I like to drink water from the tap. Sometimes when I am too lazy to grab a glass, I lean over the sink to drink tap water out of my cupped hands.

Hawaii’s tap water is some of the best quality drinking water around. It is rainwater that is naturally filtered through underground porous volcanic rock for about 25 years before it reaches aquifers.

“It is very pure and requires very little treatment,” says Erwin Kawata, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply’s Water Quality Division program administrator.

Kawata says, “There is almost no bacteria in the water in Hawaii, which is why the chlorine which has to be put into the water here is very low compared to other cities.” Very low means zero to 0.15 milligrams per liter.

Drinking Water Faucet

Bottled water for sale on Oahu comes from the same aquifers as our tap water.

Steve Johnson/Flickr.com

Kawata says many mainland cities use surface water from rivers and lakes — water that is exposed to contaminants in the air. Hawaii’s water, which percolates through basalt below the ground, is protected from airborne bacteria.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply says Oahu’s municipal water is safe to drink and use, and it does not require treatment by home filtration units.

Yet in spite of all the scientific evidence and the regular testing of all municipal water in Hawaii, there is a subtle effort by some water treatment companies and bottled water manufacturers to make us feel uncomfortable about the water from our taps.

Their message is that we need additional filtration and water treatment gadgets for our protection.

The label on the bottled water cooler at the studio where I practice yoga says, “Healthy, Good Tasting, Ozonated for Your Protection.”

Maybe this hype is what’s making some people buy into the idea they need to spend more money for their water for their “protection” — or maybe there are other reasons.

Ruby Lee, one of my favorite yoga instructors, says some people who come here from places where the water is bad, might not trust water anywhere and continue to buy treated water even in Hawaii where it is unnecessary.

“It is all in the mind,” says Lee.

Amazon is offering to sell me water that has been shipped from Hawaii to its depots on the mainland, meaning that it would need to be sent back to me in Honolulu.

Ordinarily, I would have nothing to say about people spending money for bottled and specially treated water when they can get perfectly fine water from the tap. It’s an individual’s choice. But lately some water businesses in the Hawaiian Islands have become very skilled at getting people to pay for what they don’t need. I want to point out some of their sillier offerings.

My “Coals to Newcastle” award goes to Amazon.com. The company recently sent me an email proposing a “deal.” Amazon offered free shipping on a dozen 50.72 ounce plastic bottles of Ultra Pure Hawaii Water if I paid $73.07.

Amazon’s price means the water costs 12 cents an ounce, which amounts to about a dollar a glass for the Oahu tap water that I already drink, at almost no cost, from my faucet.

Amazon is offering to sell me water that has been shipped from Hawaii to its depots on the mainland, meaning that it would need to be sent back to me in Honolulu. Talk about a waste of resources, including fossil fuels to move the water back and forth.

Menehune Water Company manufactures the Ultra Pure Hawaii Water, which Amazon is selling online. Menehune is the state’s biggest bottled water company.

It uses the brand name “Ultra Pure Hawaii Water” for the product it sells on the mainland because most mainlanders are unfamiliar with Menehunes — the little people described in mythology as hiding deep in Hawaii’s forests and valleys.

“People on the mainland know trolls but not menehunes,” says Joseph Hartzman, the company’s director of sales and marketing.

Hartzman says Menehune’s bottled water is from the same aquifer as regular tap water but that it has been filtered in an eight-step reverse osmosis process that removes 99 percent of the water’s minerals.

In reverse osmosis, dissolved inorganic solids are removed from water by using pressure to push the water through a semi-permeable membrane. The membrane allows the water to push through but not the dissolved solids, which are flushed down the drain.

Hartzman says that demineralized water “assimilates into our bodies a lot quicker than when minerals are blocking the way.”

But there is no scientific proof reverse osmosis makes water assimilation speedier or that demineralized water is healthier. Many other water companies in Hawaii also tout the health benefits of their reverse osmosis-treated bottled water.

Kawata of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply says even if the science to back up companies’ claims that reverse osmosis water is healthier is non-existent, “if people feel more comfortable drinking it, it’s their choice. It’s a personal matter.”

Maybe some people run out to buy treated water when they read news reports such as the recent piece in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the chemical vanadium was found in some of Oahu’s drinking water wells in levels higher than federal guidelines.

