle
Buying water on the go – out and about or a bottle with lunch – is water at its priciest. A 500ml bottle in a high street convenience store or at a music festival can cost up to €3. That’s big money for a habit that didn’t really exist here before the 1980s.
Big-budget drinks companies have commodified drinking water in countries where free tap water in most places is fine. We’ve now reached the point where Irish people spend over €100 million on single-use plastic water bottles a year, according to Refill.ie. Some 220,000 single-use plastic water bottles are generated in Ireland every day – with consequences: a Coastwatch Ireland survey in 2021 found 3.9 plastic bottles were found on every 100m of our coastline.
Using a refill bottle will save money and help the environment. You don’t even have to buy one, just find a bottle you like and fill that. Download the Tap Map app by Refill.ie to find locations in every county where you can drink water for free.