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LJWorld Green

Bottled water? What a boondoggle

November 1, 2010

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Want a tall, cool glass of one of the slickest boondoggles on the market? Have some bottled water. According to the National Resources Defense Council, Americans annually spend $4 billion on water they once would have drunk from the tap. How did the bottling companies transform our drinking habits? By convincing us that tap water wasn’t safe.

What some bottlers would rather their customers didn’t understand is that they’re purchasing water bottled from a municipal water source — read tap water — in another city that has been packaged and shipped to their local grocery.

Though some bottlers do tap “natural” springs and other water sources in areas as their labels contend, they do so at great hidden cost to many. They buy up land in an area without the knowledge and approval of residents who ultimately depend on those water sources for their own drinking and recreation and for the health of their local watersheds. Also, though these waters come from “natural” sources, the bottlers are not governed by the same water quality standards as local municipal water systems. According to the NRDC, this regulatory discrepancy means that unwitting consumers may actually be drinking at greater risk. For example, though water from municipal systems cannot contain E. coli or fecal coliform bacteria, FDA bottled water rules don’t contain any such prohibition. Also, though tap water must be tested by government-certified labs, the FDA doesn’t require such certification for bottled water.

The bottles themselves also present a mare’s nest of problems. People living near bottle manufacturing plants are exposed to toxic chemicals pumped into the air and water. Recent warnings about Bisphenol A, a compound used to make some water bottles, serve as a reminder that plastics aren’t the safest container for things we put in our bodies. Also, a study by the nonpartisan research organization Pacific Institute revealed that it took 3 liters of water to produce the plastic for 1 liter of bottled water.

The study also found that producing the plastic bottles for America’s annual consumption required 17 million barrels of oil and produced 2.5 million tons of CO2. If that isn’t enough, water bottles make up the lion’s share of a island of trash twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific. Seabirds, such as the albatross, feed their chicks pieces of this plastic bottle detritus, mistaking it for food, and this eventually kills the chicks.

Despite what bottlers would have consumers believe, many alternatives exist.

If you like the convenience of water bottles, buy reusable metal ones you can fill yourself. If you’re concerned about remaining contaminants in your drinking water, install a filter on your faucet or buy a filter jug. Better still, suggests local biologist and Friends of the Kaw researcher Cynthia Annett, citizens might want to view the money they now spend on bottled water and home filtration as a tax that could be used toward funding upgrades to local municipalities water treatment plants. (For a great exposé on the bottled water industry, see the documentary “Tapped.”)

Comments

gl0ck0wn3r 3 years, 5 months ago

Hippies can't stand death metal.

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Kontum1972 3 years, 5 months ago

the water is polluted with Flesh-eaters...BEWARE OF THE FLESH-EATERS

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Tandava 3 years, 5 months ago

No bottled water company convinced me to start using bottled water. The City of Lawrence did! I used to drink tap water for years, until one time the tap water started coming out brown and stank. Warnings were issued not to eat the fish out of the Kansas River (and still are from time to time). I toured the City's water treatment facility, and did not like what I saw. The Kansas River is one of the most polluted rivers in the nation. The City treats the water with massive amounts of chlorine to kill the bacteria, then they add more chemicals to nullify some of the chlorine, and they add some chemicals to make it taste better. They do nothing to remove the pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and farm waste runoff that all gets into the river from hundreds of miles upstream. I just don't believe the City when they say the tap water is safe to drink. I don't even like to bathe in it, but I have not yet been able to figure out an alternative that is of reasonable cost.

The little plastic bottles filling up the landfills are a problem. I don't use those. I have been drinking bottled water out of 5-gallon reusable bottles for about 20 years now. (Note: I will drink the tap water in some other cities.)

Besides all this, the Lawrence tap water tastes terrible. Do an experiment. Drink distilled water for a month, long enough to get used to it, then try the tap water. It tastes terrible. If you can't taste the difference, you're probably a cigarette smoker or something.

Those little home filtration systems don't work well at all.

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mr_right_wing 3 years, 5 months ago

Buying a print newspaper every day of the week (then throwing each of them away...), as opposed to reading it online for free (with no dead trees!)

What a boondoggle!

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