Bottled Water – Why? Is it Better? Is it Green? Is it Safe?

19 Aug

Ever wonder about those people who spend $2 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backward.  — George Carlin

Everyone needs water and most of us are concerned about where our water comes from, not to mention our addiction to the convenience factor, that’s why we Americans choose bottled water to the tune of more than 16 billion dollars a year.  Amazingly today, in our high tech modern world, still over one sixth of the world’s population does not have access to reliable and safe drinking water, including more than half of the people in Fiji. Fiji, an amazing volcanic chain of islands in the Pacific where freshwater is scarce, where that rare water is a vital life-giving force to the local people and the island ecosystems. Where one hip company is shipping the pristine bottled water all over the world as well as to the United States, where you and I can get it more easily than most Fijians.  So it begs the question – Do we really need bottled water in the United States?

Plastic Bottles

Is Bottled Water Better than Tap Water? Is it Safe?

I began wondering about bottled water at the beginning of the century when I heard that plastic bottles leach chemicals when you froze the bottles or left them in your car in the heat, I was doing both.  Researching the subject I found that freezing the bottles probably didn’t leach the chemicals, heating them probably did, but new studies have found potential leaching is inherent in the bottles.  In our house over the years we’ve been trying to reduce plastic as much as possible.  We’ve switched to reusable bottles and rarely use bottled water now.   The reusable bottles are actually very convenient and filling them with filtered  tap water and loading them with ice on a hot day keeps them cold. And the filtered water tastes fine.  In fact, bottled water has not been shown to be any safer than tap water, in fact, maybe less so in some cases.  It’s convenient and seems cheap, until you compare it to tap water.

Drink a bottle of French water and then step into the shower for ten minutes and you’ve just received the exposure equivalent of drinking a half gallon of tap water. We enjoy the most intimate of relationships with our public drinking water, whether we want to or not. Sandra Steingraber, Having Faith, 2001

Our government doesn’t seem capable of taking care of anything very well and our trust has in it has waned, especially with reports of different contaminants including pharmaceuticals making their way into municipal water supplies.  But the fact is tap water is put through more stringent standards than bottled water and a to the according to Environmental Working Group about 45% of bottled water comes directly from tap water and just 18% of the bottled waters out there have quality reports with contaminant testing results disclosed by the companies that produce them.  So in some cases you can actually get cleaner water from home by using a water filter.

Is Bottled Water Green?

Bottled water is a business that is fundamentally, inherently and inalterably unconscionable. No side deals to protect forests or combat global warming can offset that reality.”Michael J. Brune, executive director, Rainforest Action Network, New York Times, 7 November 2007

The Facts About Bottled Water

Presented by Online Education

From factory to packaging to transportation, bottled water uses about 17 million barrels of oil. 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to manufacture bottled water every year. It takes in more than 25 times the amount of water to make each plastic bottle than the bottle contains. 300 million gallons of bottled water are imported to the United States every year and every day 30 million single serve plastic water bottles end up in land fills. Does this sound green, especially when most people in the U.S. can get clean water directly from their tap?

The Story of Bottled Water

It really comes down to unnecessary excess, and we really should be trying to simplify our lives in as many ways as we can, since life is continually becoming more complex – at our own behest.   The people from “The Story of Stuff” again do a great job synthesizing the subject in this short video:

What about Bottled Vitamin Water

“My father, a true conservative, would have smiled on this. All his life he resisted the attempts of big corporations to gouge him by selling him stuff he didn’t need and so he was not a consumer of high-priced water, anymore than he would’ve purchased bottles of French air or Italian soil.” – Garrison Keillor in a Sept. 29, 2007 in the Salt Lake Tribune

Don’t buy it – know reason for it and the sugar content is high, add some fruit juice to your water to get natural vitamins and sugar.  It is a nutrition fact that whole foods like fruits and vegetables contain live enzymes, which act as catalysts for vitamins and minerals to work in your cells, it’s questionable if taking supplements outside of their natural state does anything beneficial.  If the enzymes aren’t there, the vitamins are likely worthless.  They are selling you something you don’t need – in a plastic bottle.

