UC Riverside

Center for Water Resources

Water Main Image

California and the West — An Unquenchable Thirst

The state and the region, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, are experiencing some of the largest growth rates in the country. This growth threatens to tax the ability of water sources, especially the Colorado River, to provide adequate supplies of water to these areas for drinking and other uses.

The Center for Water Resources at UCR is home to several research and outreach programs that seek to develop sound water management policies. It also fosters water-related research and education efforts and collects, for public review, historic data and other documents related to water topics.

The center is known for its contributions to the study of drainage problems in California’s Central Valley, home to much of the state’s agricultural production. It also is closely monitoring how climate change and pollution are affecting groundwater supplies, which in the past were thought to be immune from such challenges.

Does Bottled Water Taste Any Better than Tap Water?

Bottled water is a multi-billion dollar industry, with an aggressive marketing campaign designed to convince consumers that water bottled in attractive containers is definitively better than what comes out of the tap.

But do such claims really hold up? The Center for Water Resources conducted a blind taste test at a community event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of UCR’s Citrus Experiment Station.

Water Bottles Center staff used tap water obtained from a home in the City of Riverside, which has its own utility, and compared it to water from a five-gallon container of commercially-delivered water. Knowing that cold tends to mask the flavor of water, staff did not ice the water, instead allowing it to stand on its own.

The results favored the bottled water, with 56 percent of the 382 participants choosing the bottled water, 42 percent voting for the public water supply and another 2 percent saying they could not tell the difference.

In a similar taste-test done in 2006 the results were reversed. In this informal poll of 175 people, only 30 favored the bottled water, while 138 (78 percent) chose the public water supply.

Several independent studies have confirmed that bottled water is not necessarily healthier or of higher quality than tap water. And in some cases it is tap water. Tap water has several additional advantages: It’s less expensive, always available and doesn’t require plastic containers that take up space in the landfill. And as shown in these past experiments, public water supplies often are chosen over bottled water on taste alone.

More Information