Spring water refers to water that comes directly from underground aquifers (water reservoirs that sit at the Earth’s natural water table). This water flows towards the Earth’s surface, and can be collected it from its natural openings (known as springs) or underground boreholes (a common practice for bottled water brands).
Through its journey, it passes geographical formations with filtration properties like limestone, clay, and sandstone that purify spring water, so it’s also often referred to as “pre-purified water.’
Since it sits at a natural source and travels through mineral-rich geographical formations like limestone, spring water usually contains healthy minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. However, this ultimately depends on whether there are enough mineral deposits on its natural route.
The Ingredients/Minerals in Spring Water
Although the composition of spring water depends on where it’s collected, more often than not, it travels through and over natural rock formations that are abundant in minerals. During its travel, water dissolves these minerals into tiny particles and carries them within itself, which makes the water mineral-rich.
The most prevalent spring water minerals are sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium:
- Sodium: Sodium is an essential mineral our body needs to function properly. Albeit needed in small amounts, it is still a fundamental part of our diet as table salt. However, water rich in sodium isn’t necessarily good for you, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition. If your doctor has already prescribed you a low-salt diet, it’s best to check the ingredients of your bottled water for sodium content and avoid it if there’s too much sodium in it.
- Calcium: Calcium is another essential mineral that plays a huge role in bone and muscle health. Yet, in the United States and globally, calcium intake has significantly decreased over the last couple of decades. Water treatment systems like water softeners and reverse osmosis units may be partly responsible for this trend as they remove calcium mineral from the water. Although there are other sources of calcium, like milk and vegetables, human bodies absorb calcium from water more efficiently than the calcium from milk and other sources. So, it’s important to have calcium in your water, and spring water can provide this particular mineral in high concentrations.
- Magnesium: Magnesium regulates blood pressure, nerve and muscle functions, and the biochemical reactions in human bodies, so it’s another crucial mineral. However, its presence in spring water is not as common as that of sodium or calcium. Depending on the source and the brand, magnesium levels in bottled spring water might vary from 1 mg/L to 120 mg/L. If you want to increase your magnesium intake through drinking water, it’s best to check the ingredients listed on water bottles and go for the option with the highest magnesium content.
- Potassium: Similar to sodium, potassium is one of the essential minerals that regulate a wide variety of bodily functions, including blood pressure, urination, kidney activity, and bone growth. Although it’s present in many food items and dietary supplements, research suggests that the average potassium intake of Americans is below the recommended dosage. If you can’t meet potassium requirements through food and supplements alone, then you can benefit from drinking potassium-rich water.
Spring Water Benefits
As you might have deducted from the overview of the mineral content of spring water, this type of water has many benefits.
Here are some of the benefits of spring water:
- Spring Water helps us meet our daily mineral intake requirements: Nowadays, the intake of calcium and magnesium in the United States is decreasing at an alarming speed. Vitamin supplements and food items can increase our mineral intake to meet the necessary daily requirements, but our bodies have a harder time absorbing these minerals from food items and supplementary pills than from drinking water. In this sense, drinking spring water can help you meet the necessary mineral intake requirements. As a result, you’ll be less vulnerable to health issues that results from mineral deficiency, such as bone loss, muscle contraction, and high blood pressure. Still, if you are on a low- or no-salt diet, we should once again remind you that water with high sodium content isn’t good for you.
- It Balances our body’s pH levels: The fact that spring water is rich in minerals makes it alkaline, with a pH level between 8 and 9 (we’ll cover this in detail below). Such high pH levels in water play an important role in balancing the pH in our bodies. Additionally, alkaline water is good for people suffering from reflux and gastrointestinal diseases since it neutralizes the acids inside the stomach. There are also many claims that alkaline water promotes weight loss, has colon-cleansing and well-aging properties, offers cancer resistance, and supports the immune system. That said, these claims are yet to be confirmed.
- Spring water is free from contaminants and heavy metals: Spring water passes through natural filters like clay, sandstone, and limestone. Ultimately, these natural filters protect it from many dangerous contaminants, including heavy metals. If the water source is naturally well-protected, like in the case of Luxembourg, the water may even be used as tap without undergoing heavy filtration.
Is Spring Water Good for You?
Spring water provides beneficial sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium minerals that plays significant roles in many vital bodily functions varying from bone health to blood pressure.
Calcium and magnesium play an important role in growth, especially in infants who only depend on breastfeeding for their mineral intake. Since babies’ only source of minerals is their mother’s milk, a diet high in calcium and magnesium is crucial for both the mother and the baby.
That established, many Americans nowadays have a water softening unit or a reverse osmosis system installed in their home. These devices remove minerals from the water supply, and even though some feature remineralizers, no study documents whether these remineralizers actually work, let alone if the minerals added back to the water meets the healthy intake requirements.
Is Spring Water Naturally Alkaline?
Spring water is naturally alkaline thanks to its mineral content. But this is different from branded “alkaline water.” Water advertised only as ‘alkaline water’ usually goes through certain chemical processes that makes it more alkaline, which isn’t the case for spring water.
