Different types of water at a glance

The origin of all types of water

What are the differences between mineral water and other types of water? The diagram on the right-hand side illustrates the origin of different kinds of water.


Mineral water and spring water derive from deep water. In contrast, tap water (also known as municipal water), is often a mixture of surface and ground water.

Cross-section showing the origin of tap, spring and mineral water


Mineral water

Spring water

Tap water

Table water

The origin of mineral water

There is a wide range of waters available to consumers – from table and spring water to natural mineral water. Most countries have standards, guidelines and regulations that determine how natural mineral water, spring water and table water are sourced and how they treated, bottled, and labelled.

Smiling man relaxing with a glass of water

The special quality of natural mineral water

Natural mineral water has to meet many strictly regulated requirements. It must originate from a subterranean water resource protected from environmental contaminants and pollution. Only water that is officially recognized and is tested for its originality may bear the name “natural mineral water”. It must pass more than 200 individual tests. To preserve its attested purity, mineral water is bottled directly at the source in containers intended for consumer use.  

As the name implies, mineral water does not only supply the body with hydration, but also supplies minerals – essential nutrients that are important for your body. However, your body cannot produce these required minerals and so you must consume them via food and drink everyday.

Woman drinking water

Purity and originality

Natural mineral water must be in the same original and pure condition when it is filled into the bottle as when it came from the ground. It may not contain any chemical substances, additional minerals or other types of water. Only the removal of iron (deferrisation), manganese and sulphur is permitted by law. Iron can precipitate in the bottom of the bottle in the form of unsightly brown flakes. Too much sulphur would affect the smell and taste. Regulating the carbonic acid content is also permitted.

The purity and originality of every mineral water is controlled by regular inspections. Once any contamination is detected, the water loses its “natural mineral water” designation and may no longer be sold as mineral water.

You have to go very deep into the earth’s crust to locate natural mineral water. There are a limited number of sources worldwide. Gerolsteiner mineral water comes from sources of up to 250 meters deep.

Table water / Bottled water

Table water is an artificial mixture in which tap water and other ingredients such as saltwater or mineral water may be used. As table water is not linked to a particular source, it can be produced and bottled in every location. It can be provided via tap systems and supplied and transported in large containers. Unlike mineral water, it does not need official recognition.

Spring water

Like mineral water, spring water comes from subterranean water resources. In contrast to mineral water, it doesn’t have to contain a specified, and constant amount of minerals and offer any nutritional benefits. Spring waters are not tightly regulated, however, in most countries they must meet the same requirements that apply to tap water.

Water is flowing into a glass from the tap

The origin of Tap water

Tap water while naturally sourced, it is not a natural water. It is typically a combination of ground water and surface water from various sources, such as, lakes, dams and bank filtrates. The quality of this “raw water” differs from place to place. Unlike mineral water, tap water does not have to be naturally pure. Depending on how clean the raw water is, it is processed and cleaned by waterworks with a variety of physical and chemical processes. For example, tap water can be additionally filtered through activated carbon, or be treated with chlorine to kill off bacteria. Also, chemicals like fluoride can be added for perceived health benefits. Water companies and/or municipalities are typically obliged to regularly test the water to make sure that it meets the legal requirements set by the authorities.