Conclusion

It all comes down to empty rhetoric. You should drink lots of water, its good for you, more than any other drink, but buy a filter for your tap and then use a reusable bottle.  You’ll save lots of money.  If you’re drinking the recommended 64 ounces a day it can really add up – maybe $1,500 a year or more depending on how you buy the water.  Not to mention the effect on the world – socially, environmentally and economically.  I don’t believe in government bans, and they don’t usually work the way they were intended to, but we have a free market choice on bottled water right now, the choice seems clear to me.  It is an unnecessary potentially harmful extravagance.

“…San Pellegrino and Perrier got rich off the pretensions of liberal wastrels like moi who thought it set us apart from the unlettered masses. We ordered it in restaurants for the same reason we read books we don’t like and go to operas we don’t understand – we say to the waiter, ”Perrier,” to give a continental touch to our macaroni and cheese.” – Garrison Keillor in a Sept. 29, 2007 in the Salt Lake Tribune

Author’s Note: Its frustrating for me to read articles on the internet that don’t reference  their sources of information.  Sometimes its difficult to verify data, thus I can’t say it is completely true.  Thus in order to distill and solidify that data and information spilled over the internet, I have either linked within the article or referenced below my resources for information and data contained within this article.


Sources:
EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). “Water Health Series Bottled Water Facts”, 2005 –  [Online] Available http://water.epa.gov/aboutow/ogwdw/upload/2005_09_14_faq_fs_healthseries_bottledwater.pdf.

EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). “Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs): Basic Information”, 2006 –  [Online] Available http://www.epa.gov/OGWDW/ccr/basicinformation.html.

IBISWorld. “Changing Consumer Tastes Creates Explosive Growth For Domestic And International Bottled Water Brands – Revenue In 2007 Expected To Reach $5.974 Billion With Growth Set To Climb Higher Through 2012, 2008”- [Online] Available http://www1.ibisworld.com/pressrelease/pressrelease.aspx?prid=124.

Pacific Institute. “Table 3: Access to Safe Drinking Water, by Country, 1970 to 2004”, 2009. – [Online] Available http://www.worldwater.org/data20082009/Table3.pdf.

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food. London: Penguin (Non-Classics); 1 edition (April 28, 2009).

Environmental Working Group. “Is Your Bottled Water Worth It?, 2009 – [Online] Available http://www.ewg.org/health/report/bottledwater–scorecard.

Savage, Mathew.  Triple Pundit “Is Bottled Water a Dead Man Walking?”, 2009 – [Online] Available http://www.triplepundit.com/2009/11/is-bottled-water-a-dead-man-walking/.

World Bank. “Water Supply & Sanitation”, 2010 – [Online] Available http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTWAT/0,,contentMDK:21706928~menuPK:4602430~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:4602123,00.html.

4 Responses to “Bottled Water – Why? Is it Better? Is it Green? Is it Safe?”

  1. Brian Gerry August 19, 2010 at 11:40 pm #

    I always wondered just how bad it was. Thanks for such an informative and well-written post. This information can and will make a difference. Just awesome.

  2. Tracy Sohl August 26, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    I agree with your opinions on plastic bottles, but not all bottled water comes in plastic. You can get bottled water in glass.

    Also, not all tap water is safe. Just a few years ago, we were told not to drink the city tap water because of really high nitrate levels. We were directed by the government to only drink bottled water.

    • admin August 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. You are correct, not all bottled water comes in plastic and not all tap water is safe. Nitrates are bad news in high amounts, usually due to fertilizers, in that case, you would have to distill the water, use reverse osmosis, or use an ion exchange filter, if those options aren’t feasible then buy bottled water from a local source. The point is to be conscientious in your decision making. Whether water is in glass, can or plastic and shipped half way around the world and is taking away water from local people and ecosystems that direly need it, it has a negative effect both socially and environmentally. Years ago I did a study with two other people on recycling and use of plastic in Uruguay. Interviewing the various manufacturers of drink products we found that the cost of using plastic (save environmental and social effects) was about the same, when shipping short distances. Consumers prefer plastic to glass because of convenience and plastic doesn’t break. One company hoped to continue to bottle their drinks in glass but feared they would have to eventually switch over because of the demand for plastic.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Twitted by USGBCIE - August 19, 2010

    […] This post was Twitted by USGBCIE […]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP (94.23.51.159) doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP (87.98.139.183) and so is spam.