Alkaline water has a pH level above 8. For context, on a pH scale, the area between 7 and 8 is considered the neutral zone, and anything below 7 falls into the acidic category.
As the standard American diet is highly-acidic with lots of sugar, dairy, and meat, alkaline water works as a pH balancer. It also functions as an antioxidant that can fight against free radicals, the toxic compounds our bodies produce when they’re exposed to external stressors like air pollution or cigarette smoke.
Does Spring Water Have Electrolytes?
Yes, spring water has electrolytes. Although energy drinks have been a popular source of electrolytes over the years, spring water remains the healthiest way to consume them. After all, energy drinks also contain food coloring and lots of sugar.
Electrolytes are minerals and body fluids that have an electric charge and affects many vital aspects of our bodies, such as the amount of water our bodies retain, the acidity of our blood, and muscle functions. When we lose electrolytes, we start sweating, and this is why spring water is mostly preferred by athletes, as it can mitigate the effects of this electrolyte loss.
Calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, all of which we’ve already covered, are some of the most important electrolytes that regulates the human body. In addition, there are other crucial electrolytes like phosphorus, chloride, and bicarbonate, all of which can be found in spring water (in varying amounts depending on the source, of course):
- Phosphorus plays a significant role in the formation of teeth and bones, kidney function, muscle contractions, and nerve signaling.
- Chloride is what makes up table salt (NaCl) when combined with sodium and helps with digestion, nerve actions, and the flow of oxygen through our bodies.
- Bicarbonate maintains the pH levels of our blood. Too little of it might cause fatigue and nausea, while too much of it leads to confusion, arrhythmia, and muscle twitching.
The Disadvantages of Spring Water
There are two ways to drink spring water: directly from a spring or by purchasing bottled spring water.
When it comes to bottled spring water, the only disadvantage we can think of is that it is more expensive in the long run. Additionally, for people on a low-salt diet, the sodium levels in some bottled water options might be higher than their daily allowed consumption.
The Disadvantages of Drinking Water Directly from a Spring
As you can guess, drinking directly from a spring has more disadvantages than purchasing bottled water. This is simply because bottled water is subjected to many tests and regulations implemented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is not the case for spring water obtained through its natural source.
As such, no matter how naturally filtered and well-protected (i.e., Luxembourg) spring water is, at its natural source, it is still open to all kinds of contamination. That’s especially the case when the spring is close to places crowded by humans and animals or surrounded by agriculture.
For instance, the New York State Department of Health warns citizens against drinking directly from roadside springs. The location of these roadside springs exposes them to human, animal, and agricultural waste, so there’s a big chance that some bacteria have contaminated the water.
Here are the most common bacterial contaminants of spring water:
- Cryptosporidium: Cryptosporidium is a parasitic micro-organism that can leach into water directly through human and animal feces or soil. It has been responsible for most waterborne disease outbreaks (cryptosporidiosis), be it in Baker City, Oregon, or Sweden, one of the countries with the cleanest water. The main symptoms of cryptosporidiosis are watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and fever.
- Giardia: Giardia is another microscopic parasite that contaminates water through feces, which causes giardiasis. The disease presents with diarrhea, nausea, stomach issues, gas, and dehydration. A water spring that’s near human or animal populations is prone to contamination by giardia.
- Escherichia coli (E. coli): E. coli is a subspecies of coliform bacteria that are everywhere and harmless by themselves. However, the presence of harmless coliform bacteria may also indicate the presence of E. coli, which is likely to result in gastrointestinal issues that vary from cramps to bloody diarrhea. As is the case with cryptosporidium and giardia, E. coli contamination is the result of human and animal waste finding its way into a water source.
Considering the severe implications of all these pathogenic organisms, it’s best to avoid drinking untreated, untested, and unbottled spring water.
Where to Get Spring Water Nearby
If you’re looking to buy bottled spring water, you can find it at nearby grocery stores or food vendors.
If you’re looking to access a natural spring at its source, you’ll need to work a little harder to find one – but luckily, there’s a website for that. Findaspring.com helps you locate nearby springs, wherever you are on Earth. Moreover, the website categorizes these springs depending on water temperature and whether they’re paid or unpaid water sources.
Furthermore, when you click on a spring on its map, it takes you to the page of that specific spring. On that page, you can find water test results that detail the minerals and contaminants found in the water.
This website also lets you see how other people reviewed the spring you want to visit. If you know a spring that’s not listed on the map, you can submit it to the site, too.
Side note: you must sign up to see the results.
Top 3 Spring Water Locations in the US
To determine the quality of spring water, one needs to look at the contaminants found in the water source, the size of the water source, and how it’s naturally filtered.
Based on these criteria, we can easily say that the best spring water worldwide is in Luxembourg. This water source is clean and protected enough to be supplied to residents’ houses directly from the spring. And, if this sounds suspicious, you should know it has been tested and is perfectly in line with the water quality standards of the European Union.
