1. What’s so bad about bottled water anyways?
Bottled water wastes water and energy.
- Each polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle requires three to seven times its volume in water and approximately a quarter its volume in oil during the entire production process.
- The packaging, shipping, and marketing costs of bottled water explains why bottled water is roughly 2000 times more expensive than tap water, which is almost free.
- Spending unnecessary money to import water from as far away as Latin America, Europe, and the Pacific Islands is deplorable in light of the fact that about one-sixth of the world’s population has no safe freshwater.
- Recycling PET bottles does reduce the amount of garbage dumped into landfills, but eradicating the consumption of bottled water lowers the number of bottles that need to be manufactured in the first place.
- Bottled water pollutes the environment.
- The burning of fossil fuels to power the manufacturing, transportation, and recycling of bottle water generates around 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide every year.
- When the PET degrades beyond recyclability, it becomes non-biodegradable waste and will release toxic fumes if incinerated.
- Bottled water robs communities of vital investment in water infrastructure.
- Municipal authorities often sell excess water to bottled water companies at rates lower than those charged to residents because the local officials are lured by the additional steady income and deceived by exaggerated promises of increased employment; in reality, the jobs created are few, low-paying, and dangerous.
- The US$11.5 billion that Americans paid for 8.55 billion gallons of bottled water in 2008 is equal to more than half of the minimum annual funding increase estimated to be adequate for renewing and upgrading water treatment and supply systems across the nation in the next two decades.
2. Is tap water even safe to drink?
- The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules governing all public water systems that collect and sell water are generally more stringent than those of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which applies to all bottled water that crosses at least one state border before reaching the consumer, as well as those of the New York State Department of Health, which applies to all bottled water produced, used and/or sold in New York State.
- To assess adherence to the EPA’s “legally enforceable standards” of tap water quality, water treatment facility operators employ 87 metrics measuring the levels of “microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic chemicals, organic chemicals, and radionuclides” to ensure that tap water is just as safe, if not safer, than bottled water.
- It is mandatory for public water systems to issue by July 1st a consumer confidence report, available upon request or posted online, covering the past calendar year and including details of the water source, detected contaminants, compliance with drinking water regulations, and educational information.
- Public water systems must notify relevant residents within 24 hours if waterborne diseases break out, turbidity exceeds the prescribed limit, or follow-up testing for fecal coliform, nitrates, nitrites, and chlorine is missed.
- In fact, the water source of close to 40% of bottled water sold in the U.S. is tap water because groundwater and spring water are more difficult and expensive to extract.
3. Isn’t it much more convenient to drink bottled water than to use a reusable water bottle?
- You no longer have to haul packs of bottled water from stores or dig for change in front of vending machines.
- Washing your own reusable water bottle and refilling with tap water takes fewer than ten seconds.
- Also, the present ubiquity of bathrooms and drinking fountains in urban areas probably makes tap water more available than bottled water.
4. What can I do?
Here are four steps you should take.
- Take the Pledge, stop buying bottled water, and purchase reusable “stainless steel or lined aluminum bottles;” at the same time, encourage those around you to follow your lead.
- Join Take Back the Tap if you live in Ithaca; start your own organization if you do not.
- Sign a petition urging Congress to keep tap water as a safe public resource that will continue to be enjoyed by all citizens.
- Give donations to support charities whose projects make clean drinking water available to the abject poor of the developing world.