3 Popular Drinking Water Refill Stations (Alkaline, Spring, etc)

A teenage girl fills a gallon of water at a refill station

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Clean drinking water is a necessity for life, but bottled water can be expensive.

In some circumstances, though, you may want or even need to buy filtered water instead of getting it from the tap.

Whether you’re preparing for a hurricane or snowstorm, planning a rustic camping trip, looking for an eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic water bottles, or trying to avoid high levels of fluoride in your city’s water, you have several options for maintaining your supply of clean drinking water.

Below, we provide a brief explanation of the common types of clean drinking water, as well as the places where you can refill large water containers and personal bottles, the brands that sell home filtration systems, and the companies that can deliver water directly to your home.

Types of Drinking Water

Drinking water is marketed using many different terms, but it’s primarily labeled as alkaline, spring, or filtered. Knowing what these terms mean will help you navigate the process of buying water and ensure that you aren’t paying for something that you don’t want.

Alkaline

When water is labeled as “alkaline,” this means it has a pH value between seven (neutral) and 14 (totally alkaline). Alkaline water typically has a pH level of eight or nine.[1]

Many bottled water brands can actually be quite acidic (with a pH below seven), while tap water is generally slightly alkaline, with a pH between seven and eight.

Alkaline water has become popular as some argue that alkaline supplements have health benefits, such as helping the body recover after exerting energy (e.g., after vigorous exercise).[2]

However, there is little scientific evidence supporting many of the purported benefits of alkaline water.

Spring

A designation of “spring water” means that the water was sourced from a natural underground spring then processed through filtration systems to remove contaminants.[3]

Both alkaline and spring water will contain trace minerals such as iron, bromine, and magnesium.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, these minerals are beneficial for your body’s functions.[4]

Filtered

Filtered water is a very general term; it simply refers to water that has gone through a filtration system to remove chemicals, especially chlorine.

There are no federal regulations that determine what classifies water as filtered. In many cases, water sold as “filtered water” is just tap water that has been through several filters to remove some metals and sediments, making it taste better.[5]

What We Recommend

You will likely want to visit a store with a Primo refill station for refilling larger water containers.

These stations are conveniently located in grocery stores and other retail locations nationwide and use a five-step purification process, including ultraviolet sterilization.[6]

If you want to refill your personal water bottle for free, consider going to a local mall, gym, grocery store, or college campus. These public places often have stations for refilling small water bottles with filtered water.

For at-home water filtration systems, Brita and PUR are the two most popular companies. Their faucet filters are positively reviewed, and even with regular filter replacements, you will still likely spend less than you would when buying packs of plastic water bottles.

If you want to have drinking water delivered to you, consider signing up for delivery from a company like DS Services of America, which can supply water to most of the nation and distributes several major bottled water brands, depending on your location and preference.

Drinking Water Refill Stations

At the following refill stations — located either within retail stores or as their own, standalone kiosks — you can bring containers of virtually any size and refill them with filtered drinking water.

We’ve ordered the following list starting with your best options for refill station availability.

Note that while stations in retail stores are likely the easiest to find and most convenient to use if you’re already out making a trip, these stations are only open during store hours. Most standalone stations are open all day, every day.

Primo logo

1. Primo

  • Cost: Around $0.35 per gallon[6]
  • Type: Filtered[6]
  • How to refill: Bring an empty container to any refill station and fill it; most stations accept cash and major debit and credit cards[6]
  • Where to find stations: Retail stores like Sam’s Club, Kroger, Office Depot/OfficeMax, Walmart, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, Dierbergs, Sears, Whole Foods, Hannaford, and others.[6] Note that Primo acquired Glacier Water in 2016, assuming operation of its refill stations.
  • Find a refill station

Watermill Express logo

2. Watermill Express

  • Cost: Around $0.25 to $0.35 per gallon[7]
  • Type: Filtered[7]
  • How to refill: Bring any sized bottle or container to a refill station; most accept cash and major debit and credit cards[7]
  • Where to find stations: Standalone stations (not located within retail stores) in the southwestern U.S.[7]
  • Find a refill station

Culligan Water logo

3. Culligan

  • Cost: $0.25 for one gallon, $1.00 for five gallons[8]
  • Type: Filtered[8]
  • How to refill: Bring a bottle or container to a refill station[8]
  • Where to find stations: Standalone, self-service stations in the southern U.S.[8]
  • Find a refill station

Personal Water Bottle Refill Stations

Companies like Primo, Tap, Elkay, and HydraChill offer individual water bottle refilling stations that you can find at various public places.

Some companies even help you locate their stations — Tap has a mobile app, and Primo has an online refill station locator.

Places you can usually find personal water bottle refill stations include:

  • Airports (after security)
  • College campuses
  • Gyms
  • Hospitals
  • Malls and shopping plazas
  • Some grocery stores

While these refill stations are designed for individual water bottles rather than large five-gallon water coolers, water bottle refill stations can be very convenient, and most are free to use.

Home Water Filtration Options

If you don’t want to pay for bottled water, you don’t have any refill stations near you, or you simply prefer the convenience of having filtered water in your home anytime you want it, you may want to consider a home water filtration system.

Most are fairly easy to install and cost-effective. Typically, these are small filters that screw onto the end of your faucet and filter out impurities, usually using granulated activated charcoal.

Popular faucet filter brands include:

Note that for any faucet filter, you’ll have to buy replacement filters a few times a year, depending on your water usage.

Based on an estimated 240 gallons of water per year for the average family, Brita estimates needing just two of its Longlast+ pitchers per year[9] — a cost of less than $50 per year for clean, filtered drinking water in your home.

Home Drinking Water Delivery

If you prefer the convenience of having drinking water delivered to your home, several companies offer this service.

For example, DS Services of America is the distributor for several major bottled water brands and can deliver to most regions of the U.S.

Depending on the brand, you can choose a one-time delivery or set up a monthly subscription. In addition to delivering filtered water, most of these companies also supply coolers and dispensers, and some even offer water filtration systems as well.


4 comments


  • sherry elgan

    I would like to know the difference between different waters like Primo and distilled water.

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | Lindsey Desmet

      Hello, Sherry! Primo and the other drinking water brands listed in our article offer filtered drinking water. The filtering process removes contaminants, but the water will still contain minerals. Distilled water is purified by boiling water and then condensing the steam back into liquid; this process removes both contaminants and minerals. Distilled water is technically safe to drink but is more often used for things like manufacturing, scientific lab tests, cleaning, ironing, and in humidifiers. Please feel free to let us know if you have any further questions!

  • cmm

    Where can we refill with Spring water?

    • First Quarter Finance logo
      First Quarter Finance | Laura Bachmann

      Hi CMM,

      I wasn’t able to locate any nationwide refilling stations specifically for spring water, sorry! I did find Simpson Spring self serve stations in the Boston and Cape Cod areas. If you like to have a supply of spring water, our article on water bottle delivery companies might be of interest. It’s actually pretty affordable to rent a dispenser for your own home and have a few bottles of water delivered each month, and there are several options for spring water specifically. Hope that helps!

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