Well over a billion people on this planet lack access to safe water. YOU are not one of them: New York City has some of the best water in this country, and this country has some of the best and safest and cleanest water in the world. So why are you spending your hard-earned money on something you can get for free (or damn close)? That’s easy: massive international beverage companies want you to.
Bottled water has one of the highest profit margins of any food product — that Starbucks coffee you drop four dollars on may cost the company 25 cents, while that bottle of water you just spent $2.50 on only cost Poland Spring, aka, Nestle, five cents. Americans drop a stupendous $10,000 every minute for the privilege of getting their water wrapped in plastic, and that adds up to billions of dollars every year.
Yes, you counter, but my special bottled water is so much better than the stuff that comes out of the tap. Maybe, but not likely: more than 25 percent of all bottled water is merely municipal water (that means tap water). Sometimes that municipal water is filtered or distilled, sometimes it isn’t. There is “spring” water, but that, and all the other kinds of non-municipal water, is actually less likely to be safe than what comes gushing from your faucets. City water, from any American city, is rigorously tested for contaminants in a way that bottled water needn’t be. E. Coli and fecal coliform bacteria are strictly verboten in city water, but if a few happen to swim into your “spring” water, well, no biggie, right?
Ok, the water’s no better perhaps, but that plastic bottle’s sure handy, yes? Well, if you’re looking to contaminate your environment and your body, it’s mighty handy. Plastics manufacturing is up some 90 percent since bottled water became so popular, and with it the production of styrene and benzene, toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that magically appear when plastic is made. One and a half million tons of plastic (which is made from nonrenewable petroleum, duh) are used every year to make water bottles. Then there’s the energy and yes, water, used in manufacturing — it all adds up to a toxic nightmare whose final product is garbage.
Garbage. We’re drowning in it, and one of the largest portions of our waste stream is plastic bottles. Millions of water bottles head to the dump every day, never to be reused or recycled. In 700-800 years they may start breaking down, but till then we, and the next 20 generations, are stuck with them. Ok, sure, you reuse your water bottles. Might want to reconsider that too: the longer you use that plastic the more likely it is to release chemicals like DEHA, a plasticizer, into the water you’re drinking to stay healthy. DEHA is a known carcinogen and hormone disrupter. Might as well be sucking down a Dr. Pepper, or worse.
As we (privileged Americans) consume ridiculous amounts of resources to have bottled water, billions around the world have little or no potable water. We waste our personal resources on something we needn’t — decent drinking water — while others can’t get it at all. In doing so we squander our own resources, while at the same time sending a message to government that we’re losing interest, and faith, in our local water system. They can spend less, test less, and let our shared water system languish, which affects the poorest among us, those who can’t afford Dasani (Coca-Cola) or Aquafina (Pepsi).
Get a reusable lined aluminum or stainless steel bottle. Carry it with you. Refill it. It’s easy. If you really hate your water, get a filter pitcher, and refill from that. You’ll save hundreds of dollars every year, and hundreds more on the hidden “costs” of pollution, shipping, waste disposal and long-term health problems. And you’ll look cool, too.