The Water Problem
One of the blogs I’ve read with regularity over the years is Anil Dash’s blog and there’s almost always something there that is not only amusing, but interesting.
One of his more recent entries, called “Bottled Water Is Still A Scam” references a long story by Fast Company about the bottled water industry. I’m old enough to remember people being appalled that consumers would pay for water, but in all honesty, I hadn’t thought much more about that industry since then. I drink less water than I should, but if I think about bottled water at all, it’s usually with a positive spin in regards to the health benefits.
Well…color me stupid.
It turns out that in the US, and San Francisco in particular, the tap water we get is so good that it’s virtually indistinguishable from the stuff we fork over billions of dollars for each year.
In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It's so good the EPA doesn't require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.
That’s a pretty powerful statement right there. When you factor in the petroleum and other materials used to make the plastic bottles, the landfills they sit in and the distribution costs of getting the water through the delivery channels (water is so heavy that you can’t fill up a an 18-wheeler with it, you need to leave space), the environmental footprint caused by something we don’t really need is pretty horrifying.
A few other points that might make all you water drinkers cringe just a bit:
- Aquafina (bottled by Pepsi) and Dasani (bottled by Coca-Cola) are both municipal tap water. That is, they are the exact same stuff that somewhere in this country, you can get from your kitchen sink.
- 1,000,000,000 people (that’s a billion) in the world have no reliable source of drinking water. (Some of them are in Fiji.)
- 38,000,000,000 bottles (that’s 38 billion) get thrown away, not recycled, every year. That’s a billion dollars worth of plastic and an awful lot of landfill.
- Most bottled water, once again, is not any better for you, either in taste or medicinal benefit, than that which you could get from your faucet.
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty guilty about the water bottles I’ve left half-full around my house over the years. I have a Nalgene container which I’ve used irregularly in the past – that’s got to change in the future. What a silly, silly thing to be creating waste over.