If you are looking to sign up for a service to bring drinkable water to your office on a regular basis, you might need a water delivery service. However, before choosing a service, you need to make some decisions first. We've identified seven questions you'll want to ask yourself to ensure you choose a service that meets your needs.
1. What kind of water do you want to be delivered?
Decide on the kind(s) of water that your employees prefer to drink (spring water, reverse osmosis, etc.) and that you're willing to provide. Then find a delivery service that offers it. Not all services offer all types of water. The most common options that these services provide include distilled, mineral, purified and spring water. Some water delivery services offer sparkling, flavored and seltzer water.
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If you're not already familiar with these types of water, a quick online search can help you better understand their differences and how they may affect the taste.
Generally speaking, spring water comes from an underground source and still contains all of its natural minerals. Distilled water is heated, converted to steam and turned back into water to free it of minerals and particles. Purified water can come from just about anywhere, but it's been distilled, deionized or carbon filtered to remove chemicals and/or contaminants.
Bubbles present a lot more potential for confusion. Mineral water, which is often effervescent, is water that contains various minerals such as salts or sulfur. Seltzer is made by carbonating regular drinking water with carbon dioxide (CO2). Club soda similarly uses CO2, but it adds various minerals, such as sodium bicarbonate or disodium phosphate. Tonic water contains quinine and sugars.
If you want flavored water, you'll have to decide between sweetened and unsweetened options. You can often add flavors to any of these types of water.
2. How much water will your business need?
How many people will be drinking the water, and how much will each person drink? This will vary from one company to another. Costco, for example, offers a plan in which its water delivery service can deliver up to 50 5-gallon water bottles every month to your office. It estimates that this is the average monthly consumption for an office of 30 to 50 employees. You may require more if your office has more people.
Keep in mind that your employees will use water for coffee and tea, too. If you have coffee machines, tea bags or water kettles in your office, consider your team's coffee and tea consumption habits when determining how much water you need.
3. How frequently do you want water delivered?
Decide on a delivery schedule that works best for your office's consumption and budget. Are one-time deliveries on an as-needed basis sufficient, or should you sign up for a subscription? [Interested in the best water delivery services? Check out our reviews.]
Some subscription plans are rigid. For example, Costco's water delivery requires an annual subscription – paid upfront – and you must take delivery of at least three 5-gallon water bottles every four weeks.
Crystal Springs offers a flexible plan that allows you to skip deliveries if needed and change the amount of water delivered each month. Other services may not let you skip months. Ask the service you're considering using, and always read the fine print of the purchasing agreement. Some services may offer a free first delivery to encourage new sign-ups.
4. Do you want bottles and coolers/dispensers?
For dispensing water through a water cooler, 3- and 5-gallon bottles are the standard sizes for water delivery. Some services may require that you buy or lease a cooler from them. The spouts and shape of their bottles may be incompatible with generic water coolers. DrinkMore's bottles are specially designed to work with their water coolers.
When you sign up with Culligan, the subscription fee covers the cost or rental of a water cooler. Either way, you need a Culligan cooler to enjoy its service.
Other companies don't deliver large-gallon bottles meant to be dispensed through a cooler, but smaller, individual-use bottles for personal consumption. Fiji sells water in bottles of four sizes: 330 milliliters (in a pack of 36), 500 milliliters (pack of 24), 1 liter and 1.5 liters. But ordering delivery of water in packs of small plastic bottles may go against the cost-saving purpose of signing up for bulk water delivery.
Some companies cut out the delivery aspect of providing water by tapping into a building's water source and running it through their proprietary machines to purify or clean the water.
5. Does the service deliver in your region?
Many water delivery services are small or midsize businesses that serve specific regions of the country. This is often the case if they deliver water from a nearby spring. ReadyRefresh offers regional spring water in New York and other New England states but doesn't deliver nationwide.
A larger company may assign the delivery to a smaller contractor in a particular region. Costco Water offers delivery by several companies, depending on where your office is located. These companies include Crystal Springs, Mount Olympus and Sparkletts.
If Culligan is available in your area, it has a representative who lives in your community. This person is knowledgeable about your local water quality and options.
6. What is your budget for water delivery?
When deciding which water delivery service to use for your company's bottled water, filtered water, and other water system needs, price will be a major factor. Although water tends not to be as expensive as many other business costs, better water can be pricey. Depending on the type of water provided, the water system used, and the amount of bottled water versus large jugs delivered, your water delivery service pricing can vary widely.
In general, you should budget $6 per 5-gallon bottle of filtered water that your water delivery service provides. These prices do not include any extra charges for buying and filling an individual jug or bottle for each of your employees. You should decide whether supplying these extra items is necessary when choosing a water delivery service.
If your water delivery service provides bottled water for your employees in addition to, or instead of, operating on the common 5-gallon bottle or jug model, then you'll need to consider whether the price of this extra service is worth the benefit to your office. Bottled water may serve your office better if you lack the space for a water dispenser but want to provide better water than the tap water from your bathroom or kitchen sinks.
When you sign up for a water delivery service, you should know what your subscription plan provides. As if the subscription includes free first delivery, water dispenser or other water supply tools, or bottled water. Inquire about fees for rescheduling deliveries and ask how often they'll deliver your water. Choosing the right water delivery service is about more than just water prices – it's about how far your dollar takes you.
7. What is the environmental impact of water delivery? Are there other options?
If you're ready to upgrade your water system from standard tap water and water filtration tools, you have more to keep in mind than prices, water type and quantity. Water delivery services use large amounts of plastic, and as you accumulate empty bottles – your 5-gallon bottle and your employees' individual water bottles eventually go into the same recycling pile – you'll need to recycle them.
If your company has no reliable way of recycling plastics, you may need to look into additional recycling services before opting for a water delivery service.
There are other environmental factors to consider for a water delivery service. Often, bottled water is taken from parts of the planet's natural water supply that human activity is depleting more rapidly than is naturally being replenished. Additionally, recycling does not guarantee that empty bottles exert no additional environmental impact. (Most plastic recycled from empty bottles is not used to make new water bottles.) If you're concerned about minimizing your company's environmental impact, you may want to consider other water filtration options.
Howard Wen contributed to the writing in this article.