The Real Reason You Shouldn't Drink The Water At A Restaurant

It's apparently a North American thing — expecting a chilled glass of water to be served immediately when you sit down in a restaurant, per The German Way. And if you're enjoying a fancier place, you may even be asked: sparkling or tap? In an effort to avoid an overpriced drink that we may not even finish, many of us just say tap, but you may be making a big mistake. Consider: One in four Americans say they never drink their tap water at home, according to a J.D. Power study. So why do we think it's any safer in a restaurant? It's not, in fact, it poses an even greater risk when you consider all the factors involved in your simple glass of restaurant water.

When it comes to tap water, every year, millions of Americans get their drinking water from a source that violates the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That's why 42 percent of us use an at-home filtration system, per the National Sanitation Foundation. "If tap water tastes metallic, smells fishy, or comes out cloudy, it could signal the presence of unsafe contaminants," reports Business Insider.

Beware of the ice in your glass

Another big concern when it comes to restaurant drinks: The ice. Scientist Melody Greenwood tells the Daily Mail, "It's easy to forget ice can carry bacteria because [people] think it's too cold for germs, but this is far from the truth. Nasty bugs such as E. coli can lurk in ice machines." What's more, 70 percent of the time these machines boast more bacteria than toilet water, ABC News reports. That's likely because toilet bowls are cleaned more frequently.

And it gets even worse: NBC News conducted their own study and found that ice in restaurants often comes into contact with employees' bare hands, as they dredge the cup through the ice instead of using a scoop, especially in fast food restaurants. "Anything that's contacted [a server's] hand, now you're running it all the way through the ice. Microbes are great travelers," says microbiologist Debra Huffman with the University of South Florida.

Do you even want to hear about the lemon wedge that often garnishes your glass in restaurants? While adding lemon to your water is a good idea at home, skip it when you're out. Up to 70% of restaurant lemon wedges tested positive for microbial growth, per a study in the Journal of Environmental Health.