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Glossary of Terms for the Educated Bottled Water Consumer

According to the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) in their Regulation 21 CFR 165.l10(a), bottled water is "water that is intended for human consumption and that is sealed in bottles or other containers with no added ingredients except that it may optionally contain safe and suitable antimicrobial agents."

Fair enough, but as you will see below, that leaves a lot of room for bottlers to call themselves just about anything they please. There have been famous cases in recent years involving questionable claims of natural spring water , etc.

The FDA likes the following labels, and definitions:

Artesian water or artesian well water
Any water drawn out of a well from within a confined aquifer. The critical aspect is that the water level in the aquifer must, at some point, rise to the top of the aquifer. But there is convenient fine print: so-called Artesian water may be deemed to rise to the necessary level with the assistance of external forces, i.e., pumps, that "enhance" the natural underground pressure. Clearly, not all Artesians are created equal, but the FDA has an Artesian anti-discrimination policy.

Well water
Any water that can be extracted from a hole drilled in the ground that taps into an aquifer. So is there any difference then between "artesian water" and "well water?" Well &ndash no, not really. And we have yet to see a brand in a convenience store whose label brags "WELL WATER."

Spring water
Any water from underground that flows naturally to the surface. But then the fine print comes again. "Spring water" is supposed to be collected at the spring (where it has flowed to naturally, up to the surface &ndash remember?), except that spring water can also be collected from a hole drilled into the underground formation. Kind of sounds like well water again, doesn't it. "NATURAL WELL WATER" &ndash doesn't exactly have the same ring to it as "NATURAL SPRING WATER."

Ground water
Another confusing piece of terminology, because it should actually be called "underground water." What the FDA calls "ground water" must emanate from below the ground, and from a saturated area where the hydrostatic pressure is equal to or greater than the atmospheric pressure. "Ground water" is generally from a shallow depth, and there's plenty of it on the market - and if you can show us a bottle that screams "NATURAL GROUND WATER" I'll eat my hat.

Surface Water
Finally, something that sounds like what it is. Surface waters include anything from a stream to a reservoir to a river. Technically, it could even be standing water, but there's no way standing water would meet requirements as a drinking water source &ndash not that it hasn't been tried.

Purified water
Any of the preceding water types &ndash artesian, well, spring, ground, surface - that are subsequently distilled and/or deionized and/or reverse-osmosed and/or carbon-filtered and/or chlorinated and/or a host of other processes that meet the FDA's definition of "purified water."

Mineral water
In America, FDA requires that anything calling itself a "mineral water" must contain at least 250 milligrams per liter (parts per million "ppm") of total dissolved solids (TDS). Mineral water must come from an underground source that is geologically and environmentally protected. Furthermore, no minerals can be added to this water. If TDS is under 500 mg/l, it is referred to in the US as a "low" mineral water. From 500 mg/l up to 1,500 mg/l, it is simply called a mineral water. From 1,500 mg/l on up, it is called a "high" mineral water.

Perhaps the most basic difference in waters is not specifically addressed by FDA regulations. And, as it happens, it is the essence of Airpark Coffee's product line. That is the difference between "natural" waters, and "processed" waters.

Natural Waters
Natural waters are exactly that - natural. In other words, untouched. Virginal, if you like. The water is of such a quality and nature that it is bottled precisely as it comes from the ground.

Processed Waters
Touched, often much touched, prior to bottling. The processes include everything from basic debacterialization, to removal of trace elements and grit, to addition of elements to simulate a real mineral water.

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