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By Gretel H. Schueller, EatingWell.com

Recently, Concord, Mass., became the first U.S. town to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles. There are plenty of reasons why more than 28 universities and other communities have enacted similar bans.

By switching to a tap-filled reusable bottle, you’ll drink water just as pure, help reduce the global glut of plastic bottles and save money: Americans spent $10.6 billion on bottled water in 2009 — paying up to 1,000 times the cost of tap water, according to Food and Water Watch.

Drink Up

According to the Institute of Medicine, women should get about 91 ounces of water each day and men about 125 ounces. Most of your total water intake should come from beverages, but we do get about 20 percent from food.

“Hydration stations” are beginning to appear in public spaces. These modern-day water fountains are designed for water bottles. The “TapIt” phone app offers a network of eateries across the country where you can refill for free.

Tired of plain water? Use a squirt of fresh lemon or lime juice to naturally freshen your water. Or try the Aqua Zinger, a stainless-steel water bottle with a built-in grinder cup that lets you infuse water with produce and herbs. Our fave combo: watermelon and basil.

Tap That

A test of more than 1,000 bottles of water commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded that bottled water is not cleaner or safer than regular tap water.

In fact, federal regulation of tap water is more stringent than that of bottled water. The review also noted that at least 25 percent of bottled water is just tap water. Still worried? Install a faucet filter.

Water bottles provide an ideal home for mold and bacteria, which thrive in moist environments. Cracks and scratches in the plastic give bacteria places to grow. Some bottles are dishwasher-safe.

Use a bottlebrush to scrub hard-to-reach spots. Fizzy cleaning tablets, such as Bottle Bright by Clean Ethics, can naturally clean those recesses. Air-dry both the cap and bottle completely to prevent bacterial growth.

Choosing The Right Bottle

Glass water bottles are the easiest to clean and most recyclable. Though glass is also the most fragile, most versions come with a protective silicone sleeve,

Stainless steel is lightweight and dishwasher-safe, but can dent if dropped. Aluminum bottles look like stainless steel but have a big difference: Aluminum reacts with acidic liquids, so they’re lined with an enamel or epoxy layer that can wear down.

Not dishwasher-safe, some linings contain as much BPA as their plastic predecessors, according to a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine study. You can get a good gauge of whether the lining will leach BPA by looking at the color: a goldenorange coating will; a white coating will not. (The new linings by Sigg do not.)

Plastic bottles are typically inexpensive. And since 2010, most are BPA-free. (Keep in mind, the “BPA-free” label is not regulated.) They are not safe for hot liquids or microwaves, and health concerns with other leachable toxins in plastics still exist. (Independent studies indicate “Tritan” plastic bottles by Nalgene don’t leach detectable BPA.)

(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.) (c) 2015 EATING WELL, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC

Photo: Danny Howard via Flickr

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