Our never-ending thirst for water in a bottle
Bottled water is almost as ubiquitous as cell phones. You see lots of people walking around with a cell phone in one hand and bottled water in the other. Last year, Americans consumed 30 billion bottles of the stuff at a cost of $15 billion.Bottled water isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s downright expensive. At an average cost of fifty cents for the half-liter bottle, the price of bottled water is greater than the most popular soft drinks, and even exceeds the current price of gasoline. By comparison, tap water typically costs less than one cent per gallon.
In addition to the high purchase price, there are major environmental costs associated with bottled water. The source of most bottled waters on the market is tap water, from which the naturally occurring minerals are removed by distillation or reverse osmosis, both of which require large amounts of power, resulting in the addition of over half a million tons of CO2 per year into the atmosphere. And get this – after all of the natural minerals are removed from the bottled water, minerals are added back in “for taste.”Still more CO2 is produced from burning fossil fuels to transport bottled water to the marketplace from places as far away as France or Fiji. In addition, it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to create the plastic for those 30 billion bottles a year, most of which end up in a landfill or are merely discarded on the landscape.
So what are the advantages of bottled water? Purity? Hardly. Scientific testing has shown that bottled water is neither cleaner nor healthier than most tap waters. Furthermore, government standards for tap water are far more stringent than those for bottled water, requiring much more frequent testing. Taste? With very few exceptions, the taste of tap water is highly acceptable. In a blind taste test, 75 percent of New Yorkers preferred city tap water to bottled water. The source of the most common complaint about the taste in tap water is the trace residual of chlorine, which is present to guarantee that the water delivered to consumers is bacterially safe to drink. That residual can be easily removed by refrigerating the water overnight in an open bottle. Finally, convenience? Sure, it is easy to carry a bottle of water around with you wherever you go, but it is just as easy to carry a bottle filled with tap water.So stop purchasing bottled water. Carry one of those designer bottles filled with tap water, and you can feel just as chic as those who buy their water in bottles. You’ll be able to save as much as a few hundred dollars a year and feel good about the fact that you are doing something that benefits the environment.
Hal Sundin’s column appears every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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