How Much Does a Bottle of Water Cost in the U.S.?
You Won't Believe How Much Cheaper Tap Water Is
Maybe you buy bottled water because you like the taste, or perhaps it’s more convenient for you to pick up a single-serving bottle of H2O than to pre-fill bottles from the tap when you’re on the go. But have you ever stopped and calculated just how much you’re spending on bottled water? If you drink it every day, the answer may surprise you.
Calculating the Cost of Bottled Water Consumption
If you think bottled water is used rarely—for instance, when tap water is contaminated following a storm—think again. Last year, bottled water ranked as the top-selling beverage in the United States. The number of bottles sold has risen consistently since the 1990s, ultimately comprising 22% of the beverage category in 2018 (versus just 16.5% in 2013).
Our analysis of the various bottled water brands on Amazon (including private-label options) indicates that each 16.9-ounce bottle of water costs approximately 70 cents per bottle, on average. Needless to say, it costs significantly more to buy one bottle at a time from a convenience store, sports arena vendor, or vending machine. However, for the sake of this calculation, we’ll assume you’re buying in bulk if you exclusively drink bottled water, thus using the 70 cent-per-bottle cost. At a unit price, that’s about 4 cents per ounce.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that men consume about 125 ounces of fluid a day and women should drink about 91 ounces daily. Since 20% of this consumption typically comes from food and 80% is derived from beverages, we’ll assume that men consume about 100 ounces of fluid a day and women drink about 73 ounces. Using the 70-cents-per-16.9 ounce figure, you’d spend the following in a year on bottled water:
- Men: 4 cents per ounce x 100 ounces daily = $4.00 per day. That’s $1,460 annually.
- Women: 4 cents per ounce x 73 ounces daily = $2.92 per day. That’s $1,065.80 annually.
Keep in mind that these calculations are conservative, assuming you buy in bulk. If you purchase water by the bottle, or if you exclusively drink premium brands, your cost will be significantly higher.
You can evaluate the amount you spend on bottled water by tracking it for a week, and then multiplying that number by 52 (the number of weeks in a year).
The Cheap Alternative to Bottled Water
You can buy a reusable bottle for under $10 and refill it with tap water to use indefinitely.
To calculate the cost of tap water where you live, contact your municipality (or, if you have well water, it’s probably free). However, to evaluate this in general terms, we use a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, which found that in 2016 the average municipal water system charged its customers $3.38 per 1,000 gallons—or about $0.0034 per gallon, which comes out to less than a thousandth of a cent per ounce. So assuming you pay $0.000027 per ounce in tap water, the cost of the equivalent of a bottle of water (16.9 ounces) when delivered from your tap would be:
- Men: $0.000027 per ounce x 100 ounces daily = $0.0027 per day. That’s 99 cents annually.
- Women: $0.000027 per ounce x 73 ounces daily = $0.0020 per day. That’s 72 cents annually.
Therefore, both men and women would save well over $1,000 a year by switching from pre-packaged bottled water to refillable bottles filled from the tap.
Don’t Like the Taste of Tap Water? You’re Probably Already Drinking It
Many people say they prefer the taste of bottled water over tap water, but in reality, those who favor bottled water are probably already drinking water pulled from public sources. According to a 2018 report from the Food and Water Watch organization, almost 64% of bottled water sold today is derived from municipal tap water.
If you feel like your tap water has a taste that doesn’t appeal to you, consider getting an inexpensive water filter that will remove chemicals and other compounds before you drink the resulting water.
Don’t Forget the Environmental Cost
As you are probably aware, the cost of bottled water goes far beyond the financial effects. Using bottled water can also have a negative impact on the environment. Bottling water requires 17 million barrels of oil annually to produce the bottles, and the bottling process itself causes 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere each year.
So if you’d like to save over $1,000 each year and help contribute to making the Earth a bit more environmentally friendly, perhaps it’s time to take the plunge and switch from bottled water to tap water.
Beverage Marketing Association. "2018 State of the Beverage Industry: Bottled water remains the No. 1 beverage in the United States," Accessed Oct. 22, 2019.
Plastics News. "Bottled water use continues to climb," Accessed Oct. 22, 2019.
National Academies Press. "Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate," Page 73. Accessed Oct. 22, 2019.
U.S. Department of Energy. "Water and Wastewater Annual Price Escalation Rates for Selected Cities across the United States," Page 6. Accessed Oct. 22, 2019.
Food and Water Watch: "Take Back the Tap: The Big Business Hustle of Bottled Water," Page 5. Accessed Oct. 22, 2019.
Pacific Institute. "Integrity of Science: Bottled Water and Energy Factsheet: Getting to 17 Million Barrels," Accessed Oct. 22, 2019.