Here’s another modern dilemma people did not have to worry about 100 years ago: which water to buy. Today’s array of water choices can be more bewildering than going curtain shopping with your wife: “Off-white, ivory, cream, bone, vanilla, old lace or antique white sir?” Today we are giving you a condensed, quick reference guide.
South African law recognises three categories of water: Water defined by origin, Natural water and Prepared water.
- Mineral Water and Spring Water
These can fall in the “water defined by origin” category if antimicrobial treatment is required for sterilization, or “Natural Water” category if the water is not altered in any way. Mineral water occurs in nature with dissolved salts present, and may be naturally carbonated. Spring water comes from an underground source without enough salts to be classified as mineral.
Spring and mineral water conjure up pictures of pristine mountains pool (largely due to clever marketing). In reality, all the term really means is that it came from an underground source, same as a drilled well or borehole.
- Prepared Water
This category includes municipal, surface or underground water that has been purified by treatments that change the chemical composition of the water. The source of the water is really irrelevant as impurities are removed. The processes used to purify the water can differ widely, so make sure you know whether things like hormones and heavy metals are removed. The TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) count is a good indicator of purity. A lower TDS means cleaner water, so aim for no more than 100, preferably less.
- Sparkling Water
Any of the three types of water can have CO2 added to it, or it may be from a naturally carbonated spring.
- Flavoured Water
When light flavouring (usually fruit flavours) with minimal sugar is added to any category of water, it is called flavoured water. Be sure to check the sugar content though, as not all flavoured water brands are created equal and some might have as much sugar as regular soda. Flavoured water can be still or sparkling.
- Vitamin/ Enriched Water
Despite the healthy-sounding name, this category of “water” contains 6 teaspoons and more of sugar per bottle with some healthy-sounding additives. It is really soda minus the bubbles.
- Mineral Enriched Water
This can be either water defined by origin or prepared water to which minerals are added.
And that’s the long and the short of it.