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What Is Spring Water & Other Water Types

Water Terms & Definitions
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In the U.S., bottles are date-stamped for two years, but this acts as a SKU number and is mainly for stock rotation purposes. It does not imply that the product is compromised after that date; the FDA has not established a shelf life for bottled water. As long as bottled water is packaged in accordance with FDA processing and good manufacturing practices, the product should have an indefinite shelf life. Bottled water should be stored in an unopened containers at room temperature (or cooler), out of direct sunlight and away from solvents and chemicals such as gasoline, paint thinners and dry cleaning chemicals.


Water that is bottled at a natural source, generally a spring. Other kinds of bottled water include distilled and enhanced tap waters like Aquafina and Dasani, club soda and seltzer.


Traditionally, mineral waters were used or consumed at their source, often referred to as “taking the waters” or “taking the cure.” The sources were called spas, baths or wells: “spa” when the water was consumed and bathed in, “bath” when the water was bathed in but not generally consumed, and “well” when the water was consumed but not generally bathed in. Often an active tourist center would grow up around a mineral water site—the city of Bath, England was a popular destination in Roman times. This visitor attraction resulted in spa towns and hydropathic hotels or hydros. In modern times it is more common for mineral waters to be bottled at source for distribution. Traveling to the source for direct access to the water is now uncommon, and in many cases not possible because of exclusive commercial use.


A water taken from a source at a spa, a place where water was believed to have special health-giving properties. From ancient times, spas grew up around sources of water, usually a mineral spring or a hot spring. The word comes from the Belgian town of Spa. Modern spas may be nowhere near sources of water, but offer hot tubs, whirlpools, or similar warm-water hydromassage facilities.


Another term for the category of fine bottled waters.


: A spring is a point where water flows out of the ground, and thus where the aquifer meets the ground surface. Depending on how constant the source of the water is—e.g., snowmelt or rainfall that infiltrates the earth—springs can be ephemeral/intermittent, perennial/continuous, or artesian. When they leave the ground they may form pools or springs.


Water taken from a natural spring. Spring water comes from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth into the spring. Commercially, spring water is bottled water that comes from an approved source (such as a natural spring) that originates from a geologically and physically protected underground source. Spring water is differentiated from mineral water in that it has a very low level of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), or minerals. Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water and Starbuck’s Ethos are two examples.


Water with no carbonic acid or carbonation.


Also called gaseous or “con gas”: In a natural sparkling water, magma below the aquifer continuously gives off carbon dioxide. Artificially-carbonated water uses carbon dioxide, and sodium bicarbonate. More about sparkling water.


Literally, water sources on the surface, like rivers, streams, and reservoirs; as opposed to underground aquifers and underground lakes.


Tap water is obtained from a variety of surface water or groundwater sources, and treated to contaminants from to make it safe and palatable for human consumption. A wide variety of technologies may be used, depending on the raw water source, contaminants present, standards to be met, and available finances. Tap water is a product of developed nations, requiring a massive infrastructure of piping, pumps and water purification plants. Spring water requires only bringing a container to fill at the spring—and transporting it back to the home. However, tap water costs the consumer a thousandth of the cost of bottled water. In the U.S., municipal water supplies are treated with chlorine for purification and fluoride to prevent tooth decay (about 2/3 of U.S. cities fluoridate their water supplies). However, these chemicals add tastes to the water that lead many consumers to prefer bottled drinking water.


The percentage of minerals dissolved in the water. Total Dissolved Solids consist mainly of carbonates, bicarbonates, chlorides, sulfates, phosphates, nitrates, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese, and a few others. They do not include gases, colloids, or sediment. They represent the total mineral content present in a water excluding gases. Mineral water with less than 500 milligrams per liter is considered “light”; waters with over 1000 parts per liter are considered “highly” mineralized. Bottled water containing not less than 250 parts per million TDS may be labeled as mineral water. If the TDS content of mineral water is below 500 parts per million (ppm) it is considered to have low mineral content; if it is greater than 1,500 ppm, it is considered to have high mineral content.* High levels of minerals in water TDS can sometimes produce a metallic flavor, especially if you’re not accustomed to high mineral content waters. TDS is usually measured in ppm (parts per million) or mg/l.
*Seawater has a TDS of around 34,000 ppm.


Pronounced tuhr-WAH, a term borrowed from the French expression for sense of place, the environment in which something grows. The flavor of the agricultural product will reflect the unique climate and soils of its terroir. Each body of water, be it surface or underground, has a unique water composition (total dissolved solids—see previous term) and other factors impacting the environment that impart flavors to the water.


A word derived from the Old English word wæter (in German wasser, in Russian voda [transliterated]). See pure water.


An involved consumer, or connoisseur, of fine waters.


Analogous to a wine list, a selection of waters that matches the direction of the food menu created by the chef.


Water taken from a well—a hole bored, drilled or otherwise constructed in the ground—which is fed by a water aquifer, e.g. a spring or river that can be above or below ground. A well is commonly made by boring into the earth and installing a pipe or tube (or in older days, masonry), into an aquifer, through which water can be drawn.

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