There is no question that drinking bottled water has become a way of life for most Americans. You will find bottled water everywhere you go – in offices, hotels, restaurants, gyms, street corners and homes. We spend over $15 billion dollars a year on bottled water, more than we spend on iPods and movie tickets. However, unfortunately we have been persuaded that bottled water is a symbol of health and economic status, which couldn’t be further from the truth. For a product that is only a little more than 30 years old, it’s important that we understand the impact of the bottled water industry and begin to look for alternative ways to obtain pure water while also improving our city water sources and environment.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and The Story of Stuff Project have been very helpful in educating us about the real contents of the water being bottled, the marketing tactics being used by the corporations producing them and the consequences for the environment. Although most will agree that there is a lot of money that could be invested into improving our public water supply (which in most places in the U.S. is regulated and relatively safe as it is), there is currently very little motivation to vote for such changes with so much bottled water available. Even though I am a big proponent of water filters for reasons I’ll address later, here are the three main reasons to stop buying bottled water.
1. Water Quality
Unfortunately, for the normal consumer, it’s difficult to know what is really in the water being bottled. In an analysis done by the EWG, only three bottle companies shared information about the source of the water and filtration process on the labels. The EWG also discovered that 40 percent of bottled water is actually tap water, packaged in plastic water bottles for convenience. Much of the bottled water they tested still contained contaminants and given FDA regulations, which are less strict than those of our municipal water supply, checking for contaminants is done much less frequently. Ironically, most people in blind taste tests choose tap water over bottled water, regardless of the belief that bottled water smells and tastes better. Despite the attractive images of mountains, fresh air and clean water found on water bottles, what’s inside doesn’t usually come close.
Possibly much more of a concern than the water itself, is the damaging impact the bottled water industry is having on the environment. According to the EWG, only 28% of the plastic water bottles get recycled. The rest end up in landfills, incinerators and oceans. Even those that are “recycled” are often shipped to India where only a percentage is reused while the rest still ends up in landfills, while incurring the additional cost and waste of transportation. Both the manufacturing process and the transportation of half a billion plastic bottles per week have damaging effects on our environment. The annual oil and energy used in the bottled water industry would be enough to fuel a million cars per year. Plastic is also an unhealthy way of storing water and may contain many harmful chemicals that leach into the water, especially when overheated (in the sunlight or back seat of a car) or reused repetitively.
Bottled water may just be the most expensive product on the market. For something that is generally free, we are paying a mark-up that is unheard of in any other industry. In fact, gasoline by the ounce is three to four times less expensive than bottled water. Purchasing a water filter may require a decent upfront cost, but over time you will save thousands of dollars otherwise spent on bottled water, a product that doesn’t live up to its promise.
There are many other social, political, health and economic issues related to the water industry that haven’t been addressed here and need to be solved, including the vast amount of people who don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water. However, as always, you can cast your vote now and decrease bottled water demand by opting for a safer, healthier and less expensive alternative such as either of the following:
Purchase a water filter
The first step in choosing a water filter is to have your water evaluated to see what your needs are. Depending on the level of contaminants you want to filter out, you may choose a water distiller, reverse osmosis or carbon filter. It’s also important to purchase a shower filter since you absorb a lot more contaminants from a seven-minute shower than you do from drinking a gallon of tap water.
Obtain your own spring water
If you have access to a spring where you live, many water experts believe that this is far superior to any filtration process. Not only is it mineral rich, pure and tasty, it comes from deep within the ground deeming it untouched by contaminants. Bottle your water in either glass or clear polyethylene containers to best protect it. A great website to find a spring in your area is www.findaspring.com.
 (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/59971/message-bottle
 (2012, January 5). Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-bottled-water-scorecard-2011
 (2010, March 22). Retrieved from http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-bottled-water/
 Mercola, J. (2011, January 21) The six worst brands of bottled water you can buy. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/01/21/best-and-worst-bottled-water-brands.aspx
Published On: May 25, 2013