When it comes to the United States, the Ouachita Mountains (Arkansas), Saratoga (New York), and Eldorado Springs (Colorado) are the three locations where you can access the best spring water in the country.
- Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas: The Ouachita Mountains is where one of the most popular American spring water brands, the Mountain Valley Spring Water, hails from. Thanks to the large granite base of the aquifers through which the water flows, this water needs no further filtration. The water contains healthy minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. It’s also ideal for people who have cardiovascular issues because it has zero sodium.
- Saratoga Springs, New York: Saratoga is heaven for lovers of spring water simply because there are 21 different springs scattered around the city. All of these springs have natural electrolytes (especially bicarbonates), but that’s the only thing they have in common. What’s inside the water changes from spring to spring, so you’re in for quite a tour if you decide to explore them.
- Eldorado Springs, Colorado: The water in Eldorado Springs goes through several layers of sandstone and clay before reaching the surface. It’s also well-protected because it’s surrounded by federal parkland, so it’s healthy to drink.
How to Properly Collect and Store Spring Water
Collecting spring water from natural, free sources and storing it is a huge opportunity for saving money on spring water. But how should you do it?
- The first step in properly collecting spring water is to find a spring where you can trust the water quality. If you don’t want to act on others’ reports on the quality of the water, i.e., the contaminant and mineral content of the water, you can collect just a small sample and send it to a water testing lab certified by the Environmental Protection Agency. In return, you’ll receive a data sheet that lists the pH of the water, its mineral content, the contaminants present, if any, and the levels of their presence.
- If the water quality of the spring is in line with your needs, grab as many glass bottles as you need. We don’t recommend using plastic bottles as they may contain bisphenol A, which can lead to several health issues, like cardiovascular problems, in the long run. Additionally, glass is more eco-friendly than plastic, and it helps preserve the taste of spring water better.
- If the spring requires you to hike and climb a bit, make sure that you have a large and sturdy bag and lots of towels with you. You’re going to put the bottles in a bag; the sturdier it is, the better because all those glass bottles will add quite a bit of weight to it. Towels are for creating a barrier between the bottles. If you don’t secure your newly-filled bottles with towels, they might crash against each other and break on your hike back from the spring.
- Fill the bottles directly from the spring head and close their lids carefully.
- Store your bottles in a cold and dark place. If you have space in your fridge, it’s the best place to store spring water. If you don’t, make sure that they are not exposed to sunlight because exposure to sunlight will cause algae formation inside your bottles. Just to be on the safe side, you can filter the water before storage using a trusted water treatment unit, like the Big Berkey. But you don’t need to filter the water if the lab results show that the water is contaminant-free.
What Is Mineral Water?
Mineral water is water collected from underground aquifers that contains a superabundance of dissolved minerals. The United States Food and Drug Administration defines mineral water as water that has at least 250 parts per million (ppm) total dissolved solids (TDS).
These dissolved solids naturally makes their way into the water from rocks as the water passes over them on its way down to the underground aquifer or on its way up to the spring or borehole it’s collected from.
The FDA asserts that mineral water manufacturers can’t add minerals and TDS to water. So, what’s inside bottled mineral water and in what amount ultimately depends on where the water is collected from.
Depending on the location of the spring, mineral water can have varying flavors and health benefits such as:
- Promoting bone health via its high calcium content;
- Lowering blood pressure thanks to its calcium- and magnesium-rich character;
- Lowering cholesterol and helping with cardiovascular issues;
- Preventing and potentially treating constipation due to its high magnesium levels.
Mineral Water vs Spring Water
The main difference between mineral and spring water is that mineral water contains at least 250 ppm of total dissolved solids (TDS) where as spring water contains minerals depending on the spring.
In other words, any kind of water collected directly from a spring is spring water, but that same water may or may not also be mineral water.
As you may know, water rich in minerals, especially calcium and magnesium, is classified as hard water. One of the main characteristics of hard water is its bitter taste.
The bitter taste is also one of the prominent differences between mineral and spring water. Although it ultimately depends on the location of the spring, mineral water tends to have a more bitter taste than spring water.
Aside from these subtle distinctions, there isn’t much difference between mineral and spring water.
Spring water is water that’s naturally filtered by geographical formations like sandstone, clay, and limestone, and as such, it’s directly collected from a source (spring or borehole) and offered for consumption. Depending on its source and surroundings, this water may be rich in minerals and electrolytes in varying degrees.
As it is rich in minerals and electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and bicarbonate, spring water carries all the benefits of these naturally found elements. It promotes bone and muscle health, regulates blood pressure, and its alkaline character (bicarbonate levels) balances the pH of our blood.
Of course, not all spring water is directly consumable from its source. Some roadside springs, for example, might be contaminated by pathogens due to human and animal waste, so it’s best to stick to bottled spring water or have the spring water tested by an EPA-certified lab before collecting and storing it.
If you know of a spring where the water meets the standards for quality, it’s best practice to collect it in glass bottles and store it in a dark and cold place.
Lastly, let us remind you that not all spring water is mineral water because mineral water needs to have at least 250 ppm of TDS.