Bottled Water – Is it Worth It?

empty water bottles stacked over 10 feet high

Water Bottle Waste

Bottled water a free natural resource

Bottled water has become one of the most successful commercial products of the last 100 years.

This article has two focuses.  First is to touch on where our bottled water is sourced, and second to address the obscene waste that is culminated as a part of this commodity.

Serious debates occur every day over the commodifying of water.  It boils down (no pun intended) to human rights, the role of the government and free markets.  One should also take into consideration the importance of being “green” and basic, fundamental values.

Bottled water comes from two sources: springs, or groundwater that is collected at the point where water flows naturally to the surface or through a bore hole that taps into the underground source.  In other words, a well.  About 55% of bottled water in the U.S. is spring water, including Crystal Geyser, and Arrowhead.  The other 45% comes from municipal water supplies including Pepsi owned Aquafina, and Coke owned Dasana.  This 45% is simply treated tap water.  The same stuff that comes out of your faucet at home.

And yet, just think of the magic that marketing has done to make us believe that by purchasing bottled water we are somehow receiving a more pure, a more healthy water, than if we simply drew the water from our tap.

In the U.S., bottled water comes from the most drought-ridden places in the country.  California is in the worst drought in history, yet it provides the largest amount of bottled water.  Why California?  It is the only western state without groundwater regulation.

Most of us have no clue where our bottled water is sourced.  Where does Everest water come from?  You might think Washington, Mt. Everest.  No, it comes from Texas.  How about Glacier Mountain?  Ohio.  Poland Springs?  Only 1/3 of the water used for Nestle’s Poland Springs actually comes from Poland Springs, Maine.  The rest is from plants scattered about the U.S.

Fiji water is the number 1 imported water.  However, it is a sad tale.  Fiji is in a water crises.  Many Fijians have little access to good water.  They have outdated plumbing, crumbling pipes, lack of adequate wells, dysfunctional or flooded water treatment plants, and droughts.  Half of their country has had to rely on emergency water supplies, at times with rations as low as 4 gallons per family, per week.  Dirty water has led to outbreaks of typhoid and parasites.  They have to cart water to their hospitals, and yet the Fiji water plant spews out 50,000 bottles per hour made from plastic imported from China, shipped across the globe.  I wonder just what the carbon foot print is for Fiji water.  Is it worth it?

Bottled water has become the 2nd largest commercial beverage cateory by volume in the U.S.  It is one half the size of carbonated beverages, but more than beer and milk.  It is estimated approximately 30.8 gallons of bottled water are consumed per person, or otherwise stated that 41 billion gallons of bottled water are consumed around the globe each year.  In the U.S. alone in 2012 there were over 10 billion gallons of bottled water sold, with sales revenues of $12 billion.  We have turned this public resource into a public commodity.  It is no wonder big corporations such as Nestle, Pepsi, and Coke continue to capitalize and control water sources throughout the world.  Blue Gold!

Bottled water costs, on average $2.50 for a liter, which means approximately $10.00 a gallon.  Think about this!  This is more expensive than fuel for your car!  If gas costs $3.50 a gallon, it would cost you $45.00 to fill a 15 gallon gas tank.  If you filled that same gas tank up with water, it would cost you $150.00!!!!  Blue Gold!

Municipal water supplies across the country are regulated much more closely than bottled water.  The EWG (Environmental Working Group) did a survey on the bottled water industry checking on transparency and disclosure.  The results showed 18% of all bottled water brands give zero information about where the water is sourced.  32% of the 173 brands surveyed failed to disclose information about their treatment procedures or water purity on the label.

There is no way to tell what chemicals are leaching from the plastic bottle into the water itself.  The purity is not guaranteed, and EWG found 38 pollutants in 10 brands of water, including chemicals linked to cancer.  About 70% of the plastic bottles end up on beaches, ocean, anywhere other than being recycled.  Bottom line is bottled water in addition to costing approximately 300 times more than tap water, produces an exorbitant amount of waste as well.

But before we head down that path, it is important for us to understand the costs of production of bottled water.  Did you know that it takes 3 liters of water to package 1 liter of water?  Isn’t that crazy?  We are wasting water to bottle the water that you could be getting from your tap.  If you aren’t entirely happy with the water that comes from your tap it would still be less expensive for you to purchase a good water filter and a reusable bottle than to purchase bottled water.  In addition, you would be conserving natural resources in the process.

Approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil are needed each year to manufacture the demand for water bottles in the U.S. alone every year.  This does not include the oil needed to transport those bottles across the nation.  About 17 million barrels of oil are used globally to make bottles.  Let’s face it.  Bottled water is a luxury that we can live without.  The money spent on the production, is better spent elsewhere on other water projects.

So what can you do?
1) Purchase a reusable water bottle and use it!
2) Eliminate single use water bottles.
3) Purchase a filter and use tap water.
4) When visiting restaurants, ask for a glass of water versus a bottle of water.
5) Check out water facts and find out what else you can do to preserve this natural resource of ours.

For more information:
Watch this documentary Blue Gold: World Water Wars
Listen to Nestle’s CEO talk about how he believes all water should be privatized…it isn’t a human right