But Kawata says the levels found do not pose a health risk. The wells were treated with granulated activated carbon, which Kawata says has no impact on water taste or health.

All water in Hawaii is treated with chlorine and in some areas the water is routinely treated with granular activated carbon.

Each year the Board of Water Supply and the Department of Health conduct thousands of tests on drinking water as required for all states by the U.S. Environmental Protection Department. Kawata says by federal and state law, water cannot be served unless it is safe.

My “make yourself more work” award goes to Tropical Island Water’s vending machines outside of some supermarkets and health food stores. The vending machines offer purified drinking (reverse osmosis) water for 50 cents a gallon to buyers who bring their own bottles. A sign on the side of the machines says the source of the water is “approved public water” — which means tap water.

The company suggests that its customers regularly clean the bottles they are filling at the machines to prevent bacteria buildups in the bottles.

Instructions on the side of the vending machine say to clean their bottles with one tablespoon of Clorox bleach, which they are instructed to shake in the bottle in an inch of water before thoroughly rinsing out the Clorox.

It seems so much easier to settle for drinking water from the tap without the hassle of dragging a bunch of plastic gallon bottles to a vending machine to fill up and then to have to haul the water-heavy bottles home again to drink, only to have to worry about dousing the bottles in Clorox afterwards to prevent bacteria.

All of us have enough boring household chores already without creating more brain-numbing work for ourselves.

If someone wants to buy one of these expensive machines to make supposedly ionized water, it’s their choice, but I would rather spend my money on a trip to hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

A “do we really need it” gold star goes to Hawaiian Cool Water which is selling water systems around town that eliminate the five gallon plastic jugs used in many offices.

Hawaiian Cool Water systems tap into a water line that is already in a building and put the water through reverse osmosis and ultraviolet treatment to kill bacteria that might be in the machine or the system’s spout.

Hawaiian Cool Water owner Michael Hernandez-Soria acknowledges that Oahu’s tap water is certified and safe to drink but says, “In Hawaii, there is a large population that doesn’t want to drink tap water. The people are afraid of it. They don’t like the way it tastes.”

Hernandez-Soria says his system is “providing an option to people who don’t like drinking out of plastic better access to clean water.”

But couldn’t plastic be eliminated by pouring water directly from the tap into a glass? And with water from the tap, there is no need to install ultraviolet lights to eliminate bacteria in some water treatment machine.

My “spendthrift” award goes to anyone who shells out between $1,500 and $4,000 to buy one of the machines that claims to make “ionized” alkaline water by electrolysis.

Multi-level marketing companies are responsible for selling many of the machines, which attach to a person’s faucet to supposedly separate water into its alkaline and acidic components.

Proponents say the alkaline water they drink after treatment does everything from making them more energetic to helping them lose weight and even slowing the aging process. They say the acidic water the systems also produce is better than tap water for cleaning their houses.

Hawaii Kai resident Matthew Cooper, who owns a device that produces ionized water called Kangen, says, “I am not certain all the claims are true but I know when I drink my water I feel great.”

In lively debates online, scientific and medical critics call the claims made by distributors of ionized water “rubbish.” Chemist Stephen Lower calls ionized water “snake oil on tap.”

Other critics say the claims come from testimonials proffered by distributors of the machines, not from hard scientific evidence. And critics point out that water is a poor conductor of electricity and therefore water will not turn alkaline with any of these devices. And that if someone really wanted alkaline water, it would be cheaper to just add some baking soda to the tap water.

Kailua-based nutritionist Amy Tousman has said that drinking supposedly alkaline water will not do anything the body is not already accomplishing by itself. “When the stomach contents enter the intestine, they are made alkaline by pancreatic secretions — so the water you drink becomes alkaline anyway.”

If someone wants to buy one of these expensive machines to make supposedly ionized water, it’s their choice, but I would rather spend my money on a trip to hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

And if proponents say the ionized water makes them feel better, it is probably because, after paying thousands of dollars for the machines, they end up drinking more water. A well-hydrated person always feels better.

There are many other water treatment systems I could give special awards for being crazily needless but that’s all for now.

To continue would just make me feel more frustrated to think about all the hype generated to make us fear Hawaii’s water when it is perfectly safe.

And the unwarranted criticism of tap water’s taste, when it is the sweetest water I have ever put in my mouth.

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