We all know the importance of drinking clean fresh water. Many people believe it’s best to only drink bottled water. Water covers more than 70% of the Earth’s surface however only 1% of the Earth’s water is available as drinking water. Unfortunately, Americans are finding that our limited supplies are often polluted with contaminants such as Asbestos, Cysts (like Cryptosporidium and Giardia), Lead, Mercury, Trihalomethanes, Turbidity, Endocrine Disrupters and Volatile Organic Chemicals.
Bottled water to the rescue?
Consumers are taking matters into their own hands which often leads to consuming bottled water. There is a widespread belief that bottled water is cleaner and safer than municipal water and in some cases it is true. Tap water is supposed clean and treated but most systems use chemicals like chlorine to make it safe to drink. Many people are not aware of the hidden environmental costs that bottle water causes, and the myths about it’s cleanliness.
Quick facts about bottled water
- It’s expensive – Bottled water often costs over $12 a gallon
- Nearly 40% of all bottled water is actually municipal water that has been bottled
- The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the quality of public water supplies but the agency has no authority over bottled water
- More than 1.5 million barrels of oil are used to supply bottled water to America each year.
- 1.5 million tons of plastic are used each year to produce water bottles
- 9 out of 10 plastic water bottles end up as either garbage or litter.
- 30 million water bottles end up as trash per DAY
- For every gallon bottled – 2 gallons are wasted
- Only 5% of plastic waste is currently recycled in America
- 20% -30%of the recycled plastic can be used in manufacturing new eater bottles
- One plastic water bottle can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade
- The top three most popular brands of bottled water are owned by Coca Cola, Nestle or Pepsi and are actually bottled from municipal water sources in Kansas, New York and Florida.
- A Bottling plant can bottle 260 million gallons of water a year from a local water aquifer while receiving massive tax breaks and raking in millions
“It’s ironic that many people drink bottled water because they are afraid of tap water, but then the bottles they discard can result in more polluted water,” says Pat Franklin of the Climate Action Network.
What’s Really in that bottle?
Did you know that over a quarter of the bottle water your drink is someone else’s tap water? Some estimates state that it could be closer to 40%. The labels can be misleading because the FDA let bottlers label water products “spring water” even if it comes from a pumped well and has been treated with chemicals. The Environmental Law Foundation has sued eight bottlers on the basis that they used words like “pure” to market water containing bacteria, arsenic and chlorine breakdown products.
The real source of the water is often not clear and implies that the water in the bottle comes from a pristine source when it really comes from a tap. Here is an example that the FDA sited as misleading labeling:
“Spring Water” (with a picture of a lake surrounded by mountains on the label) – This water actually came from an industrial parking lot next to a hazardous waste site.
Bottled water is only loosely regulated. The EPA, employs hundreds of staff to protect the nation’s tap water systems, while the FDA doesn’t even have one full-time regulator in charge of protecting bottled water. The FDA also has no official procedure for rejecting bottled water sources if one has become contaminated.
Bottled water is more of a status symbol than a health benefit
”A 2001 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study confirmed the widespread belief that consumers associate bottled water with social status and healthy living. Their perceptions trump their objectivity, because even some people who claim to have switched to bottled water “for the taste” can’t tell the difference: When Good Morning America conducted a taste test of its studio audience, New York City tap water was chosen as the heavy favorite over the oxygenated water 02, Poland Spring and Evian.” This quote is from an article Despite the Hype, Bottled Water is Neither Cleaner nor Greener than Tap Water by Brian Howard
Note: New York City water is one of the cleanest water sources in the world, coming straight form aqueducts several hundred miles north.
The hidden costs of bottled water
Lots of energy is used in bottled water processing, where 2 gallons of water are wasted for every gallon that is processed. Then more energy is used to ship the water to its destination. Transporting bottled water consumes a lot of energy and oil – millions of barrels a year. Did you know that over 22 million tons of bottled water is transferred each year from country to country?
The World Wildlife Fund argues strongly that bottling water is a waste of money and is extremely environmentally unfriendly.
Are you aware that we use more than 1.5 million barrels of oil, to supply thirsty Americans with bottled water every year? This could generate electricity for more than 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year. We are literally drinking up oil in our quest for clean water. AND we wonder why the prices of oil continue to climb!
Bottled water wastes water
Bottled water is often filtered. During filtration, it is estimated that two gallons of water are wasted for every single gallon that is purified. Adding insult to inury, much of the water that is transported is done so in refrigerated trucks, using even more oil and energy. Many environmental agencies have concerns about the wastefulness of this system on such a precious resource. Why wouldn’t you just treat your tap water at home?
Bottled water produces TONS of pollution
The World Wildlife Foundation estimates that nearly 1.5 million tons of plastic are used in making water bottles every year. This manufacturing process is leaving an enormous manufacturing footprint that affects us all. Besides the obvious roadside pollution factor there are grave environmental risks from the process of making and disposing of plastic water bottles.
The Climate Action Network states that when some plastic bottles are incinerated along with other trash, a common practice in most areas, toxic chlorine (and potentially dioxin) is released into the air. Heavy metals are also deposited in the ash.
When these same plastics are buried in you local landfill, not only do they take up a lot of space, they can leak toxic additives like phthalates directly into your groundwater. So using bottled water can actually act to pollute your groundwater.
Very few bottles are actually recycled
The Container Recycling Institute (CRI), states that 9 out of 10 plastic water bottles end up as either garbage or litter. This amounts to a whopping 30 million water bottles a day.
Left in a landfill a plastic water bottle can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade! We hope your great grand children’s children can figure out something to use them for – because at this rate they will be swimming in them.
It’s ironic that many people are drinking bottled water in order to be healthier without really understanding the negative health effects that the bottles themselves produce.